Sep 15, 2009
Posted by MJR
Got two good rides in on a Parlee Z4 this past weekend north of Truckee out in the Sierra Valley. All-time scenery (saw an eagle and three hawks on Sunday’s outing), beautiful climbs and some serious action for the Forest Service fire fighting teams in the area thanks to a fast moving lightning storm.
If you’ve seen a Parlee in person you’ll probably agree that, when compared to the shapes of a typical Pinarello or the bold colors usually found on a Pegoretti, the unadorned round tubes and minimal decals give the Parleee a simple, if not austere look. A nice departure from the NASCAR feel of many of the bikes that come into the shop these days.
Unlike other Parlee models, the Z4 is not available with custom geometry. After well over a decade of working with carbon Bob Parlee and his team feel that they’ve got a good sense for what most riders want in a standard carbon frame (tube diameters, wall thicknesses, geometry, ride quality, etc.) and have pulled all of that together in the Z4. Hop on one and you’ll probably agree, that Bob knows how to make a great riding bike and that most of us simply don’t require a custom fit. Despite being Parlee’s lowest cost frame, the Z4 has incredible finish quality: No rivets holding the thing together, no clunky joints or grossly oversized/oddly shaped tubes. Just a clean, round tubed bike that riders with a traditional bent will absolutely appreciate.
A demo bike that had been sitting around the shop, the Z4 that I took out was mostly built with Campy 10-speed and a pair of new Campagnolo Eurus wheels with 2-Way Fit tubeless technology. I pulled off the Fizik Antares saddle and replaced it with a trusted Sella Italia SLR, not so much because of the shape or level of comfort it promised, but because it was one of their special orange demo saddles. Woody was kind enough to point out that my ass would easily cover the entire saddle while riding, yet the orange on a black-and-blue bike was not happening for me under any circumstances. While I’ve got Fizik on the brain, I’ll mention that if you are intending to use their bar tape (as was found on the Z4), make sure you’re a rider that likes to wear gloves. It has an almost Benotto Celo-like sheen to it that renders it super slippery to bare hands. If you’re not going to wearing some kind of hand protection, stick with Cinelli cork tape or something similar.
Although Chad has a 12.3-pound totally rideable Parlee sitting in the shop (for a cool $17K), the demo bike must’ve hit the scales at about 15-lbs with absolutely no effort to make it light. Pretty good considering this was a budget race bike.
Regardless of weight or the color of the saddle, the best thing about the Z4 was the overall ride quality. Waterford used to have a German word that neatly captured the idea (that now evades me), but what I’m trying to get at is that the Parlee felt totally harmonious and of a single piece. First bike I’ve been on for awhile that was incredibly light, but rode as smoothly and confidently as my 1990’s Bob Jackson or an old Colnago Masterlight. Super enjoyable bike to be on, definitely one that I could ride every day and be stoked about. For me, it probably wouldn’t be worth upgrading to a Parlee model with custom geometry, but it you don’t fit neatly within the bell curve, it’s nice to know that you can.
One thing you’ll definitely want to know about the Z4 is that Parlee has cut the price from $3450 to $2900 and added an Edge Composite 2.0 fork (the price also includes a headset and carbon front derailleur clamp). Parlee also offers an extensive custom color and graphics program for the Z4 with at least 15 different options.
If you’re interested call the shop or check out the Parlee site!