Nov 1, 2009
Posted by MJR
Pretty safe to say that Bob Parlee knows a thing or two about carbon fiber. What’s more is that because Bob has made so many custom carbon frames over the years (something 99% of all carbon mfgs. have never done!), he truly understands how to combine geometry and unique carbon lay-ups to make a bike that rides like an absolute dream. Anyone of the mind that only ferrous frames can feel magical probably hasn’t ridden a Parlee!
The feathery Z5 is the newest member of the legendary Parlee family and we were lucky enough to get our hands on one of the first composite masterpieces to be FedEx’d out of Massachusetts. Based upon the company’s flagship Z1 model, the Z5 is a “stock” frame that offers the legendary Parlee ride and classic, dare we say, minimalist lines, that has made the frames famous. Like Bob himself says (and we’re paraphrasing here), ‘I am not a stylist. I am a designer and a builder of race bikes. I design and build fast, light, durable and comfortable bikes—qualities that were once considered mutually exclusive in bike building. Because of this you will not see unnecessary shapes in my designs. The guiding principle for parlee is efficiency. Styling makes no sense because it only adds weight and takes away from ride quality. It is akin to putting fins on a car, they may look cool, but they are not going to make it perform better.’
In the Z5 Parlee is utilizing a more efficient molding process and a smaller amount of composite overlap to yield an extremely durable carbon frame that weighs in at just 800 grams! For smaller sizes, the frames actually weigh less than 800-grams and that is a real weight that includes paint, clear coat, water bottle cage bolts, derailleur hanger, cable guide and seat collar clamp! That puts a 13-pound built bike with quite normal parts well within the range of possibility.
The newest Parlee is available in a full five frame sizes – 51, 53, 55, 57, and 59cm. Each size is also offered in a tall version that features an extended headtube. An expensive and important touch from Parlee (because they have to make additional molds for the ‘tall’ models) and it puts an end to a huge stack of spacers for riders that want or need a higher hand position. The Z5’s frame geometry sticks to the Parlee formula used in the Z4 except that the two smallest sizes feature a headtube that has been slackened by a half-degree for a more confident ride quality. More details? The Z5 features carbon dropouts, molded carbon cable stops, and a carbon seatpost clamp. It’s also adopted the BB30 standard for a lighter and stiffer bottom bracket and reduced Q factor. The stock EDGE Composites fork has the tapered (1 1/8” to 11/4”) steerer tube design that is far-and-away our favorite and is the gold standard on 2010 model-year bikes.
Although we’ve not gotten our Z5 out on the road, we’re bullish about the ride quality it promises to offer. Feels to us like the Z5 is the absolute perfect match of clean, conventional lines and the latest advances in composite frame technology. As soon as we get a break from painting and generally kitting out our new service center, we’ll give the Z5 a full pro build and put it through the paces here in Marin County. Stay tuned for our first impressions.
For more photos, check out our Parlee gallery!