The Parlee Z-Zero is the top-of-the-line (nearly $8000) offering from Parlee, a boutique bike brand out of Massachusetts.

The Parlee Z-Zero is the top-of-the-line offering from Parlee, a boutique bike brand out of Massachusetts (click to enlarge).​

Lowdown: Parlee Z-Zero Road Bike

Thanks to Matt at Red Lantern Cycles in Menlo Park, California, RoadBikeReview was given the chance to test ride another super bike, this time the Parlee Z-Zero. The Parlee Z-Zero is the top-of-the-line offering from Parlee, a boutique bike brand out of Massachusetts.

Like its predecessor, the Z-1, the Z-Zero is one of the few carbon frames made right here in the USA. Indeed, each Z-Zero frame is custom made for each rider. A complete CAD drawing is made in advance detailing frames measurements, and customer can work with Parlee to alter certain measurements to get the exact ride characteristics they're looking for. Because of the customization, limited volume, and time-consuming build process, list price for the frame is $7899. But how does it ride? Read our full review below.

Frame: Parlee Z-Zero carbon Tires: Vredestein Fortezza TriComp Pro tubular
Fork: ENVE carbonSaddle: Selle Italia Turbomatic
Drivetrain: Shimano Dura Ace mechanicalSeatpost: ENVE
Brakes: Shimano Dura AceAvailable sizes: 16 base sizes in regular and tall
Crankset: Shimano Dura Ace 53x39Size tested: 56cm tall (2.5cm taller head tube)
Bars: Deda M35Weight: 14.3 pounds
Stem: Deda 35MSRP: Frame, fork, headset $7899
Wheels: Corima 47 S+TubularsRating:
4.5 Stars
4.5 out of 5 stars
Stat Box


Pluses

Minuses
  • Incredible climbing ability
  • Steep price
  • Lightweight
  • Rough ride
  • Exclusivity
  • Understated look

Review: Parlee Z-Zero

It's remarkable how you can get a feel for a bike fairly quickly. After just a few rides, you can sense the feedback from the front and back of the bike, as well as how fast it handles and how fast it accelerates. Riding the Parlee, I was reminded of my Cervélo R3. (I think the R3 is one of the most revolutionary bikes of all time, combining light weight, hill climbing ability with it's massive top and down tubes, comfort with it's tiny seat stays, and even a reasonable price.)

Parlee does not start fabrication without knowing the rider's needs.

Parlee does not start fabrication without knowing the rider's needs (click to enlarge).​

The "around the block road feel" went like this:
  • Slightly muted ride; not a ton of feedback through the frame. Comfortable but not jarring.
  • Remarkable, instant acceleration. Definition of a bike that shoots forward.
  • Quick handling though not nervous or twitchy
  • A lot of toe overlap

Continue to page 2 for more of our Parlee Z-Zero review


Braking provided by Shimano Dura Ace.

Braking provided by Shimano Dura Ace (click to enlarge).​

Build-wise, the Parlee we tested featured an 11-speed Dura Ace mechanical drivetrain with oversized 35mm bars/stem from Deda, an ENVE seat post, and fantastic looking 47mm deep Corima Carbon tubulars. The shifting was flawless and the handlebars/stem felt stiff and confident. Wheel-wise, while I am not a fan of tubulars, these wheels braked confidently and felt very fast (but I brought along a can of sealant in the advent of a flat when I rode it).

The frame was the "tall" version, meaning it features a longer head tube for a more upright position. In fact, it is 2.5cm taller than the normal frameset. This extra height is meant to be more comfortable and upright, though not as aerodynamic. Initially, I didn't see the need for this extra height, but keep reading to see how it affected the bike's performance.

On the tech side, this bike is really an engineering marvel. In the past, bike tubes were lugged, where tubes were inserted into sleeves (lugs) to join up the tubes. This is a practice that was started with steel frames. The downside of this design is that the lugs can add extra weight and the joints can be a bit clunky looking. The benefit of lugs is builders can create a wide variety of sizes to suit any build. At the same time, carbon fiber bikes are increasingly made via a technique called monocoque bladder molding. This basically means creating a template shape and then forming the carbon around that shape.

