Bob Parlee likes to, as he puts it, “see what’s around the corner.” It’s his euphemism for exploring new technologies, and what they might bring to the world of bike building — and riding.
That’s why Parlee jumped at the chance to work with Toyota on its Prius Project Concept Bike where the idea was to create a stealthy, aerodynamic bike that utilized neuron shifting functionality: in the form of a bike that shifts when your mind tells it to.
That was just a prototyping project, but the resulting aero bike sans brainwave enabled helmet is likely to be introduced next year. “We’ll make some variations within that [aero] frame,” said Parlee, during BikeRadar’s recent visit to their headquarters in Beverly, Massachusetts. “You’ll see something in 2013 and probably sooner. It’ll be a cross between our road frame and the more relaxed geometry from our time trial bike.”
In the meantime, this embracing of innovation and integration will be available next year in the form of Parlee’s new Z5SLi, a Shimano Di2-compatible version of their lightest production road frame. “We started doing electronic integration with our custom bikes last year,” explained Tom Rodi, Parlee’s sales and marketing manager. “Once we saw that Shimano was introducing an Ultegra version, we knew it was even more important to have that integration farther across our line.”
The new-for-2012 Parlee Z5SLi, a Shimano Di2-compatible version of their lightest production road frame
The core of the new steed is an 800-gram frame that’s had all cable stops removed, replaced by a dedicated carbon fiber battery mount with no rivets. There are also co-molded passageways for Di2 wiring, giving the frame an exceptionally clean look. “Obviously we are starting to really see electronic shifting take off,” added Rodi. “When we announced the option for electronic custom with integrated wiring last year, we saw a huge jump in our numbers. Then we started hearing from our dealers and customers saying over and over again that they wanted that option on our stock bike as well. Now they’ll have it.”
The new frames retail for US$4,700. Complete bikes with Shimano Ultegra Di2 start at $7,200.
The SLi gets it super-light designation by way of some thoughtful — and weight saving — enhancements. The standard aluminum seatpost clamp is replaced by a carbon iteration; titanium hardware has been sprinkled throughout the frame; and it’s adorned with an ENVE Composites fork custom built for Parlee. “You are talking just over a kilo for frame and fork in a 53cm frame,” claims Rodi. “Yet there are no issues with durability. The bike rides great – and it looks pretty good, too.”
All the cable stops are removed, replaced by a dedicated carbon fiber battery mount with no rivets