Parlee Chebacco Review – Versatile Road Bike Defined
Fellow New England based cycling company Parlee Cycles has recently released the Chebacco, a new entry into the burgeoning Adventure (gravel road) bike market. We can’t help but think there is a better name. No, the bike is not named after the hairy alien star of a popular Sci-Fi movie series – although spell check would say otherwise… Rather, “Chebacco” is a Native Indian name for a lake north of Boston, in the area of Essex, a popular riding area. If you research it and think a bunch about it, the name makes sense. However, having to “research and think a lot” are not the dreams of most marketers. Luckily for the Chebacco, names mean little when it comes to how a bike works and rides. From weight to sophistication, the Parlee Chebacco is no Wookie. However, like a certain well known Wookie, the Chebacco will bravely go with you most anywhere and knows how to “punch it” when needed.
PARLEE CHEBACCO CARBON FRAMESET
As with all Parlees, the Chebacco is built of high grade carbon-fiber. The Parlee Chebacco is one of Parlee’s production carbon fiber bikes, meaning that the frame is made in Asia, in strict compliance with Parlee’s requirements and proprietary layup schedule. So, while the Parlee Chebacco may not offer the custom layup or geometry options of Parlee’s U.S. built frames, like the Z-Zero or Z-Zero XD, the carbon layup and construction process of the Parlee Chebacco has many similarities to what you will find in Parlee’s top-of-the-line custom bikes. The fork on the Parlee Chebacco is even of Parlee’s own design and manufacture, something rare in the specialty bike industry. The workmanship on the Parlee Chebacco, inside and out, ranks well above average and this helps create a bike that not only rides better, but lasts longer.
The cable routing on the Parlee Chebacco is internal wherever possible, including putting some of the front brake line into the fork. The results is a bike that will accept most any mechanical or electronic component group on the market and look good while doing it.
HANDLING & DISC BRAKE SPECIFIC DESIGN
Like most Adventure bikes, part of the benefit is being able to use a wide range of tire widths and offer consistent braking across a variety of terrain and weather conditions. While many people still mistake a Cyclocross bike for an Adventure bike, there are some key differences between Adventure bikes and a race capable Cyclocross bike. The Parlee Chebacco is not a classically designed cross bike – it is an Adventure/Gravel bike. The bottom bracket is a bit lower than traditional cross bikes, and is the same as Parlee’s dedicated performance pavement bike the Altum. The lower bottom bracket (compared to a number of dedicated CX bikes) is designed for added stability over rough surfaces, and the head tube is a little more laid back for more stable and less reactive handling, greater rider comfort and additional tire clearance. This all being said, if you wanted to duck into a cyclocross race a time or two a year, as long as you are not capable of dicing with the likes of Jeremy Powers, the Parlee Chebacco will let you do an occasional CX race. The Parlee Chebacco includes mounts for fenders, making it capable of being a commuter one day and potentially doing a fun local cross race the next.
While the bottom bracket drop may be the same, other parts of the frame geometry of the Parlee Chebacco is a bit more relaxed than some of the pavement specific Parlee’s such as the Altum. For comparison sake, a Medium size Chebacco has a head tube angle of 71.75 degrees, more relaxed than the Medium Altum’s 73.5 degrees; the seat tube for the Chebacco is 73 degrees, while the Altum’s is a bit more upright at 73.5 degrees; the overall wheelbase of the Chebacco is 101.4, while the Altum’s is 97.8 cm; the chainstay length for the Chebacco is 43 cm, and the Altum is 41 cm. What does this all mean in English? The Parlee Chebacco will accept those wider, and therefore taller, tires, while possessing handling characteristics that favor a comfortable and stable ride on rougher surfaces over lightning quick reactions on fast and tight pavement.
The brake mounts on the Parlee Chebacco will accommodate 140mm rotors front and rear out of the box, but Parlee provides TRP adapters with the frameset so that the brake caliper will clear the popular 160mm rotor size. The frame is designed to accept up to 40mm wide tires front and rear, but you can just as easily install a pair of 700x25c for dedicated pavement performance if you want too. Being able to accommodate a 40mm tire is well above what some other bikes in this category will accept, so kudos to Parlee for making this work without sacrificing much (having to use a chainstay over 43cm) in the progress.
As an aside, it is always good to note that actual tire width is relative to rim width and most listed tire widths assume an older style narrow (15mm inner) rim width instead of the wider 19mm+ width found in many wheels today. As the rim becomes wider, the tire’s effective width also becomes wider. Thus a tire listed as a 700×25 on the sidewall will often measure in the 700×28 range when installed on many modern wheels. If you want to learn more about this, read this article.
