The Parlee Z-Zero is one of our favorite ultimate dream bikes. It is an easy bike to be drawn towards, salivate over and lust after. So I thought I would give a quick run-down of a beautiful Z-Zero build…
It All Starts With The Frameset
The frameset is the top-on-the-line Parlee Z-Zero custom bike frame. While it may not be quite as light as some of the 650-750 gram frames available, it holds its own and does other things well that many of the lightest frames frequently compromise. When it comes to bridging a lightweight chassis with custom bicycle fit and performance, Parlee gives the rider something that those ultra light bikes often cannot provide – an exceptional ride. I’ll gladly exchange some grams to get that big improvement in the quality of the ride. Ultra-light bikes will by necessity often be either flimsy or overly stiff. Not so with the Parlee Z-Zero. And remember, this is a custom bicycle frame; it is built by Parlee to ride and handle as well as possible for the individual rider and their use. Rider Matched fit, handling and ride characteristics matter; those that have experienced the real differences that having a frame that is designed specifically for you can provide know. This ability to tailor the ride characteristics, and the custom fit, are what set a properly designed and well executed custom bicycle apart from everything else.
Regardless of what production bike you may own or desire, you are ultimately riding someone else’s idea of geometry and ride quality. An ideally fit and designed custom Parlee will quickly spoil you for life. I know, I have two Parlees and love them both. I had owned high-end carbon production bikes before my Parlees, including a De Rosa King, and there is no comparison. The best bike and the best riding position you’ve ridden is the best you know. For most there is an experience well beyond what they have ridden available that everyone deserves to experience while on this planet. However, you have to chose to work with someone with the fit and design knowledge and experience that can help create a bike that can deliver that experience.
The bike is built out with Campagnolo’s Super Record EPS drivetrain. Being a Campagnolo acolyte, I love Campy’s top-of-the-line electronic shifting components. EPS bikes are not easy to build though. Special tools are needed that are made only by Campagnolo and Shimano’s Di2 system is more flexible. For example, Campagnolo offers no capacity to download firmware updates, as you can with Shimano, and EPS does not have the option to have the system “talk” to your bike computer either. However, to me the importance of these matters disappears when I ride an EPS-equipped bike. I love the way the shifters work and feel and the precision of the derailleur action. The shift switches function the same as Campy’s cable-actuated shifters, and have a very similar feel. The entire system exudes quality, precision and smooth operation. It has an essence and polish to it that you only find in Campagnolo’s components. Back in 2012 I wrote two posts about Campagnolo’s EPS system, so if you want a bit more information about EPS, check that article out here.
The wheels on this custom Parlee Z-Zero are Lightweight Meilenstein clinchers, shod with Continental Grand Prix 4000S tires. Lightweight’s name is apropos, as Lightweight, along with the Reynolds RZR wheels, are the lightest wheels that I know. The Lightweight Meilenstein clincher wheelset weighs in at 1,100 grams. That would be quite light for most carbon tubular wheels with a 47.5 mm rim depth, and these are clinchers! So, these are extremely light, a hallmark of all of Lightweight’s wheels. They are also fast and aerodynamic, not to mention plenty stiff and responsive as well. Lightweight Wheels are one of those legendary types of products that few have actually seen, let alone ridden, but that everyone should consider. Rumors have flown through the professional peloton for years about riders using Lightweight wheels decorated with some other wheel manufacturer’s sponsorship logo. Jan Ulrich was famous for using Lightweights and most of us would be g.
If a pro rider rides Lightweights, they have used their own (or their team’s) money to buy them. Lightweight does not sponsor any teams or riders. To my mind, if the pros spend their own money for them, that says a great deal about their performance. Lightweight wheels are some of the very best wheels available, along with the aforementioned Reynolds RZR and Corima MCC wheels. They do everything exceptionally well and they can change the way you ride a bike. Yes, if you ride a wheel like the Lightweight Meilenstein clincher you will feel the difference. Even compared to highly acclaimed wheels from Zipp, Enve and the like, a wheel like a Lightweight can change your opinion of what a wheel can offer. They are instantly addictive; many Lightweight and Reynolds RZR riders find they can ride in a full gear higher than they can on any other wheel – the acceleration is just phenomenal. Are they worth the price of admission at over double the cost of many very nice wheels? If you ride them, you’ll start saving your pennies. I’ll leave it at that.
