Thursday, June 13, 2013

Comfortable Carbon: Trying the Parlee Z5

Parlee Z5
Looking down at my handlebars around mile 50, I felt a pang of alarm at the sight of unfamiliar decals. Then I remembered: I wasn't riding my own bike. I had gotten so comfortable, I'd forgotten. A stern voice in my head began to chastise me. "Come on, you are doing a test ride. You're supposed to be paying attention to the ride characterisics - not enjoying the scenery." Easier said than done!

To explain how I came to test ride the Parlee Z5, it may help to give a bit of a backstory. For some time, I've been interested in getting a feel for carbon fiber roadbikes. However, my attempts at this have been less than successful. I've ridden a handful of carbon bikes briefly, but either they were not set up for me to do a proper test ride, or I found the ride quality too harsh to actually want to ride them for any length of time. Of course not all carbon bikes feel the same, just like not all steel bikes feel the same. With this in mind, I finally approached the matter more strategically and talked to some industry insiders familiar with my riding style and preferences. A few suggestions kept coming up. Among them was the Parlee Z5. 

Parlee Z5
Parlee Cycles are a small and local-to-me company, based in Beverly, Massachusetts. So the idea of trying one of their bikes was appealing. Later this summer I plan to visit the factory and write about them in more detail. Parlee offers both custom frames, built on the premises, and production models designed inhouse and built in Taiwan. The Z5 is the latter. 

The demo bike was lent to me by Cycle Loft, a Boston Parlee dealer. After undergoing a fitting session, my position on the Z5 ended up near-identical to that on my own roadbike, making for a seamless transition. I kept the bike for a week and rode it for about 135 miles.  

Parlee Z5
Even before I rode the Z5, I could see why this bike was suggested to me. To call its appearance "classic" might be pushing it. But the aesthetic is clean, subtle, neutral. I did not find myself biased against it, in a "Meh, this is ugly" kind of way. In fact, I find it rather pretty. 

Parlee Z5
Made from a single carbon piece (what is known as "monocoque construction"), the Z5 frame has a seamless, sculpted look to it. At the same time, the  round tubes and the smooth, but crisply delineated joints, bear a resemblance to those of metal bikes. There are no MC Escher-esque bulges or round-to-square taperings here; the frame looks simple and familiar. For those who are curious to try carbon fiber but wince at the look they associate it with, I do think Parlee eases the transition. 

Parlee Z5
I rode the Parlee Z5 in size Small (Tall), which translates to a 52.5cm top tube and a slightly extended headtube compared to their standard Small. The complete geometry specs are here. The bike was fitted with a SRAM Force group and Mavic Ksyrium Elite wheels with 23mm Michelin Pro 4 tires (complete build specs here). Though I have Campagnolo on my own bike, I feel very comfortable with SRAM and have no trouble switching back and forth. The handlebars included in the standard build were 2mm narrower than the (42mm) bars on my own bike, but otherwise the fit was almost identical. 

Parlee Z5
The one disappointment was that the front-center was a bit tighter than I like. With 23mm tires, I had a tiny bit of toe overlap. The amount was minimal, and I still felt comfortable test riding the bike. But with 25mm tires I would not be. 

Parlee Z5
Riding the Parlee home, my first impressions were dominated by how comfortable it felt - namely, the ride quality over harsh roads, bumps and potholes. To provide some background, I am pretty sensitive to ride quality and cannot stand a bike that feels harsh. It does not matter how fast it is, how nimble, or how good at climbing: If I feel vibrations from the road or pain from going over bumps, I just can't take it for more than a few miles. This sensitivity was a big factor in my own roadbike purchasing decision a couple of years ago, and a major reason I went with a titanium Seven. So with that as my personal bike, granted I am now a bit spoiled in the ride quality department. Lots of bikes feel at least a little harsh compared to my Seven. 

Lots of bikes, but not the Parlee Z5. Nope. The Z5 was flawlessly smooth. As in zero road buzz sensation, zero pain over bumps and potholes. At some point I started intentionally riding it over every stretch of broken pavement I could find, but I couldn't feel a thing. 

