The much longed for arrival of a nice day gave me the chance to take the Parlee Altum R out for a test ride with some different wheel combinations. Even though I was only out for 15 minutes, I found an awful lot to like about this bike. It gave me the things I want most from a bike – a comfortable ride, yet stiff out of the saddle and coupled with responsiveness and quick reactions. This is not necessarily an easy combination, but one that Bob Parlee and the rest of the crew at Parlee Cycles is adept at designing into his frames better than most and the Parlee Altum R is definitely not an exception to this rule.
As good as the Parlee Altum R is out of the box with the build kit I previously described in my recent review of the bike, the one thing that I wanted to do on my ride was swap out the wheels for a good set of carbon wheels, such as the set of Corima Viva/32 wheels on my Parlee Z2. Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with the HED Ardennes+ that came with the bike. In fact, the HED Ardennes+ is one of the best spec wheel choices we’ve seen on a bike of this level lately – it was great to see a versatile road bike where the wheels were at least of a similar level to the rest of the Ultegra group found on the bike. This all being said, I just thought that this frame would be truly great if paired to a set of high quality carbon tubulars.
My Corima Viva ‘S’ (now Corima 32 MM S) tubulars weren’t in the shop, so I borrowed a pair of Corima MCC wheels from a K.Bedford Customs Tig bike Ian has in the shop. I have previously found the carbon spoke equipped Corima MCC’s to have distinctly different ride characteristics when compared to my 32mm Corima Viva; I can best describe it as bit stiffer and more responsive due to the MCC’s using carbon fiber spokes as opposed to the Sapim alloy spokes on the Viva’s and the lighter weight. The Corima MCC wheels were a great compliment to the Altum R frame, increasing the performance feel of the bike by a substantial degree. Reactions became quicker, and the whole bike became even more responsive. The Corima MCC wheels turned the bike from a great, all purpose sporty bike, like a BMW 335 in the automotive world, into a 14 lbs street legal race car, sort of a Porsche R3 on two wheels. This frame is of such high quality that it can very easily mutate into whatever type of bike you want, depending on what wheels you choose. Once a set of wheels is mounted, the ride could be further tuned with additional wheel and tire selection options. I came away impressed with how well the bike rode with both pairs of wheels, but also just how much of a difference there was between options.
The Parlee Altum R rivals just about any production bike on the market in doing what I want a bike to do – I can’t find anything the Parlee Altum R doesn’t do well and everything it does do it does at or near the top of its class. Add a high quality carbon tubular wheelset (Corima, Enve, Zipp, Reynolds, Mavic, etc.) to the Parlee Altum R and a good tubular tire (Continental Grand Prix 4000SR or maybe a pair of slightly wider 700 X 25c Continental Competition or Latex tube equipped Vittorias) and I would rank this up with the very best production bikes I have ever ridden. While I have not ridden everything, I have ridden a lot of bikes that have been built or serviced by Fit Werx in Vermont over the past six years.
If it were my money; I knew that it fit my riding position well; and I was looking for a new production bike starting around $5K, a new Parlee Altum R would be going home with me (possibly with two sets of wheels!). I can’t find much to dislike or nit-pick on the Parlee Altum R and there is so much that I really like about it.
Fit Werx is an authorized Parlee and Corima Dealer. Fit Werx was started in 2001 with locations in Waitsfield, VT, Peabody & Lexington , MA and Ridgefield Park, NJ (near NYC). Fit Werx is changing the way people buy bikes through their Rider First Bike Fittings and Rider Matched Bike Sales approach. Fit Werx offers production and custom bikes, cycling products, service and bicycle fitting services for new and existing bikes. Contact us and ask questions and to make sure that you have a bike fit in advance of buying a new bike. Using the information from a Fit Werx fitting will guarantee that you select a bike that fits your individual needs as well as possible.