Performance based shaping allows for lighter overall tube weights and optimized tuning of the laminate schedule. A variety of tube designs allows Parlee to tune the ride to each rider's needs.

Performance based shaping allows for lighter overall tube weights and optimized tuning of the laminate schedule. A variety of tube designs allows Parlee to tune the ride to each rider's needs (click to enlarge).​

The bladder molding helps reduce imperfections on the inside of the tubes. And the monocoque - or one-piece - design allows for the creation of a frame with little excess weight because the lugs (joints) essentially are just a part of the frame. The downside of monocoque design is it is very expensive to set up these templates. To this end, with monocoque frames, frame sizes are generally limited because of the set-up cost.

Parlee chose to skip the monocoque route and iterated on the lugged frame methodology. Thus they can fine tune and accommodate just about any rider size. Using extremely close tolerances, they essentially mate the joints with the absolute minimum of carbon wrap and epoxy. Additionally, they use carbon instead of alloy for the dropouts and bearing races, further reducing weight. Yet, in a nod to monocoque design method, Parlee bladder molds the main tubes to reduce weight and imperfections on the inside of the tubes.

If you look at the pictures, the work is truly amazing. There is no excess waste on the tube junctions. The bottom bracket, in particular, is a seamless blend uniting the seatstays, chainstays, and down-tube. It's truly a thing of beauty.

Like its predecessor, the Z-1, the Z-Zero is one of the few carbon frames made right here in the USA.

Like its predecessor, the Z-1, the Z-Zero is one of the few carbon frames made right here in the USA (click to enlarge).​

So how did it ride?

I got to ride this bike for several weeks, and each time I rolled out I was excited. Acceleration was immediate and the bike felt really connected to the road. The Corima wheels were fantastic. They braked extremely well, didn't screech under braking, and felt very fast.

Continue to page 3 for more of our Parlee Z-Zero review


Parlee's compression molded carbon drops and bearing races (in the head tube and bottom bracket) allow for a reduction of the metal content in the Z-Zero to less than 20 grams.

Parlee's compression molded carbon drops and bearing races (in the head tube and bottom bracket) allow for a reduction of the metal content in the Z-Zero to less than 20 grams (click to enlarge).​

On one memorable ride, I took the bike out to ride with my triathlon team. We did a tough 8-mile climb called Page Mill Road. The bike felt incredible. Acceleration was effortless. But at one point my shift/brake lever came loose so I held back to tighten it up. My teammates left without me, and I had to chase them by closing a 90-second gap. Long story short, I quickly caught several of them and was able to PR the descent in the process.

A closer look at how the Parlee Z-Zero differs from other bikes.

A closer look at how the Parlee Z-Zero differs from other bikes (click to enlarge).​

Indeed, the bike felt comfortable and in control. The Corima wheels had excellent braking, and are easily among the best carbon wheels I've tried. At the bottom there is an abrupt turn, then a climb of about 10 minutes. Because of the taller position, I was able sit up and breathe more deeply. This climb is odd. It is steep enough in that in most parts you need to spin in the little ring. But then it opens up in sections where you can go to the big ring. So it taxes you and your bike to use both low and high cadence pedaling. The Parlee was remarkable in that it responded really well no matter what, and I set a PR on the climb. In fact, at the end of the day, I had eight Strava segment PRs on the ride.

As for ride feel, whether it was the super-rigid Corima wheels or the frame itself, I found it to be more responsive to feedback than during the initial around the block ride. The Parlee Z-Zero seemed to transmit every texture of the road. And while it was very responsive it did beat me up a bit. I think wider tires might help. Additionally, though I was initially concerned about the toe-overlap, it didn't really affect the ride and descending felt very confident and not twitchy.

The look is elegant and understated.

The look is elegant and understated (click to enlarge).​

Bottom Line

The Parlee Z-Zero reminds me of a Porsche 911. Maybe not the most flamboyant shape, but purpose-built and refined over years and years to offer exceptional performance. And like the 911, it is very expensive. Cost aside, if you are looking for a great handling bike and want to set PRs on the climbs, the Parlee Z-Zero would be hard to pass up.

Build times are 4-6 weeks. For more info visit parleecycles.com.