Of course, whether it feels painful or not, a roadbike with skinny tires will still toss you around on bad roads. And it is here that I could feel a difference in the Z5 compared to my own bike. Until now, I had considered my Seven to be quite stiff. But after some time on the Parlee, I could feel a "give" in my own bike that I had not detected before. In comparison, there is no give to the Parlee at all; on bumpy roads it sort of bounces as one unit rather than exhibit even a slight amount of yield. 

Parlee Z5
But despite being stiffer, the Parlee did not feel harsher than my own bike, even as I rode it longer. To my surprise, neither did it feel faster. I rode alone and I rode with some fast friends. Each time, speed and effort-wise, it felt just like being on my own roadbike.

I decided to ride the Parlee on a 100K New England Randonneurs "Permanent" course I had done alone a few weeks earlier (67 miles, with 3,800 feet of climbing). Just as I'd done previously, I timed myself and genuinely tried to do my best. My average rolling speed on the Parlee was 13.3mph, whereas on my own bike it had been 13.1mph - a difference too small to be significant, considering that my fitness had also increased a bit since the earlier ride. Of course this bit of anecdotal evidence may not mean much. But it reflects my subjective experience of the bike. 

One reason I picked this particular 100K route for the test ride, was for its brief unpaved stretches. The bike rode on broken pavement so nicely, I was curious how it would do on dirt and gravel. Just as nicely, it turns out. While I prefer to do unpaved rides on wide tires at low pressure, if I must ride skinny tires the Z5 is as good as it gets. 

Parlee Z5
Aside from all this, I did feel something distinct to this bike in the course of my test rides. It was a sensation in the rear triangle - possibly the chainstays, and it was specific to cornering. It was as if the rear responded to cornering differently from what I am used to. The chainstay area felt lighter somehow, almost as if it wanted to skip or lift off on corners. Well, maybe describing it that way makes it sound too negative. Unfortunately, I don't know how to explain it any better, but I actually liked this sensation. I found the bike to be maneuverable on corners in a way I had not previously experienced.

Normally, I am pretty sensitive to a bike's front-end handling, and less so to other aspects. The Parlee was the first time I was struck by characteristics specific to the rear of the bike. 

Parlee Z5
While technically not the first carbon fiber roadbike I've ridden, the Parlee Z5 is the first one I've put a sufficient number of miles on to warrant a report. In part this is thanks to Cycle Loft, for lending it out and setting it up to fit me perfectly. And in part it's thanks to the bike's comfortable feel, which made me want to keep riding for miles and miles. Much like on my own bike, I did not experience fatigue on the Z5 after strenuous rides. And much like on my own bike, the handling, for the most part, felt "unnoticeable" - encouraging me to focus on the scenery and the ride itself, rather than on the bike. 

Going into this test ride, I had several expectations about the feel and performance of carbon fiber: Namely, that it would feel harsher, stiffer and faster than my own bike. The Parlee Z5 felt only stiffer, and even that was only noticeable to me under certain conditions. Granted, I don't race, I don't ride aggressively, I spin rather than mash, and I don't climb out of the saddle. My impressions are limited to the kind of riding I do. And that riding involves 50-100 mile jaunts, sometimes more, usually with lots of climbing and usually on bad roads. I like a fast bike that makes me feel weightless. And I also like to be comfortable. As far as that kind of riding goes, I felt right at home on the Parlee Z5. 

75 comments:

  1. "At some point I started intentionally riding it over every stretch of broken pavement I could find, but I couldn't feel a thing."

    This is why my "city bikes" are carbon fiber.

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  2. I don't have much to say about the bike, but the descriptions of ride characteristics in your reviews are awesome! I love opening this blog and knowing I will never, ever read that a bike is "laterally stiff and vertically compliant"!!

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  3. Okay. Nice report, but it feels like you stop short of saying a couple of things that could be informative.

    So... two questions

    1. Would you have bought this bike for yourself two years ago (or are you tempted now)?

    2. What other carbon bikes have you tried, however briefly (and what was wrong with them)?

    Thanks

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    1. Speaking generally, I am conflicted on point 1. Not sure how informative it is to say whether I'd buy a bike myself when reviewing it. I am not bike shopping, and I don't think it's possible to answer that question truthfully unless you are actually bike shopping.

