Bikes come and go here in the RCUK office but, just occasionally, one will turn up that stops us in our tracks. A small handful of bikes have had this effect on us, but with the Parlee Z4 (pronounced ‘Zee Four’), the latest to be wheeled into the office, the benchmark has just been raised several notches higher.
That’s because US-based Parlee have, in only eight years, built up a reputation for some of the very finest hand-built carbon frames in the world. The Z4 is the latest addition, taking the frame count to four models and making ownership of a Parlee just a little more accessible.
This has been achieved by the offering of the company’s first off-the-shelf stock frameset. It’s essentially identical to the more expensive Z3 that RCUK tested two years ago (and which won that year’s Carbon Supertest), but whereas that frame is available in seven sizes and can be custom tuned with geometry changes and different tubesets, the Z4 is offered in just five sizes (51 to 59), with no option of custom changes. This allows Parlee to offer it at a much reduced prize.
But don’t think there’s any compromises. The Z4 is still made with the care and attention that makes all Parlees unique. There’s a variety of tube joining techniques in use including a composite version of tube-and-lug, much in the style that steel frames used to be built, and carbon wrap in which layers of carbon fibre sheet are laid in place over mitred and butt-bonded joints before the whole frame is then cured. Frame weight is a claimed 910g for the size M/L we’re testing.
First impressions are undoubtedly good, with the frame’s clean lines and small details such as the carbon cable stops adding to the overall impression of high quality workmanship on display.
So the Z4 is more attainable, but don’t expect much change from £2000 for the frame, fork, headset and carbon front mech clamp. We’ve got hold of a test bike built up with Campagnolo Record and Reynolds carbon clincher wheels to find out how a Parlee rides.
For Bespoke Cycling, suppliers of Lightweight, Kent Eriksen and Parlee, superb service and customer satifaction are key to the business model. In fact, Bespoke’s dealership in London’s Hoxton Square follows the model set by high-end luxury car brands. The relationship between quality of service and the luxury touch is essential. You don’t just walk in, pick a bike out of the rack and make your purchase – you’re looked after, fully informed, sized up and not at all rushed. After all, if you’re spending the sort of money that a Lightweight-equipped Parlee costs, you want a different sort of service to that usually available.
Early riding impressions on their way soon.