Parlee

When Bob Parlee started his eponymous brand in 2000, he set out to make the best carbon bikes in the world. 18 years later the Z-Zero is the culmination of that singular vision. The conclusion is that Parlee build silly good bikes that are beyond compare. Read on…

You only live once. Or YOLO. It can be applied to almost anything. Another drink? YOLO. Ask that girl out? Crazy new shirt? YOLO. YOLO.

Parlee Z-Zero? YOLO. YOLO need not be concerned with little things like practicality, price, other’s opinions, you’ve had too much to drink, pragmatism, sensibleness. YOLO is YOLO.

Sure there are factory made frames you could bandy the phrase around for, and they’d be good bikes too, but the moment you saw someone on a Z-Zero you’d know that that guy really knew how to YOLO.

You’d then have to ask yourself, was it hand made in Massachusetts by a band of obsessive compulsives rivalling the staff of the moon landing?

Parlee goes to great lengths to explain their carbon and construction technology and it’s really fascinating in a kind of ‘do you mind if I read Milan Kundera’s The Unbearable Lightness of Being out loud to you? I mean it’s a classic and if you have some time I’d be happy to, but after a while you going to start making excuses. There’s a reason they’re classics and I’ll cut to the chase, it’s because they’re good.

The whole point of the Z-Zero is that the level of detail is extraordinary, but you don’t need to shout about it. The really cool thing is that you’re safe in the knowledge that it’s there. The beauty is, as is with all things made like this, the simplicity. Parlee could easily get pre-made tubing and slap it together, make bikes for half the price and sell twice as many. But would you care, would you listen?

So, what’s it like? Well, much like Kundera, it’s a classic. Straight out of the box the tubing is familiar, the geometry too, but like a Porsche, this is evolutionary design; no gimmicks or deliberately obscure angles or curves, a bike in its truest form. Give it a closer inspection and the Stuttgart analogies bear fruit, put a ’69 911 next to a 2018 coupe and while the lineage is clear, the marque has evolved. The same goes for the Z-Zero, put it next to an ’73 Tour winner and the classic proportions are there, but what look like lugs at the tubing belie the true genius the brand has developed, employed and perfected since Bob Parlee began 18 years ago.

It’s in the waxed black finish and at the meeting points of the tubing that the skillsets of these OCD magicians take on mesmerizing levels of craftsmanship. Through what I believe to be witchcraft or some dark art, the Parlee tube joining process in neither lugged or tube to tube and instead fuses the tubes together with carbon to yield a wholly unified structure and almost zero redundant material.

What does that mean to you? Well, your bike is lighter, 100% customisable and downright sexy in a kind of modern throwback to classic steel frames but with the strength, weight and integrity of the latest carbon technology. The Z-Zero is available in 16 effective semi-custom sizes, full custom geometry and your choice of rim and disc brakes.

On the road, the Z-Zero is the kind of sleeper that benefits from second and third looks. Most people will ride on, but to the initiated, the purity of the Z-Zero is what cycling is all about. Despite its cost, there is nothing superfluous or superficial about its aesthetic, character or temperament. It is balanced and poised, ready to accelerate at a moment’s notice and even forgetting the fully customisable program, this frame is a lesson in restraint and a demonstration of skills and abilities – even if yours don’t match it quite yet!

When we build these bikes and we take them off the stand, we gather and gawk and go weak at the knees like kids watching a Ferrari with that girl from the recent Bladerunner in it; you don’t know what the car is and I can’t remember her name, but it doesn’t matter, it’s a perfect mix of everything you can’t put your finger on or find the words for, but who needs words, look at what’s going on.

No one needs a Z-Zero, like no one needs a Swiss watch or a sports car, but hey, you only live once.