      Either way, the TCO on the Z5 would be a deal breaker for me personally. On a bike at this price point, I'd want at least the option of a 25mm tire and/or fender without TCO. But again, this is a personal thing; not everyone is tcophobic.

      As far as other bikes... It depends how you define "tried." Does a friend's bike around the block with the bars set up an inch too high count? Anyway, they have included a Trek Madone, Cervelo R3 (I think that was the model), a Cannondale something, a Stork(?), a couple of Giants, a Scott... mostly it was either harsh ride quality, sensed within a very short distance, or poor fit, or both, that discouraged me from riding them longer. I do not want to go into detail with each bike, since they were not in fact proper test rides and I feel it would be unfair.

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    2. You seem someone with very particular tastes and comfort zones, so the point of these reviews over the years has been confusing.

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    3. I don't think disliking TCO and a harsh ride quality is that unusual. But moreover, most reviewers have specific preferences, they just don't necessarily disclose them or might not even be explicitly aware of them. Reviews are inherently subjective.

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    4. Not really. Reviews are subjective to you, but I don't let my preferences cloud my judgment.

      Your Seven's cs is longer and Ti, the Parlee fells like it would fly away because it's lighter and more efficient, to bottom line it.

      Tight geo - research what that means.

      Someone should pay me to do reviews.

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    5. Velouria - You are using Eggbeater pedals. That is very likely why you are experiencing TCO on the Parlee.

      Simply put, Eggbeaters (and most two-bolt cleats) put the pivot point/spindle further back on the foot, leaving a glorious amount of foot forward to contact a wheel in a tight-radius turn.

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    6. Didn't know that. However, I have my cleats set up in the forward-most position (not to avoid TCO, but because that's what feels comfortable), which compensates for that. I also wear small (Eur 38) shoes, so all in all there is not a whole lot of toe sticking out.

      Objectively speaking, I think it's not inaccurate to say that the bike's front-center is tighter than some (566mm in size Small).

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    7. I have Eggbeater Candy pedals, and my cleats are set where they need to be, not further ahead as TRE implied. It does not matter what type of pedal it is, where my foot is related to the spindle is always set the same. If it were not, my knees would blow out.

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  4. Sounds like this particular bike was designed to be comfortable rather than super stiff. You didn't mention the saddle...

    Also, can anyone go into the Cycle Loft and get a personal fit and extended trial, or only industry insiders? It's a huge chunk of change to put down for a bike without either, unless of course one has a ton of disposable income :) Oh, do carbon bikes last a long time?

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    1. Anyone can test ride a bike at Cycle Loft, though I imagine you'd have to bring it back the same day. Based on what I've seen with walk-ins, they look at your bike and set the demo bike up similarly, or ask you how you want it. A personal fit is a separate service. They did it with me, because I am riding a bunch of bikes there and they wanted to get a sense of me as a rider before we started, maybe make some recommendations. If you are local and do want to get a fitting there, I very much liked Joel.

      The saddle was a Specialized Romin Evo (discussed here). It was great for 65 miles, then suddenly very much not great - so back to Selle Anatomica on test bikes for 100K+ rides.

      Re carbon bikes lasting a long time - depends who you ask : )

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    2. Would you spend this kind of money on a bike you could only test for one day?

      Seems to be the key of every review where...'depends on who you ask' and apparently, who you know :)

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    3. Publications that review bikes, whether print or online, are given bikes for extended test rides in order to review them. That's pretty much how it works.

      I agree that it's hard to make the right decision about a bike without test riding it lots (though there are those who do not agree). Unfortunately there is no good solution, other than selling a bike if it does not work out. That is what I did with both my first city bike and my first roadbike.

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    4. ...And sorry, I din't answer your question directly. Yes, I would hypothetically buy a bike at this price tag if I could only test ride it briefly as a customer, rather than really have my way with it as a "reviewer." I would do it in a very strategic, focused manner.

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    5. I get it that some people buy and sell a lot....It's not me, however, and investing in a bike is, indeed, a strategic thing. This one seems purely recreational with a hefty price tag and I admire those who have this attitude and flexibility.

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    6. Carbon bikes lasting a long time compared to what?

      Some carbon is crap, so super durable.

      It's not a fair question.

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    7. I knew you'd find the Romin too firm (mentioned it) long distance, given your riding style.

