Parlee is introducing the Z-Zero, their new top of the line custom carbon fiber road bike that’ll come with either disc or rim brakes.
“The Z1 isn’t going away, but we wanted to make something that was more of a modular platform for future drivetrains and brakes,” says Tom Rodi, Parlee’s sales and marketing director. “We’re on the edge of some big changes, and this let’s us address them and continue to push the boundaries of what we can do with a frame.”
Tubes are bladder molded by ENVE for them, which is different than the roll wrapped tubes on the Z1. This gives them more control over the layup, and they’re continuing to push metal out of the frame.
The Z1 (and most other custom carbon frames) uses a metal dropout with a hinge to allow the required different angles. For the Z-Zero, they created six different dropouts, each requiring different molds. Rodi says it’s more expensive, but this gives them a range of frame sizes from super small up to bikes that’ll for riders almost seven feet tall.
Another benefit to this overall design is that the dropouts are not co-molded with the chainstays, which makes it easy to adapt to any thru axles or other future standards if they happen.
The bladder molded tubes also give them more flexibility in shaping the tubes. True, the Z-Zero looks pretty traditional, but the top tube is slightly ovalized, and it gives them more freedom to experiment in the future.
The fork is a prototype of their own disc brake fork that’s also built by ENVE. Parlee prefers a 1-1/8″ to 1-1/4″ tapered fork, and ENVE’s stock disc fork tapers to 1-1/2″, so they developed their own.
This frame has standard cable stops, but future production versions will be like their new Z5i bikes with internal routing for both electronic and mechanical shifting systems. Same with the brake lines, they’ll be set up to run hydraulic lines, too.
The rear gets updated with better cable placement, letting the wire or cable pop out of the chainstay and dropout right by the rear derailleur.
Rear spacing is 135mm on disc bikes and 130mm on regular ones. At this point, you will need to pick one or the other. They’re anticipating some riders will want the option for to run either, so there’s a chance you’ll see frames with both as an option.
Compared to the Z1, the Z-Zero is about 15% stiffer at the same weight. What this really means is that they can push the weight down on the Z-Zero while keeping the well regarded handling and performance characteristics Parlee’s bikes are known for.
The result is about a 100g drop from the Z1, putting it around 800-900g for a rim brake frame. Disc versions will be a bit heavier, likely adding about 100g on the fork and a bit less than that on the frame…around 150g total weight gain across the frameset.
They’re taking orders for the rim brake frames now, pricing should be about 5% more than the Z1. Thy means a range of $6,000 to $8,000 for most framesets. They should start shipping in November in some sizes. If you want dual cable/wire routing, it could be a few months later.
The disc version shouldn’t be too much of a premium if any, but you’ll have to wait until Q1 2013.
The Z-Zero pushes their custom carbon bikes forward a great leap. Not only can you get custom geometry, but the layup is custom tailored to your riding style and terrain and it’s using the very latest in frame building technology.
True weight weenies will want the matte black frames. As for me, I’m torn…there’s just something about that blue and orange color scheme that strike my fancy.
They’re still finalizing the cable/wire entry points for the combined version. Because the headtube on these is a single tube unlike the Z5i, they’ll need to enter the top and downtubes just behind the headtube. Rodi says they’re finding the best spot since it basically requires putting a hole in the frame ten reinforcing it properly so it doesn’t create fractures or weak spots.
Rim brake bike hit our scale at 14lb 13oz. That’s founder Bob Parlee holding the scale.
The disc bike with paint comes in at 16lb 1oz, pretty good considering, and it’s still a bit prototype.
To see more about how Parlee builds their bikes, check out our factory tour here.