PARLEE MODULAR REAR DROPOUTS
One really cool frame feature on the Parlee Chebacco is the modular dropout system that allows for alternative rear set-ups. Thru axle or QR, the frame is ready. While the frame comes from the factory mounted with thru axle dropouts, if you would prefer to use a rear wheel with a conventional QR skewer, there are dropout parts that can be swapped out so that the rear of the bike can accept wheels with quick release skewers. While the fork does not share this modular design (the front dropout is dedicated thru axle), there are far more front wheels that can be adapted to thru axle than rear.
As is now de rigueur for the majority of new production bikes, all cables, whether electronic or manual, are channeled inside the frame. The frame is easily adapted to either mechanical shifting or electronic cabling, by simply replacing a few frame inserts, without the need for any tools. If you are using Di2 electronic components, as our review bike has, the battery is in the seatpost – a clean and safe mount point. The rear hydraulic brake hose is also routed inside the frame, exiting the left chain stay just in front of the brake caliper. The front brake hose is partially routed inside the left fork leg of the Parlee disc fork, differentiating it from other quality carbon disc forks like those from Enve. While the initial cable routing can be challenging during the build, it only has to be done once and our technicians are used to it in our full Pro Build that is included free of charge with any Fit Werx bike.
SHIMANO ULTEGRA Di2 COMPONENTRY – OR YOUR CHOICE…
While the Parlee Chebacco is available equipped with a wide range of mechanical and electronic components from SRAM, Shimano and Campagnolo, our review bike came equipped with Shimano’s Ultegra 6870 Di2 electronic shifting and RS685 hydraulic disc brakes. Enough has been written about these components. Suffice it to say that the shifting and braking work flawlessly. Parlee understands that many riders purchasing an Adventure bike want more gearing choices, at least here in New England. So, the Shimano Ultegra kit can be ordered with the 6870 GS medium cage rear derailleur, coupled with an Ultegra 11-32 cassette to cover a broad range of gearing needs. While a bike from Fit Werx is always Rider Matched, the stock handlebars, stem, and seatpost are all Zipp Service Course alloy components; when sized and matched to your needs correctly, this is all good solid kit to work from for many riders. The integrated and tapered headset is by Cane Creek and the frame’s bottom bracket is of PF30 design with Parlee’s own PressFit inserts. The wheels on the Parlee Chebacco are DT Swiss R23 db Spline, shod with Clement X’Plor MSO 700 X 40 tires. While the tires are not tubeless compatible, the wheels are, so you have the option to go that route with different tires if you want.
This all being said, if you get your next bike from Fit Werx, we’ll work with you to make sure everything from the tires and wheels to handlebars, seat and stem on your new bike are spec’d just as you need them, not just as the factory sent the bike to us. Almost every production bike needs some fit tweaks, so don’t make an expensive and uncomfortable mistake and just buy a new bike off a dealer’s floor without being fit first.
PARLEE CHEBACCO FIT & FRAME GEOMETRY
The Parlee Chebacco shares similar geometry and fit to Parlee’s dedicated pavement Altum model. Given the subtle differences in head tube angle listed above, the stack and reach come out an almost indistinguishable amount shorter and taller on the Chebacco – about 1mm. The Parlee Chebacco includes Parlee’s Flex Fit top cap system that provides 1.5-2cm of effective head tube height adjustment (depending on frame top cap used) within a given frame size. This is a nice feature that helps make a single frame fit a wider range of riders without compromise. The Parlee Chebacco, like other Parlee bikes, offers a reasonably wide fit window, but does not fit everyone well. All the more reason it is crucial with any bike purchase to get a Rider First Bike Fitting in advance of finalizing and buying your new bike. Any other method of bike buying is akin to completely renovating a house that was just built – it is an expense waste and has significant compromises compared to designing it and building it right the first time.
One criticism we’ve had of Parlee’s road geometry for awhile is that we wish they went one size smaller. This criticism holds true on the Chebacco as well. The 52.5cm top tube in combination with a 74.5 degree head tube angle makes the size “Small” big for many smaller riders and really only fitting about 60% of the women we fit well. The smallest size of a bike like Cervelo’s new C5 and C3 have about 1cm shorter reach overall and we hope that a smaller size will be added in the future as the Parlee Chebacco has great ride characteristics that could really be enjoyed by many smaller riders.
PAINT & FINISH
The Parlee Chebacco’s stock color is a dark blue with subtle bright green highlights and outline logos. We like it, especially with matching green bar tape. However, if you want something totally different, Parlee has their full custom paint facility at your service to personalize your new bike as much as you would like. You can see some of the great looking custom paints our clients have done with Parlee and other builders on our Flickr’ page.
