Parlee Z5 Road Bike – Unboxed, Weighed & First Impressions

Parlee Z5 road bike review with actual weights and frame details

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.

Parlee Z5 road bike review with actual weights and frame details

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.

Parlee Z5 road bike review with actual weights and frame details

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.

Parlee Z5 road bike review with actual weights and frame details

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.

Parlee Z5 road bike review with actual weights and frame details

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.

FRAME DETAILS

Parlee Z5 road bike review with actual weights and frame details

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.

Parlee Z5 road bike review with actual weights and frame details

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.

Parlee Z5 road bike review with actual weights and frame details

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:

Parlee Z5 road bike review with actual weights and frame details

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.

Parlee Z5 road bike review with actual weights and frame details

Parlee Z5 road bike review with actual weights and frame details

Frames include Parlee’s house-made carbon fiber front derailleur clamp. It’s also available aftermarket.

Parlee Z5 road bike review with actual weights and frame details

Dropouts are full carbon and very minimal. I used Mercury Cycling’s lightweight skewers in place of Mavic’s chunky ones.

Parlee Z5 road bike review with actual weights and frame details

Replaceable derailleur hanger, per usual.

Parlee Z5 road bike review with actual weights and frame details

The shifter cable guides are solid with an exit hole and adjustment barrel, the rear brake guide uses a slit.

FIRST IMPRESSIONS

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.

Comments

MaLóL - 05/18/12 - 12:15pm

front end of the frame looks a bit weird, right? top tube, as you said, should have more slooping and should be like 3 inches higher in the union with the headtube. For such a price tag, should be better, right? Also, that position seems like for ciclotourism, for having a chill ride, not for performance. in that case, why do you want a 900g frame? I´m sorry but i just don’t get it at all.

Nivlac - 05/18/12 - 1:20pm

@MaLol

People with long legs and short reach need more front end height. It makes the bike faster for people with this physical build. You just aren’t “getting it” because it doesn’t look like a slammed pro bike.

Speedy - 05/18/12 - 1:23pm

Yes Please! I’d take this all day long. I can’t wait to see the full write up after you have had some time with the bike. These first impression posts are great by the way. It’s cool to see what you guys have kicking around.

dave - 05/18/12 - 1:27pm

Parlee – Cicli per Dentisti

Ryan - 05/18/12 - 1:36pm

Anyone know where you can get a pair of those skewers? … besides getting a wheelset from Mercury.

FrozenDude - 05/18/12 - 2:10pm

“Parlee – Cicli per Dentisti”

Funny, because my dentist actually has 2 Parlees!

ween - 05/18/12 - 3:54pm

I’m with MaLoL – move the top tub up a few centimeters. What’s the point of having it where it is, slid down like that. They could keep the whole TT angle the same and lengthen the ST and seat stays. Why make pretend the bike frame is smaller than it is? Then you could have a useful HT extension and avoid so many spacers.

In this picture the front end is so weedy, with the long HT extension and not helped by all the spacers below and above the stem.

Looks like somebody tried really hard to make a poorly fitting frame work for someone with long legs and T-Rex arms.

dishedwheels - 05/18/12 - 4:09pm

If they changing the toptube would involve a whole new mold set up. By using a longer headtube they can keep the same mold that they use for the short headtubed Z5. This frame is not a custom frame. I think it is set up like this to show that the geo is adaptable to lots of different people. The fork is probably uncut because it is a demo frame. If he had a larger frame you guys would be trash talking the short stem. Can’t please anyone these days!

Mark W. - 05/18/12 - 5:11pm

i am not trying to make fun of anyone’s fit here, i have seen plenty of much worse looking fits on club rides and bike races, but why do you keep running set back post with the saddle slammed all the way forward?
Is it the set back post’s compliance, or is a zero set to far forward or what?
This is the second or third review i have seen with this set up and i am just curious why it is like that on a high end bike that you had fitted.

