This is the story behind my acquisition of a tri bike frameset, and why I chose a Parlee Stock TT. For those who do not know me, I am a very occasional triathlete, not trying to be competitive, just trying to stave off Father Time. However, I have wanted a tri bike for some time, and have toyed with doing some of the Stowe and/or GMBC time trials locally. I was using my 2003 De Rosa King road bike, cobbled together with a set-forward seatpost, and aero base bar and extensions. It is a nice road bike frame, although now 8 years old and therefore a bit dated. As a classically designed Italian frame, the geometry of this bike is not at all appropriate for a time trial position. With all that weight shifted forward on a frame designed for a road position, handling was at best a bit twitchy, and on descents, sometimes scary. Besides, I’m always talking about the benefits of tri bikes, so I should probably own one myself… So, for the past year or two I have been considering the many options available for a tri bike.
As service manager here at Fit Werx in Waitsfield, I have had the privilege to build, and ride, many tri bikes, from the entry level Felt S22, through the entire Cervelo line, the Guru tri bikes, and culminating with the most refined and exceptional riding tri frames in the world – bikes like the custom Parlee TT and Serotta MeiVici AE. From Scott to QR and Kestrel, I have also worked on many tri bikes from other manufacturers and thus have had the opportunity to test ride a wide selection of tri bikes from most of the major manufacturers. While the custom Parlee and Serotta are extraordinary and highly desirable machines, truly the epitome of the art, and the Guru CR.901 is a wonderful frame, my rare forays into triathlons are limited to sprints, and maybe an Olympic distance someday and, if I do any of the local time trials, it will be simply for fun (if a time trial can ever be considered as “fun”), with no expectation of being competitive. It’s greatly a matter of aerobic efficiency, which I do not have. I therefore could not justify to myself, or my wife, owning one of the very best possible TT bikes – I therefore focused my search on the intermediate price range of frames.
I have built many stock Parlee TT tri bikes for shop clients, and have always liked them very much. Our clients who ride this frame have always had very good things to say about this frame’s ride quality and handling and over the summer I built one for a client, in a frame size that was appropriate for me and took it for a test ride. I thoroughly enjoyed my ride on this bike. Because the bike fit me well, I was able to really pay attention to the frame’s ride characteristics. The ride was very comfortable, stable and responsive, confirming everything we have said about this frame and our clients have reaffirmed. Our daily manager and buyer, Bruce, also test rode this bike, and was similarly impressed. I have a Parlee Z2 as my present road bike, one of their custom frames, and love the way it rides – I was leaning decidedly towards the Parlee TT as my future tri frameset.
I liked the fact that Parlee has a local feel to them, being based in Beverly, MA, and that they focus purely on performance oriented carbon fiber road and tri bikes. Elsewhere in the website is a thorough discussion of Parlee, and why we feel they make such great bikes. If you have not already read this review, check it out at https://fitwerx.com/product-reviews/bike-frame-manufacturer-profiles/parlee. Also, I had the chance to visit the factory about a year ago and was very favorably impressed. Bob Parlee, the founder and owner, was there on the production floor, working on a prototype of future models, so he has a personal hand in all their bikes, literally. Parlee’s custom geometry bikes are fully constructed in this facility. Their stock geometry bikes, the Z5, Z5 SL, and the stock geometry TT bike, are manufactured to Parlee’s exacting standards in S.Korea, in a small factory that specializes in detailed carbon work. However, having worked on many, many carbon bikes, I have found the workmanship of the stock Parlee TT exceeds the carbon workmanship and finishing that I see on the frames from all but the very top custom frame builders; the build quality on the stock bikes even rivals Parlee’s in-house bikes. The Parlee TT offers a wide variety of frame sizes: Small, Medium, Medium, Large, and Extra Large and each of these frame sizes offers two head tube lengths, making for a total of ten effective sizes. With most mass manufacturers, you are lucky to get five sizes, and from some manufacturers you only get three – small, medium and large! As a result, the Parlee Stock TT frameset fits a wider range of riders than just about any other stock geometry tri bike; the only way you will get more fit options on a tri bike is to go with a fully custom bike, such as Guru, Seven, Parlee or Serotta.
The Parlee TT has all the “bells and whistles” that are now considered de rigueur for a quality tri bike: airfoil-shaped headtube, downtube, seat tube, and seat post; internal derailleur and rear brake cable routing; rear brake mounted behind the bottom bracket, cut-out seat tube to allow the rear wheel to be brought forward for better aerodynamics, and horizontal rear dropouts that allow the wheel to be pulled in tight with the seattube. Many, many bikes on the market have these attributes, but the Parlee TT goes well beyond these now common attributes. For example, the seat post is a truly ingenious design, allowing for a wider range of saddle positions than any other seatpost that I have seen in my three years here at Fit Werx, and, of course, there is the ride quality. Outside of the top custom Guru, Parlee and Serotta custom tri frames, this is the best riding tri frame that I have experienced. After all, this is the little brother to the full custom Parlee TT, one of the top two best riding TT frames available (the other is the Serotta MeiVici AE). The Parlee Stock TT shares Bob Parlee’s design philosophy and attention to ride characteristics with its big brother, making it an exceptionally nice riding bike.
Given all of these attributes, and my love of my Parlee road bike, I finally settled on the Parlee Stock TT. I turned the big Six Zero in September, and decided that this frame would be an appropriate gift to myself. Even better, my significant other enthusiastically agreed, as it relieved her of trying to think up something to give me. Besides, she already has a tri bike. So, I am now the proud owner of a new Parlee TT frame, and cannot wait to get it on the road. Now for the decisions about the build kit!