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    8. Actually, too soft. Began to sink into it at specific contact points.

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    9. Funny, mine's pretty firm after ~8k. Maybe the foam needed to be smashed down our it's a different formulation.

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    10. One day test seems might fair to me.

      Consider most people buy their cars after a 15 minute ride around with a pushy sales person.

      Or their homes after a quick walk around and a hundred mile level appraisal and inspection.

      Heck, one day for a bike is huge.

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    11. I don't actually see the price of the bike listed. What kind of huge chunk of change are we talking about?

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    12. Re longevity: There are carbon Kestrels that have been in use for 20 years that show no sign they will not last another 20.

      OTOH sadly I begin to see 3 to 5 year old carbon wonder bikes left curbside on bulk trash pickup day. Were those steel bikes I would get them back in service. Plastic frames (forks, wheels, cranks, stems, bars, posts) without provenance simply become landfill.

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    13. Carbon fiber IS recyclable. And repairable, for that matter (as opposed to the newer light weight aluminum frames with thin walls, which are not repairable.)

      If carbon fiber bikes end up in the landfill it's for the same reason aluminum cans and bottles end end up there. So many people are too aloof or too lazy to recycle.

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  5. I for one am very glad you did not crash and endo. That unchopped off steer tube would have taken out quite a core sample...

    As far as comfortable carbon is concerned, bikes such as the Specialized Roubaix or the Kona Red Zone (or lesser specced versions) are by all accounts very comfortable over long distances and on rough roads. The Specialized has a life time warranty (wow for carbon - clearly they have faith in it) and the Kona five years (pretty standard from what I have read).

    Have I rode either one? No, I am not in the market for a new bike having just bought a new cyclocross bike and don't feel it fair to have my local store order a bike in just to try it out. But, one of the techs at my local dealer likes the Specialized and bought one of the Konas and he loves it. It takes bigger tires (I think he is running 28s) and fenders on removable eyelets.

    The full on super stiff race bikes raced on smooth pavement likely would not appeal to your riding style and can pound the daylights out of a person, but the Specialized I mentioned above and its class of bikes were made for the Paris - Roubaix road race which is brutal for rough roads. Any bike that can be ridden full tilt over those cobbles and rough roads for a total combined distance (pavement and cobbles) of well over 250km in relative "comfort" should be good for long distant rides at more sane speeds on rough roads :)

    Personally, large volume 700x33c cross knobbies on my very stiff cross bike does the trick for comfort on gravel. For all around use, I run some Vittoria Randonneur touring tires - very tough, and a big enough size that scooting down gravel etc is not an issue for me.

    Just another perspective. Glad you had fun with that bike :)

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    1. I am going to try a Specialized Roubaix next month, and I will soon have a write-up on the Trek Domane, which I tried a week ago. Really curious about the Specialized.

      Wide tires certainly help. But I've also ridden bikes with 38mm tires that felt harsher than other bikes with 23mm tires.

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    2. You may also want to try the Ruby, if you like women's specific bikes. I have the Dolce, the aluminum version of the carbon Ruby, and I loooove it for short rides and centuries--its the first bike that ever really fit me (and same geometry as the Ruby). I'd love to upgrade to the carbon version sometime soon, though I'd probably even go for the more aggressive Amira the next time around.

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    3. The guys at Cycle Loft believe the men's would fit me better ...which is too bad, because there is this one Ruby model that's like a Tahitian Pearl colour and is gorgeous.

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    4. They won't allow you to ride both? It's not all about the fit. Size-related layup is involved.

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    5. Cancellara's Trek Domane ran 25mm tyres on this year's Tour of Flanders and 27s on Paris-Roubaix. Seems every little counts.

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  6. Watch out Anonymous is out in full fore today! I had to change it up:) Anywho... curious what made you curious about carbon fiber? I look forward to the Spesh and Trek reviews. Hope you don't bash them just cause they arent made in Penelope, New England :))

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    1. Cliff Notes answer: I am becoming seriously interested in bicycle design. And at some point I just felt like it wasn't helpful to remain ignorant of specific frame materials. It took me a while to line up the logistics of it, but now that I have the opportunity to ride a bunch of mainstream bikes (I don't mean the Parlee), I'm going to go for it. Not sure whether I'll post all the test rides on this blog, but the significant ones for sure.