The only build flaw i see on this bike that is worth any actual poking fun at, if we even should, it the fact that on a PF30 frame you have an english threaded bb installed.

looks like a sick ride, way cooler than my caad 10 with record eps

Wil - 05/18/12 - 7:58pm

Dishedwheels makes a very big point about the extended headtube. Being out of a “stock” mould, extending the headtube is significantly cheaper and stiffer as opposed to running a lot of spacers or even an extended top cap. I’d assume the spacers above the stem are there as cutting a steerer for a demo bike isn’t the brightest idea. I have too also wondered about the saddles on some of Tyler’s bikes being slid forward. Rails clamped centrally most definitely help dampen (especially on ti). I’d assume Tyler’s leg length is overly tibial which would place him nearer to the bb.

Brian - 05/18/12 - 8:18pm

Sorry, but some of these comments are making me nuts. You think the geometry of the frame should be changed because it doesn’t look right??? Wow. Probably the same people for whom the quality of the head badge is a major factor in their purchase decision.

its still friday - 05/18/12 - 10:17pm

seriously, the dentist envy is getting tedious. So you can’t afford these bikes. Sorry for you. Get over it.

Wil - 05/18/12 - 10:25pm

I know! Fondriest, Seven, Pegoretti among others have done the same thing.

MaLóL - 05/18/12 - 10:31pm

The paint job is awful, the geometry is good, but tube setting is awful. If this frame is not custom, then get a proper gran fondo frame, like a giant defy or the like. This looks like a cheapo walmart bike, but costs like a ferrari. And yes, if you pay the Ferrari price tag it must look like a Ferrari, not like this cheapo thing.

Joshua Murdock - 05/18/12 - 10:56pm

Definitely an interesting bike and a respectable weight, too. Although, if I was shopping for a 900-1000 gram frame I would probably go for something with a fully tapered head tube, PFBB installed, and a stiffer frame overall. The round tubes look traditional but I can’t imagine they’re the optimal shape for being efficient yet compliant. I mean, that is why we graduated from round tubes to more shaped ones, isn’t it? Also, I can’t get over how much the BB area looks like a giant sperm cell.

John - 05/19/12 - 12:55am

Go do a search on the internet for Parlee Z5 reviews. They are all exceptional! That’s because this is an awesome bike, period. Parlee Z5s are light, stiff, comfortable and corners like on rails. @ MaLoL, If you can design a better bike than Bob Parlee then do so, I’ll be your first customer. I have a Parlee Z5 and every time I get on it and go for a ride I’m reminded why I love riding my Parlee.

Bikerumor - 05/19/12 - 7:13am

All – as mentioned, the GXP BB was only used (with an adapter) because the BB30 cranksets weren’t available yet. They are now, and Parlee is shipping us one to swap in.

Mark – my body is what it is, and so the saddle ends up being forward on the rails in order to get my knees properly positioned over the pedals. As for why I’d use a set back post, personally I wouldn’t. I prefer a straight post, but many bikes these days seem to spec set back posts, so that’s what we have to work with.

Dishedwheels – correct, it’s a stock mold and everything else between the standard and tall frames is identical. Extending the top tube is the economical way to accomplish their goal of fitting more riders. If I were going full custom, I’d have them make a sloping top tube so it looked sleeker, but is that worth a couple grand more for aesthetics? Probably not.

JonBoy - 05/19/12 - 11:41pm

I had a Parlee Z5 and it was a great ride. Not an out and out race bike, but stiff enough for me, and great in every other department.

But I do think Parlee should spend the extra dollars and make a new mold for each of the ‘tall’ sizes of the Z5. For me, it really ruins the look of what is a fantastic (and expensive) bike. In fact, I ended up selling my Z5 frame (small/tall) after a year because the extended headtube bugged me every time I looked at it. And it looked even worse on a smaller frame.

That said, Parlee is a great company. They make a quality product and I would love a custom Z3. But I think they dropped the call on the aesthetics of the ‘tall’ Z5 frames and also the new paint jobs. (but they do awesome custom paint).

Horses for courses etc.

