Making its grand return to the halls of the North American Handmade Bike Show is Parlee. Absent from the show’s circuit since Austin in 2011, Parlee is bringing a lot of flash to Hartford – cutting loose their world class paint department to strut its stuff. Look for wild-styling on Parlee Cycle’s lightweight carbon bodies.
BIKERUMOR: What are you bringing to NAHBS this year that you’re excited about?
TOM: This year we plan to show of our custom paint work. Most people who know Parlee know us for our carbon expertise but we also have one of most experienced and talented paint departments in the business so we are letting them show what they can do.
BIKERUMOR: What are your current challenges in adopting and implementing new standards?
TOM: It seems to finally be levelling off after the last few years of very rapid change with the move to thru-axles and disc. We first built a frame for road disc in 2012 so we have seen a lot of change in the past six years. Right now, the availability of parts for the new standards is probably the biggest challenge.
BIKERUMOR: What new or upcoming standards are you excited about?
TOM: We were against flat-mount disc at the outset, because we had a full cadre of post-mount designs out, but it really has allowed SRAM, Shimano and Campagnolo to push road disc into the market with full force so we are into it now. It does clean up the look of the bikes and you can do more with your fork and stay design with the more compact flat mounts.
BIKERUMOR: What type of bike have your customers requested most in the past 12 months?
TOM: Multi-surface road is going crazy for us. Thru-axle, disc and room for 40c tires and fenders has been the drivers but pure road disc bikes and even disc for triathlon is going to boom now that all the component companies have high-end groupsets in the market.
BIKERUMOR: What is the next bike you’re building for yourself?
TOM: Almost all of our staff is riding our Chebacco or Z-Zero XD (both of which feature thru-axle, disc and room for 40c tires and fenders) as they are great bikes for New England seasons and roads.
BIKERUMOR: …and if someone else were building your next bike for you, which builder (of all time) would you choose and why? What would it be?
TOM: Part of the reason we do what we do is that we all like to make our own stuff vs. buy it. When you think like that, you can’t think any other way. There is so much that you have to figure out on your own out on the shop floor and on the computer and Bob Parlee has had that “do it yourself” mentality from day one. Now we are a team of almost 30 people that think like that. It is why we make our own forks, bars, stems, posts as well as tubes and dropouts. We certainly feel a debt to the folks who have tried to make better bikes and charge for it over the years as it set the expectation that as a cyclist you don’t have to buy “off the rack” and that just because a brand is in the Tour that it means they make great bikes. The small US builders, going back to the 70’s and 80’s especially on the mountain bike side, have set the pace for innovation and we look to follow in their footsteps as best as we can.
BIKERUMOR: What is your “blank check” bike?
TOM: A Z-Zero XD is custom carbon, meaning each tube is hand laid just for you with custom paint, electronic shifting, disc brakes, thru axles and carbon wheels with modern tubeless tires. A Z-Zero XD will fit perfectly, ride wonderfully, look amazing and be able to ride on any surface with 40c’s but in 2 mins you could swap a second wheel set with 25c race wheels and go out and do the fastest group ride or race.
BIKERUMOR: If you could exist in another period of framebuilding, what would it be and why?
TOM: The late 1800’s to early 1900’s. The materials were not as advanced but the innovation was really incredible. Looking at the patents from this era is amazing. Bikes were the epicenter of manufacturing, engineering and mobility. Aside from now, that really must have been the heyday, although all the horse manure on the roads was probably not fun to ride through!
BIKERUMOR: If you had to stop building in your current material, what new material would you choose and why?
TOM: Frankly, we probably wouldn’t. Bob (our founder) never built metal bikes, only carbon composite bicycles and he believes to the core that carbon is the only material to make a performance bicycle from. He always jokes he would go back to making boats vs. use another material.
BIKERUMOR: If your shop was burning down, what one or two tools would you grab to save? Why would you save them?
TOM: We would grab our molds for making tubes and parts for a Z-series bikes. They are incredibly complex, expensive molds that took us years to develop, so we’d grab them. The molds are proprietary so we can’t share images, sorry to say.
The North American Handmade Bike Show will take place from February 16th to 18th in Hartford, CT. For more information, visit the NAHBS website.