Introduced at Sea Otter 2019, the Parlee RZ7 garnered mixed opinions for its looks, but one thing was for sure, it left nothing to chance when it came to cheating the wind. This road bike took the best aero features of their TTiR triathlon bike, which is arguably the first production bike with disc brake covers. And one that proved faster than the rim brake version it replaced.

As with the TTiR, Parlee took the RZ7 to the A2 wind tunnel, validating their unique Recurve tube profiles in the lab. Fortunately, those results (and shapes) work just as well in the variable, incessant winds that inevitably blow on every ride. Here’s my long term review, starting with a close-up look at the tech…

The Parlee RZ7’s very unique details

review of parlee rz7 aero road bike with bike shown from side

Let’s just get it out of the way…the looks of my review bike might be polarizing, but imagine it with a shorter stack height of steering spacers. And if you still don’t like it, tough nuts, because this bike’s ride quality is amazing.

I did a full bike fit with Parlee before reviewing their Z5, and this is what a Parlee bike looks like for me. In fact, they recommend any customer gets a fit done before purchase so that they can build the bike to fit you. Personally, I don’t mind the way this looks, and the fact that it fit me perfectly superseded my vanity.

Besides, there’s a good reason for the design. Which is…

…it allows for a wide range of fits on a single frame design. Parlee’s Tom Rodi puts it like this:

“Everyone wants a ‘performance’ road bike, even if their fit or flexibility is more in a ‘recreational’ place. This design keeps the bike looking fast and racy while allowing 99% or riders to get comfortable on it.”

There’s more to it than just a bunch of spacers, though.

parlee integrated cockpit with handlebar and stem hiding all cables and hoses inside the frame

The leading edge is their own handlebar and stem. The bar has a comfortable, slightly oval profile across the tops. I liked it, but also think they could make additional small gains in comfort (and aerodynamics) by flattening it just a bit more.

The headtube narrows in the middle, and itself seems quite sleek, which is amazing considering it’s hiding an oversized 1.25″ to 1.5″ tapered steerer on Parlee’s custom, RZ7-specific fork.

If that steerer girth seems like overkill for a road bike, it’s what allows them to use up to 100mm of spacer under the stem. Rodi says traditional 1-1/8″ steerers safely max out around 35-40mm of spacers. But that would have limited the range of fit adjustments on this bike, so they went bigger.

parlee integrated cockpit with handlebar and stem hiding all cables and hoses inside the frame

The stem’s locking faceplate design means only two bolts, on the bottom, further smoothing air flow. Note the small indents made on the brake hoses (click image to enlarge)…visible, but not affecting performance. Their location is a static point, the only movement would be further down inside the steering column where they exit the steerer tube.

cable and hose routing guide for parlee rz7 internal steerer tube

The brake hoses and any shift wiring run through a custom compression nut, which makes overall assembly similar to traditional stems and top caps. The only difference here is the body of the stem is raised slightly so there’s room for the hoses and wires to curve down into the steerer. This is also why the bike is not compatible with mechanical drivetrains, because those bends are far too sharp for cables.

The hoses (and wires, if you ran EPS or Di2) exit through a port that sits just above the crown, feeding everything into the downtube. That port has a rubber grommet to prevent chafing, and the fork’s rotation is limited to just less than 90º per side to prevent things from pulling too far inside. Check our launch coverage to see more about how they prevent the bars from spinning around during a wreck.

review of parlee rz7 aero road bike with bike showing closeup details of aero tube shaping

Their Recurve tube shaping is most obvious on the downtube. It’s similar to a truncated Kamm Tail airfoil shape, except that the trailing half’s curve is reversed, creating a concave shape.

review of parlee rz7 aero road bike with bike showing closeup details of aero tube shaping
Three bottle cage bolts let you run one bottle lower, or move it up if you’re running a second bottle on the seat tube.

The flatter back area widens toward the bottom, for two reasons. First, because that’s where a water bottle is going to mess up aerodynamics anyway. And second, to create a more flowing shape into the bottom bracket that maximizes torsional stiffness for good power transfer. Other photos below show this transition even better.

review of parlee rz7 aero road bike with bike showing closeup details of drivetrain and brakes

The feature that stands out the most (visually, anyway), are the carbon fiber SpeedShield brake caliper covers. They bolt on from the inside of the fork leg and rear dropout section, leaving a perfectly smooth surface on the front and outside. More on those in a minute…

review of parlee rz7 aero road bike with bike showing closeup details of aero tube shaping

The rest of the bike uses more traditional aero shaping, with a custom seat post that matches the truncated airfoil of the seat tube. The top of the post uses a two-position cradle mount, letting you get 0mm or 25mm of offset from the same post.

review of parlee rz7 aero road bike with bike showing closeup details of aero tube shaping

review of parlee rz7 aero road bike with bike showing tire clearance on front and rear

Tire clearance is rated up to 700x32mm tires, but comes with 700×28 Vittoria Corsa tires. I rode the original spec, which was Reynolds AR41 wheels and, unfortunately, tube-type tires. Now the bikes ship with ENVE Foundation Series 45 wheels with the tubeless-ready tires.