Hungry4Shht - 05/20/12 - 12:28am

Parlee? Mold? I thought all of his bikes are tube-to-tube. That being said, it would be fairly simple to heighten the angle of the top tube to butt up closer to the TALLer head tube option. That being said, you go a professional fit and ended up with a TALL option frame that still needs spacers and a positive rise stem? Not knocking the Parlee product because I know it’s exceptional but I think your fitter needs some education. Maybe it’s simply for the almost-custom option’s review purposes but me-thinks a true fit professional would work to convince someone who needed a much taller setting than the almost-custom option could provide, to go full custom.

john - 05/20/12 - 6:38am

something has gone wrong definately with the fit of the bike, looks like you get the look of a $1000 bike for 10 grand. Throw out some of the spacers flip that stem and trim the steerer. the rest of the bike is so sweet ruined by basic set up.

Echo - 05/20/12 - 4:51pm

The Z5 is not a custom bike so they do not use tube to tube construction. That is only on the semi and full custom bikes they make.

gc3 - 05/20/12 - 6:45pm

the criticism is just flat out wrong. i just took delivery of z5 sli, and it is more responsive, stiffer, and more comfortable than the specialized sl3 tarmac i was previously riding. if you have the money, you won’t go wrong with parlee. don’t believe it? go for a test ride…

gringo - 05/21/12 - 5:59am

You probably need a degree in science or something to fit that much headtube into a bike frame.
Chapeau.

cw - 05/23/12 - 3:20pm

If you took that frame geo and made that top tube join the top of the head tube, it would look like a 26″ dirt jumper. That bike is slope city as it is.

Almost Friday - 05/24/12 - 6:54pm

To those chaps comparing bikes to super cars…stop it. They are bicycles. But if you must, maybe the owner of his Z5 fits better in a Range Rover. Maybe it’s a semi custom RangeRover as those produced by Revere. A bit tall in certain parts, very functional, AND very luxurious. Not all super cars, er bicycles, must be ferraris, lambos or the like. It’s obvious to those the do own Parlee’s or Super cars, that those that bring them up as a way to support their opinions on why they’re no good own neither of the two and definitely don’t get what that means.

Sascha - 05/26/12 - 10:57pm

Go back to Weight Weenies MaLóL you turd…

Sugarkane - 05/29/12 - 7:57am

Sascha he’s totally trolled out over there too. Kid hasn’t yet owned a road bike… And has never ever ridden anything even close to a parlee z5

Ozrider - 02/22/13 - 7:32pm

I have had my Parlee Z5 just over 2 years now. It is a fantastic all round bike, I race criteriums, Masters road races and do a few Sportives as well as at least on 1000km multi day event. The Parlee deals with all of these with absolute ease. I do a few long descents hitting speeds of 80-95km/h and it is stable and sure footed. It might not be as “stiff” as some bikes out there, but it is well balanced, and stiff enough for all but the most powerful sprinters. The oversized head tube makes steering stiff and direct, and i do find it amazing that the latest crop of super bikes – Trek Madone 7 series, S Works SL4, Wilier etc etc are now all building in more vertical compliance, making their bikes a bit more comfortable over longer distances.
Quite a few of the A Grade riders in Masters here ride Parlees and are really happy with them, and no, none of them are dentists. And a Parlee frame (Z5) is no more expensive than a Colnago C59, Specialized S Works, Pinarello Dogma, etc, and there are quite a few more expensive frames out there.
If the stock Z5 doesn’t suit you, they do the custom Z Zero, Z1, Z2 or Z3, and all their bikes can be custom painted.
As for sending the Troll MaLol back to Weight Weenies – I think he has been banned from the site.

rondom418 - 11/20/14 - 5:30pm

All the people giving comments here, my advised! try to ride one of the PARLEE bikes then get back here and give you’re comments. I own a Parlee Z5SL limited. most of the highend bike shop mechanic I’ve visited/talked, there comments are: this is the best bicyle in the world!

Post a comment:

Comment sections can be a beautiful source of knowledge, conversation and comedy. They can also get pretty ugly, which is why we've updated our Comments Policy. If your comment isn't showing up or suddenly disappears, you might want to check it out.