Cockpit by ENVE
The stem, handlebars, and seat post on this Parlee Z-Zero custom bike are all carbon fiber, by Enve which match the full stealth matte black unpainted carbon of the frame. Enve knows carbon fiber, and is one of the foremost carbon component manufacturers. Many carbon fiber bikes out there are built using Enve tubing and Enve carbon fiber forks are ubiquitous. Enve bars, stems and seatposts are light, strong, and beautifully finished in flat black, so they match the raw carbon look of the Parlee frameset. These carbon fiber components improve the already excellent ride offered by the frame and wheels, by further filtering those annoying road vibrations, bumps and thumps.
This bike has been designed and built by Fit Werx and Parlee to specifically match the needs of a client who is much smaller than I, so the bike comes nowhere near fitting my six foot frame. So, while I cannot give a description of this specific bike’s ride characteristics, I do have a frame of reference. I have built, and ridden, several of these custom frames, the most recent being a Parlee Z-Zero disc bike that I wrote about, equipped with SRAM road disc brakes. Last summer I built a Parlee Z-Zero custom bicycle for another client who was more in my size range that was also equipped with Campagnolo Super Record EPS, but lacking those fabulous Lightweight wheels. I had the chance to ride this bike a few times and the frame and components did everything in spectacular fashion. Whether climbing, accelerating or hammering, all occur with quick, responsive handling (that is not twitchy or overly reactive) while maintaining the smooth renowned ride that makes a Parlee a Parlee. These are bikes that truly do everything well, from sprinting for the town line, to riding a century, to riding the gaps here in the Mad River Valley of Vermont. Given my experience with Parlee to date, I have no reason to expect this bike to perform any differently for her.
I have also had a chance to ride Lightweight wheels on several bikes. Contrary to what many may think, ultra-light wheels of this quality are neither flimsy and floppy, nor overly harsh and stiff. Like Goldilocks’ porridge, they are just right, doing everything you ask of them in spectacular fashion. The carbon rims and spokes filter out high frequency road vibration, while their lateral stiffness is very efficient at transferring your power to the road. They are fast, and, when equipped with the right tire and tube, comfortable. Their stiffness and solidity allows you to descend with confidence. To repeat, they do everything you ever want a road wheel to do and they likely will do some things at a level you never thought possible. The addition of these Lightweight wheels to this Parlee frameset will bring the overall performance of an already great bike to yet another level.
This Parlee Z-Zero custom bicycle is certainly a world-class super bike, ranking right up there with the very best that I have ever built here at Fit Werx. I wish this bike were mine, in the correct size of course.
“Ho hum” you say, “another article on a 14lbs custom super bike.” Well, not so fast. If you are interested in bikes, you should want to know what is possible and aspirational; bikes like this Parlee Z-Zero Custom bike show what is possible. One thing I love about bikes is that most people who put their mind to it can buy the Ferrari and ride it – while it may take some focus, you can get a bike like this. You don’t have to be super wealthy to own a super bike – you just need to be committed to it and start saving. This doesn’t happen with cars, houses, sailboats, horses or much of anything else and it is one of the great things about bicycles.
Furthermore, super bikes like this Z-Zero are not all that we do here at Fit Werx, but super bike builds help us build better bikes of all levels for all riders as they are full of future based technology that does trickle down. We are here to help you fulfill your bike wish list and fantasies to the very best degree possible for your money. Maybe you aren’t ready for Campagnolo Super Record on your next bike, but Campagnolo Athena EPS or Shimano Ultegra 6870 Di2 work really well too. Likewise, maybe you aren’t ready for a Parlee Z-Zero custom bike, but the family genetics of the Z-Zero are quite evident in the even lighter stock geometry and build Parlee Altum or Parlee ESX that do fit a number of riders quite well and hit notably lower price points. Lightweight, Reynolds RZR, or Corima MCC wheels out of your scope? There are other very fine wheels available from Reynolds, Mavic, Corima and others that pass some of the family DNA down to their lower priced siblings. So, although a bike exactly like this may be beyond you, you can glean information from it that can help you build out your own personal dream bike. Have questions about such products? Ask us!
With locations in Lexington, MA, Peabody, MA, outside of NYC in Ridgefield Park, NJ and near Burlington and Stowe, VT in Waitsfield, Fit Werx fits, carries, builds and sells mass production and custom bicycles across all price ranges for all types of riders and triathletes. Regardless of budget or experience, let us help you find your next level of riding experience!