What’s big, black and weighs 15 lbs? My new bike of course. I was just refreshing my memory of Part1 and realized that, though I made what I wanted, there was a lot more that came out of this build. I have put about 300 miles on the Z3 in the past few weeks and it has allowed me to ride at the very ragged edge of my ability and fitness. My commuting times have dropped 4 minutes over the 9 mile route. I rode a century in the lead pack for 75 miles averaging 25 mph before I cracked. I beat the thunderstorm home today; my shoes are still dry! For athletes of greater prowess, and there are a lot, these are minor events but they are my personal bests. A bike that can do that from the moment you throw a leg over it is magic. That’s how I feel about the Z3.
The many people who helped me with the building of this bike are all so talented. The craftspeople responsible for the fitting, designing, fabrication method, tubing design and making, not to mention the component makers, all endeavor to create the most superbly refined bio-mechanical machinery. Building a bike from woven carbon cloth into a rigid, tuned structure is a very elemental experience. It takes a lot of people working together to create bicycles. Even a one man shop relies on an army of suppliers to make a single bicycle, when you strip away every piece from every other piece. I am referring to spokes, bearings, seals, hub shells—every little tiny bit. It’s an amazing piece of cooperation, and is often overlooked by even the most knowledgeable craftsmen.
Here are some shots of Rommel building the frame. I know how to build a Z3, but Rommel is truly the living master of building custom PARLEEs. I was happy to take the photos in this case, and let him do what he does best.
Rommel popped out the largest interior frame holes he could get away with. This reduces weight without compromise to the structure. This is particularly apparent in the bottom bracket. He also added carbon plies to the bottom bracket and head tube to boost torsional stiffness at the tube junctions.
The frame’s joints are comprised of many plies of carbon oriented very precisely, layer upon layer. When this stage is completed, two plies of carbon 3K cloth are applied to the outside of the tube junction. This outer “skin” gives the joint a tidy look that also obscures the layup beneath.
Next the frame needs to be cooked. Each tube junction has a mold that is bolted over it. The mold introduces the heat and compression required to cure the the frame. This is a proprietary method that I can’t divulge, but the result is an ideal tube union that has no voids, superior mechanical strength, and a very clean finish.
There is a lot of sanding that happens after the molding process. It takes skill and concentration to do this type of finishing. Sand too much and you will burn through the outer layers of woven cloth on the lugs; if you are too timid it will take you a week to do. The process is best described as rapid precision sanding with air tools. Tedious, exacting, and very important to the aesthetic of the frame. Next the cable stops are bonded on and the excess glue is carved and sanded away. Every cable stop is laid up and machined at the factory. They are beautiful little sculptures that function perfectly.
A final check is made of the wheel alignment, cable guide positioning and function, verifying that the bore of the bottom bracket is ready for the bearings and that the integrated seat post has been trimmed to the correct length for my saddle height. The last step is finishing. I decided to wax the frame and use gloss black logos. This gave the frame a satin black sheen for the gloss black logos to contrast with.
This subtle aesthetic was carried throughout the build. I matted out the clear of the Ritchey Superlogic seat topper as well as all of the SRAM Red drive-train parts. Brian, one of our painters, did an amazing job with that part using a candy red tint for the SRAM logos with metallic ghost accents. I continued the gloss black outline logos on the Enve 2.0 fork as well. I decided to go with the 2.0 fork over the 1.0 after realizing that the stock steerer length on the 1.0 was too short for my head tube. The folks at Enve sent me one of their fantastic cockpits and a set of R45 clinchers to round out the matte black build.
The folks at Enduro sent me one of their new Pressfit 30 ceramic bottom brackets to us. This is a very nice little unit. The bearings were not pressed into the delrin sleeves. Rather, you push the sleeves into the frame first and then install the bearings after. The result is amazing. This is the smoothest BB I have ever felt. I installed the cranks and they spun freely with little to no drag, and I have not touched them since. The Cane Creek 110 head set has also been a winner from an installation and performance perspective. The Super Logic seat topper is 110 grams and has been running without incident despite the constant hammering from my backside. The Enve 120mm stem and 44 cm bar are light, stiff, user friendly, and look perfect with the rest of the bike. The Enve R45 wheels are a balance of aerodynamics and low weight. They spin on DT hubs and came out of the box true and dished perfectly. I decided to go with Red for the kit because it is light, affordable, reliable and the BB30 crank saves quite a bit of weight without sacrificing durability. To top it off, a Fizik Antares carbon was used.
When the bike was built and I threw it on the scale I was amazed to see that it was just a shade under 15lbs. That isn’t an unusual weight to come out of PARLEE, unless you are talking about a 62cm Z3 built for a guy who weighs 200lbs. This led to my next concern, is it possible for such a light bike to be responsive, efficient, and reliable for a person of my stature? By the third pedal stroke that concern melted away and will never again cross my mind. The bike surged forward with every bit of energy applied to it.
Since then, I have had the bike in a variety of situations and in every case it has made my riding better. I can bomb through rutted and cracked pavement comfortably. Even in rough corners where line changes are needed, the bike never stutters. It feels really clean to the point that I lose awareness that there is a bike under me at all, it becomes a part of my body. I have never had a road bike do that for me. The components of course make this happen as well. The Gore cables on the Red shifters are buttery and exact. The bars and stem work in perfect unison. The head set glides left to right and back again with precision and confidence. The Red brakes are great as is the R45’s braking performance. They spin up quickly and carry speed really well. The fork is stiff but soaks up harsh buzzing immediately. The integrated seat post and seat topper work great, the Ritchey clamp is easy to operate, and the Antares looks perfect with the white bar tape.
This is my favorite road bike of all time – period. It wouldn’t be possible without the skill and creativity of those who helped me make the bike. Scott Hock did a great fit, Tom Rodi designed it perfectly, Bob Parlee created the amazing construction process, and the folks at Enve made all the tubing to PARLEE design. The parts manufacturers at SRAM, Enve, Ritchey, or Enduro make products that mesh seamlessly. Finally, the boys at Firefly were gracious enough to shoot the awesome studio shots. I am almost sad that the bike is done, but then again, I’ve got some riding to do. Thank you all.