Following our Factory Tour of Parlee, which included a bike fit at Fit Werx, I was set up with a Z5 road bike for review.
Parlee’s Z5 line, which includes this standard model and an SL/SLi option that has full ti hardware, and lighter tubes and fork, is their top of the line “stock” offering. The frames are available in 12 sizes, ranging from XS, S, M, ML, L to XL in both standard and tall configurations. This lets Parlee offer their trademark ride and construction at a lower price point than full custom while being able to fit the vast majority of riders. The full construction method and details are covered in the Factory Tour post, but the short of it is this: The layup schedule and details for the Z5 are all based on Bob Parlee’s decade-plus experience in building custom bikes, and they say it rides very much like the custom ones. And it’s lighter because it’s monocoque construction rather than lugged like their custom bikes.
UNBOXED & WEIGHED
To order a Parlee, they strongly recommend you visit one of their authorized dealers for a complete bike fit. This is done to determine both the proper frame size and proper set up and component sizes. Above is what my fit yielded, and that’s put into Parlee’s computers to generate a model of the bike. Once their builders have this, they pick the frame size and assemble the bike accordingly. I ended up on the Large Tall frame, which has a 57.5cm top tube. I’m 6’2″ with fairly average proportions.
If you’re not near a Parlee dealer, they’ll direct you to a fit center if necessary. For bikes that are built in-house (rather than at your dealer), they ship in this massive AirCaddy box. It’s the best bike box I’ve ever seen. All you have to do is pull the bike out, put the front wheel on and rotate the handlebars to the correct position. The only downside is it’s too big to fit through my attic door. The upside? It makes a killer teepee for kids to play in.
The bike is decked out with the new SRAM Red and a full 3T cockpit. Out of the box, it’s supposed to include Mavic Ksyrium SL wheels. We have these Cosmic Carbones in on review, so I mounted them up. Weight without pedals is 14lb 13oz. You’re not going to get a much lighter group set, but lighter wheels and a few parts selections could easily put this under 14 pounds.
Ready to ride, including Speedplay pedals, saddle bag with CO2, tire levers and mini-tool, carbon Arundel bottle cage and front and rear lights and it comes in at a very respectable 16lbs 7oz.
While all of the custom frames are made in Massachusetts, their stock frames (which includes the TT bike) are made in Asia. When they come in, each frame is pulled from the box, inspected and weighed. Our test frame came in at 900g. That’s pretty good considering it’s a Large Tall, painted and has all hardware.
The Z5 is available in two standard paint schemes, this gray/red/silver and a white/blue/silver. The SL/SLi models are matte black, but any of them can be custom painted for an upcharge.
The headtube has a slight taper to house the 1-1/8″ to 1-1/4″ ENVE fork. The only frame difference in the standard and tall frames is the extended headtube. It’s 2.5cm taller on the Tall frames, which on ours puts it at 19.9cm (versus 17.4). The idea is to put taller riders in a more comfortable position without having to use a million spacers. Slam That Stem fans will disapprove, and aesthetically I’d prefer the top tube to slope upward toward the front to minimize the visual effect the extension has, but functionally it’s perfect. At the end of the day, I’d rather be comfortable riding.
The seatstays are joined by Parlee’s carbon fiber brake bridge, the same used on their custom bikes. In this day and age of swoopy monocoque frames, the Parlee Z5 is almost refreshing in it’s traditional round tube looks…mostly:
The bottom bracket, stays and tubes are all still round, but the way they come together makes a killer tear drop shape flowing into the chainstays. It’s a pretty large section, and the bike is plenty stiff. It’s worth mentioning that the frame is Pressfit 30, but when our bike was put together, SRAM only had their standard GXP cranksets available, so this one’s using a SRAM adapter and standard outboard bearing BB. Bikes shipping now have the PFBB30 crankset and BB, and likely drop a bit more weight for it. I’ve noticed a bit of creaking from the BB when standing or hammering, something I’m looking into a bit more as the review moves forward.
Frames include Parlee’s house-made carbon fiber front derailleur clamp. It’s also available aftermarket.
Dropouts are full carbon and very minimal. I used Mercury Cycling’s lightweight skewers in place of Mavic’s chunky ones.
Replaceable derailleur hanger, per usual.
The shifter cable guides are solid with an exit hole and adjustment barrel, the rear brake guide uses a slit.
After the fit session and factory tour, Ben, Tom and a few other Parlee folk took me out for a ride around their Beverly, MA, office. We rode through neighborhoods, up and down some unmaintained backroads and down gravel and dirt road paths. It’s almost as if they planned a rough ride to show off the Z5’s neutral handling and ability to tackle all manner of terrain.
It’s a bike that’s instantly comfortable, no doubt partly to being properly fit. But more than that, it just rides really well. It’s a bike you can just grab and go and not worry about any personality quirks. On a separate occasion I’ve climbed and descended some of the mountains around Park City, UT, on a Z5 SL, and despite that complete bike weighing in around 13lbs, it was perfectly stable and well mannered at some pretty high speeds.
Thus far, I’ve ridden our test bike in FL and NC, on flats and some hills. It’s not the sexiest bike we’ve ever had in, yet it gets just as many compliments…and a surprising number of “Man, that’s a nice bike” comments from non-cyclists. So far it’s one of the most fun to ride, and I’m looking forward to more time on it and getting it into the mountains.
PRICING AND SPECS
The Z5 SRAM Red MSRP is $7,200. Full build specs for this model are:
- SRAM Red Rear Derailleur
- SRAM Red Front Derailleur
- Cane Creek Carbon Headset
- SRAM PF30 Bottom Bracket*
- SRAM Red BB30 Crankset*
- SRAM Red Brakes
- SRAM Red Shifters
- SRAM 1090 Cassette
- SRAM 1090 Chain
- 3T Ergosum Team Carbon Handlebar
- 3T ARX Team Stem
- Mavic Ksyrium SL Wheels
- 3T Doric/Dorico Team Seatpost
- Fizik Arione Kium Saddle
- ENVE 2.0 fork (1-1/8″ to 1-1/4″)
*Our test bike was one of the first available with the new SRAM Red group, and the BB30 cranks weren’t available. They are now, and all SRAM Red Parlee bikes ship with the PFBB30 and appropriate cranksets. The base Z5 is also available with two different builds each for Campagnolo, SRAM and Shimano mechanical shifting. The Z5 SLi is available with Di2/EPS ports and the Z5 SL is for mechanical shifting.
Framesets are $3,700 for the Z5 and $4,700 for the SL/SLi and include frame, fork and headset.