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    2. That ti lugged carbon demands to be written about - that stuff is magic.

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    3. Pet Peeve - minor one, I promise, please don't be offended.

      There is a reason that (good high quality) mainstream bikes are, well, mainstream. It is because they get it right an awful lot of the time and appeal to an awful lot of people for that reason. Therefore, over time, they sell an awful lot of bikes :)

      I will grant you, mainstream bikes don't have that "made of unobtainium" feel that a quality custom bike has regardless of what it is made of, and you cannot go talk to the people that make them like you can if you live near the builder of a custom bike (which is a very very cool part of falling hard in love with the machine I will very much grant you). But that does not make the bike bike made by Specialized/Trek/Kona/etc any less good at being a great bike.

      I guess I am just saying that "mainstream" is not always a swear word :) Sometimes, it is code for a sweet sweet ride.

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    4. Chris - Believe it or not I don't entirely disagree with you. On a Likert scale, it would be like a 6 out of 10 toward "agree".

      Jim - Did a short ride on the lugged bike over the winter, but now I have it for a week. Coming up after the Domane.

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    5. GR Jim: You might like these then :)

      http://www.truenorthcycles.com/bikes/cyclocross/

      Ti/Carbon cyclocross (etc) bikes. Very purty ;p

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    6. There are, of course, "mainstream" bikes that are perfectly acceptable, but the notion that they ARE mainstream because they get it right is laughable. Mainstream products are mainstream because of marketing. Burger King doesn't sell a lot of burgers because they sell a good product, they sell a lot because ...well, you see my point.

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    7. The Domane is a nice bike. I'm a Rivendell rider and own two of them now, but when I was buying the second one I did some test riding of more modern designs. I wanted to see if I would be missing anything ride wise by going with a Roadeo. The Domane was my favorite of the modern bikes from the big makers, very comfortable and still nimble. In the end I went Riv, but think I would be really happy on a Domane too. Looking forward to the review.

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    8. True North Cycles also have as cool a head tube badge as you'll ever see, particularly in sterling silver or bronze, as an option (although in Chris's link they're decals, or engraved on Ti), designed by Jen Green.

      http://www.truenorthcycles.com/2011/12/07/351/

      (Scroll down the link)

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    9. Anon 10:11 PM and Chris - well those are basically the 2 sides of the equation. They are not mutually exclusive though.

      The way I see it, the strength of big manufacturers (talking bikes now, not burgers) is their huge R&D budgets, their ability to implement new technologies, their ability to prototype, to keep tweaking a concept until it's right. Some of the stuff they do is just plain interesting, whether I like a specific bike or not. And another strength of course is their ability to make bikes in large batches, bringing the price down for the budget-minded consumer.

      The strength of small manufacturers and individual builders is their creativity and flexibility. A manufacturer like Seven can go from brainstorming an idea at the desk, to making a ridable concept bike on the spot. It's creative, it's exciting, it's real time, it's relatively free of bureaucracy. There is less constraint, more freedom than in a big company where you are locked into a more rigid system.

      Both models have their benefits, and they feed off of each other too. Like a checks and balances thing. The presence of small, high quality manufacturers helps ensure that the big manufacturers don't churn out bikes crappy burger-style. And the presence of big manufacturers with their R&D innovations ensure that the small hi-qual manufacturers won't stagnate themselves. It's an interesting feedback loop, with both categories of builders very much aware of and interested in what the other is doing.

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  7. Here's my z5 review - it is like cheating when climbing out of the saddle, wheels same. Imperceptible wind up, nice but muted ride quality, very light frame, which makes you feel decentered a bit or, more precisely, you're aware of the weight of the wheels more so.

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  8. So, you're a woman reviewer who does not race but enjoys long rides on bikes that do not have TCO and are comfortable on less than ideal road conditions? You like it fast w/o being completive? You like it comfortable b/c time is not the ultimate issue and enjoyment is? Are the bikes you intend to design not already on the market?

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    1. Being interested in bicycle design doesn't mean I intend to start a bike manufacturing company. But that aside, there can always be more bikes on the market with those characteristics, yes.