The weight of Parlee Chebacco as spec’d above is 19 lbs 3 oz, or 8.71 kg, without pedals. For an Adventure bike, with disc brakes and 700 X 40 tires, this is pretty good and a lot could be lost quickly with some quick changes to tire and some of the heavier stock components (seatpost, for example). The Chebacco’s tires alone weigh 485 grams (a little over 1 pound) each – for comparison, a good quality 700×23 tire is in the 225 gram range… The DT R23 db Spline wheelset is 1,655 grams. This is a competitive weight for an alloy disc brake wheelset, roughly comparable to Mavic’s Ksyrium Pro Disc. Installing 32 mm wide tires, the width limit for cross racing, would save a substantial amount of weight and swapping the tires for standard 23 mm or 25 mm road tires will save you over a pound of rotating weight.
With selection of a lighter carbon fiber seatpost, stem and handlebars, and lighter gravel tires, this bike could brush against 18 pounds, without significant additional expense. Equipped for riding on paved roads, with a lighter set of disc wheels like Enve’s 3.4 Disc or a Corima 32 Disc shod with 23 or 25 mm tires, you would have a bike in the 17 pound range – competitive with many dedicated pavement disc brake bikes.
RIDE AND CONCLUSION
The ride of the Parlee Chebacco is classic Parlee, albeit slightly tempered by the longer chain stays, more relaxed front end. What does this mean? Parlee’s are renowned for combining a very comfortable ride without sacrificing high performance handling and responsiveness. While the Chebacco does not have quite the quick responsiveness of Parlee’s pavement only bikes (what bike with 40mm tires would?), the bike was by no means slow to react, or cumbersome. Far, far from it. I enjoyed riding it immensely, and I could very happily live with this bike as my only ride.
This all allows me to smoothly segue to a conclusion. The Parlee Chebacco can easily be ridden on gravel and dirt roads, but it can also serve very well as a standard performance capable road bike that is sporty enough to even do a little recreational racing if desired. All you need do is take off those wide tires and install some 25’s. Better yet, just have a separate set of light wheels with 23 or 25mm wide road tires and you can just slide the wheel and gearing you want on and off the bike depending on the day. Want to ride on the road and not get left behind? Stick on one set of wheels. The next day, swap wheels and hunt adventure up that dirt road to who knows where. No, this bike does not have quite the capacity to be as light a high performance “sports car” of a bike as the Parlee Altum on the road, nor will it be a high speed aero road bike like the Parlee ESX. However, what the Chebacco will do is meet the vast majority of your cycling needs, short of going completely off-road, tackling Mt. Washington, or going crit racing, better than just about any other single bike on the planet.
Are you looking for a very high quality adventure bike, or might you be looking for one bike that can handle your entire road riding needs, both dirt and paved, all with the pedigree and performance of a Parlee? The Chebacco can fill those needs with ease.
PARLEE CHEBACCO PRICING
Our floor bike, equipped as described, is $5,999 for ’16. Prices of course will vary depending on build kit. The frameset is $3,999, making the complete bike that much more of a great value. While the Parlee Chebacco is a higher end bike, knowing that you will be getting a single bike capable of doing almost any sort of road riding one can imagine (outside of loaded touring…), and do it well, means that it may be able to replace three or four bikes with one. This makes for great value and a bike you can truly call your one and only love.
Parlee Chebacco Changes for ’17 Model Year
The Parlee Chebacco returns with similar spec options for ’17, but the frame has two minor, but notable changes. The front wheel thru axle changes from 15mm to 12mm, making it a bit more standard moving forward and the rear caliper mount goes to a flat mount design, which allows it to work with the new Dura Ace hydraulic disc brake caliper.
Thinking of getting a new bike? Don’t gamble and potentially make an expensive mistake. Get fit with a Fit Werx Rider First Fitting before you decide on what bike to get and we’ll Rider Match our recommendations to your specific fit needs and use. Contact us for more information or to schedule an appointment.
Just recently purchased this bike and wanted to give my impressions about it. I tried riding a few different “gravel grinders” and have to say that the Chebacco is a cut above. I was amazed at how the ride on both dirt and pavement was very satisfying, and this from someone who has sworn by a “race bike” for road riding for decades. While I’m in no hurry to give up my Supersix for fair weather pavement riding, the Parlee was an absolute pleasure to ride on the road, even with the stock 40cm tires. I can only imagine (and look forward to) how it will fare with a set of road wheels/tires for those road-only rides. When I transitioned to gravel I was thrilled at the control and comfort that the Chebacco afforded me.
The whole fit process with Ian was likewise an eye-opener. We were able to make several adjustments to my Cannondale that, while I haven’t had a chance (it being winter in Vermont) to test out on the road, made a significant difference in comfort on the trainer. I look forward to testing these adjustments on a long road ride in the spring.