      Also...
      "You like it comfortable b/c time is not the ultimate issue and enjoyment is?"

      Not exactly. I wouldn't oppose time (speed?) vs enjoyment like that; I see them as related. And I like it comfortable, because (holding the performance of the bike constant) I am faster when I'm comfortable than when I'm uncomfortable.

      In general, I think "fast vs comfortable" is a false dichotomy. A bike can be both, a rider can be both.

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  9. In my neck of the woods I see thousands who could benefit from finding good bikes which work, and fit, and are available to use w/in an infrastructure which supports riding. These ten grand bikes are frivolous. Wonderful no doubt, but limited.

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  10. Hey V,

    If I may interject: Describing your riding as "50-100 mile jaunts" at this stage is misleading. You are officially a randonneuse now (and I am betting a future endurance athlete). For the benefit of visitors unfamiliar with your blog, consider being more descriptive of the kind of riding you actually do and your weekly miles.

    Cheers,
    Longtime Reader

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    1. I don't know, I think "50-100 mile jaunts (...sometimes more, usually with lots of climbing and usually on bad roads") is pretty accurate of the kind of riding I do. Having tried randonneuring (I've done a couple of events - that's all) does not make me a randonneuse. Let's see if I stick with it - I am guessing no.

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  11. Thanks for testing a good carbon fibre bike. I still have not tried one, my husband tried a cheap one and likened it to cardboard. People say the appeal is that there is no resistance, no give, which can be good and bad. Interesting that you did not find yourself any faster, which is often the case! A good quality steel or titanium bike is very light, carbon fibre often only marginally lighter!
    Just wondering about your sensitivity to harsh rides. Do you break out in hives? I do, and I used to mountain bike but would be in tears over long descents on particularly bad gravel roads, rough trails because my arms and then even my entire body would get totally itchy, hot, and yes, covered in hives. I used to scare myself wondering what I had been stung by, what i was allergic to. I will also get it walking down steep rough roads! It happens running which is why I don't do it much. Certainly aluminium bikes did it, my cheap vintage bikes did it. The raleigh sports I am currently riding is 'gas pipe' as they say and while it rolls wonderfully I get the itchies going down dirt trails, roads etc.. I looked into it a bit and some people are just very sensitive, any jiggling has the body creating histamines and reacting like crazy. I haven't figured out a handlebar solution yet, but wear gloves.

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    1. Breaking out in hives from a harsh ride? That's interesting, wonder what the cause and effect of that kind of reaction would be.

      Me, it just hurts. Some types of pain I am very good at tolerating, but not this kind. It's like my very joints get pierced by the gnawing pain that builds up after every bump and crack in the pavement. Over time it becomes unbearable. I've experienced harsh ride quality on expensive bikes, cheap bikes, steel bikes, carbon bikes, new bikes, vintage bikes, fat tire bikes, skinny tire bikes - you name it. Ditto with smooth ride quality.

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  12. Y'all know Ty Hamilton rode one in the Tour right?

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  13. You talk about one wee little carbon bike and the comments get weird...go figure

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  14. As usual, a thoughtful review of an intersting bike, although three years ago I never would have pictured you getting within a stone's throw of "crabon" frame, to quote Bikesnob. It must be a challenge trying to remember the ride qualities of all of the bikes you have tried. Do you take notes as you ride?
    I believe you've covered different approaches to bike fit, but it's an important topic that too many riders don't adequately heed.

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    1. Trying a CF bike right now honestly does not feel like much of departure. Trying a modern Ti bike with all them modern parts 2 years ago felt huge though. And the carbon fork was a big jump. I was so worried the thing would snap in half during my test ride!

      I take notes after test rides, basically ending up with a bunch of blog posts in half finished states, until they are ready to be fleshed out and published.

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    2. I applaud the variety of bikes and topics in this blog. Metal bikes are what I know and ride, but I'll geek out on any kind of bike you write about so long as it has two (or three) wheels.

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  15. The looks of this bike are very understated, as you say. Nice to see it can go in that direction, too.
    The ride quality as you describe it sounds nicer & more "transparent" than any of the carbon bikes I've ridden so far.
    (The latest was a 2013 season Cannondale Supersix EVO with SRAM Red group- a guy needs to know his limitations, right? Verdict was that I would find more benefit from a light steel or Ti bike, with or without a carbon fork. Fun, twitchy fast ride, though. Cornering was breathtakingly accurate. )

    Looking forward to what you have to say about the Domane.

    Anonymous 11:18 - the cool thing is that a lot of the innovations built into $10k bicycles filter down into the $1k bikes, if they're practical.

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    1. Also, if they are impractical sometimes too :)

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    2. Let's not confuse price points with categories of bikes.

      A road/race bike makes an impractical grocery getter. A grocery getter makes an impractical road/race bike. But each is practical for what it was designed for. And there are different price points in each category.

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  16. I read your post and the many comments with interest. I've very specific needs from my current bikes. I have a form of autoimmune arthritis that affects my hands, feet, spine, knees, hips, etc., Nuff said. I discovered that carbon fiber plus good fit and design trumps any other material in the comfort area. The fact that it is light is not the most important point. I have a titanium bike, which is very light, and it is very comfy. But not as comfy as my carbon. I do ultra light, credit card touring, and I can do back to back centuries with ease on the carbon. I'm not going to argue with the naysayers. I'm old enough to remember owning a lot of beautiful bikes, but these days my ride is carbon fiber and I'm loving it.

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  17. I would just like to point out for the record that I saw this coming. Probably more than a year ago I commented on the evolution of this blog and said that in a year you would be writing about your Pinarello Dogma ride. Close enough... :-)

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    1. Sure. And I would not have disagreed with you a year+ ago. It was only logistics that kept me from trying a bike like this earlier.

      I actually don't see why a CF review here would be a surprise to anyone at this point. 2-3 years ago, sure. But now? This bike is not that different from my Seven. Carbon is just a material. The big deal shift happened 2 summers ago, not now.

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    2. : Namely, that it would feel harsher, stiffer and faster than my own bike

      Isn't the rear end flying away feeling a feeling of faster?

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    3. Hmm you know, no. It was "different" rather than faster.

      The Domane felt a little faster than my own bike. The 622 (lugged bike) felt a little faster. But not the Parlee. They felt very similar speed-wise despite the diff in stiffness and that chainstay thing.

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    4. I got it - the c-stays on the P are spindly compared to the D's. That'll give you more compliance/smoother ride quality right there.

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  18. I feel a bit like I did when Dylan went electric...

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  19. I'm opposed to carbon fiber bikes. Most look awful and I don't trust the material not to crack or fail without warning. Call me old fashioned. Steel is fun.

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  20. The big question :) Could you see yourself replacing your Seven with one of these newer carbon models? Please elaborate, thanks?

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    1. It did not strike me as "better" or more desirable than my bike. But moreover, I'm just happy with what I got at this point. There will always be something else that's cool, but that doesn't mean I need it.

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  21. Two frame materials haven't been tried and tested here yet. Light steel has not been tried. Light steel is just not the same as the Moser or SH.

    A test of a wood frame bike would be interesting. Few of your readers would have ever had the pleasure and it would be a huge changeup if everyone just had to listen and not say much.

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    1. What do you mean by light steel? The Honey CX bike is super-lightweight oversized tubing. Both the Rawland and the bike I made, as well as the Royal H Rando project from 2 years ago are standard sized 7-4-7.

      The Moser was made lighter tubing than the SH, so I woudn't group them together like that. The Moser is pure race.

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  22. One of my all-time favorite bikes is my '93 Cannondale Track. Given that it has all the compliance of a block of granite I think it's safe to say that a smooth ride ranks down near the bottom of the list in desirable qualities for me :-)

    My only experience with carbon fiber on a bike would be the seatstays and fork on my Kona Major Jake. It seems to work well there. The basic layout of a typical bicycle doesn't use the properties of carbon fiber to its best advantage which is why the other materials are still competitive with it for the most parts. Quite a contrast to something like a sailplane for example where it gave such a significant improvement in performance that the older materials usually only get a look in when keeping the cost down is important.

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  23. Your blog has given me a really good perspective on your experiences with different bikes that I've found helpful to apply to my bike shopping adventure. Far more insightful than the mainstream stiffer=better=faster merry-go-round. I appreciate your open minded approach to each test and I'm looking forward to more.

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