Parlee says their testing showed that the bike is absolutely fastest with 60-75mm deep aero wheels on it. But they spec 40-50mm deep rims because, they say, they’re so close in speed and drag figures to the deeper rims (on this bike), but are far friendlier to normal riders. I’d say they’re a lot lighter, too, which is a win for anything that rotates.

review of parlee rz7 aero road bike with bike showing closeup details of carbon fiber brake covers

review of parlee rz7 aero road bike with bike showing closeup details of carbon fiber brake covers

OK, the SpeedShield disc brake covers. I like them. You may not. But they work. And we have the charts and graphs below to prove it. They only shield part of the brake calipers, more so on the rear, so there’s no concern over heat buildup creating brake fade…they still get plenty of air flow.

review of parlee rz7 aero road bike with bike showing closeup details of drivetrain and brakes

What’s more interesting is the driveside. Parlee uses custom thru axles that are 6mm shorter in the front and 10mm shorter in the rear. The dropouts still fit standard 12mm thru axle disc brake hubs, but stop a bit shorter to allow Parlee to use a closed end. This, too, helped reduce drag. And it looks sweet.

review of parlee rz7 aero road bike with bike showing closeup details of drivetrain and brakes

review of parlee rz7 aero road bike with bike showing closeup details of aero tube shaping

Below the seatstays, the seat tube follows the curve of the tire to smooth airflow there, too.

review of parlee rz7 aero road bike with bike shown from left rear angle

It looks fast, and it is.

Parlee RZ7 aero charts, graphs & actual weights

chart showing aerodynamic comparison of Parlee RZ7 road bike versus Parlee Altum disc brake road bike

Parlee took the RZ7 and their Altum road bikes to the A2 Wind Tunnel, testing their aero road bike design against both the rim-brake and disc-brake versions of the Altum. Each comparison used the same cockpit, tire widths and pressure, and rim depths. This allowed them to do a true apples-to-apples comparison with minimal variables.

Which is also why they didn’t test against other brand’s bikes, because, Rodi said, that would introduce too many variables and not necessarily produce useful info. The results in both cases were a reduction in drag by 100g to 200g, depending on wind angle.

parlee disc brake shields aerodynamic drag reduction comparison chart

They also tested the bike with and without the SpeedShield disc brake covers. While minimal, the covers did reduce drag at almost every wind angle.

review of parlee rz7 aero road bike with bike showing actual weight on a scale

My size Large test bike weighed in at 17.79lb (8.07kg), which is very good for an aero bike with mid-depth aero wheels and tubes in the tires. You can download Parlee’s geometry chart as a PDF to compare all sizes.

The Parlee RZ7 comes in four complete builds, with either SRAM AXS (Force or Red) or Shimano Di2 (Ultegra or Dura-Ace). Prices range from $7,199 to $9,999 and include the basic paint scheme shown here. Custom paint available for an upcharge.

Parlee RZ7 ride review

riding action on the parlee rz7 aero road bike

Looks are one thing, but performance is what counts in the end. Straight on, the bike is narrow and slices through the wind. It also hammers, with nary a hint of frame flex.

While some deeply aero bikes can have a wooden, almost dead feel. Not this one. Despite the dramatically different look from their round-tube bikes, the RZ7 maintains Parlee’s signature ride quality. If you haven’t ridden a Parlee and you have the means to, I highly recommend it. There’s just something about the way they feel and handle that nails what a road bike should be.

riding action on the parlee rz7 aero road bike

My only gripe with the RZ7 was heel clearance. The stays are a bit wider than other disc brake road bikes I’ve ridden, and if I got lazy about my left foot’s position, it would brush against the stay. Not every pedal stroke, but enough to be a concern if you typically ride heels-in. I didn’t have the same issue on the drive side, and when I mentioned it to Parlee, Rodi said I’m the first person to mention it.

riding action on the parlee rz7 aero road bike

With ride quality dialed, what struck me most about the RZ7’s performance was its imperviousness to winds. On calm days, it’s fast as…lightning. On windy days, it’s still really damn fast.

There wasn’t a single wind condition I rode in where this bike didn’t defy the soul-sucking gusts that can break down even the hardiest of riders. It almost made it so the wind didn’t matter.

review of parlee rz7 aero road bike with bike showing closeup details of aero tube shaping
I don’t even know how I got this photo.

With a top shelf build and proprietary cockpit parts, the wheels and saddle are about the only areas left to upgrade. The current spec ENVE Foundation 45 wheels are about 100g lighter (0.22lb) than the Reynolds AR41 I tested it with. Upgrading from the Foundation 45 wheels to ENVE SES 4.5 AR wheels would drop about 180g (0.4lb), and going tubeless would shed another ~100g (0.22lb).

Switching to a full carbon saddle could save a few more grams, putting you around 16.9lb (7.67kg) for a complete bike, size large, without diminishing aerodynamics…but also adding a couple grand to the price.

The point is, it’d be hard to make this bike a whole lot lighter. But it’d also be hard to find something that’s much faster that also rides so well.

riding action on the parlee rz7 aero road bike

The best way I can put it is this: If I always rode in windy conditions and had to choose one bike for every ride, the RZ7 would be that bike. That it also rides really well in normal conditions makes it a no brainer for anyone seeking a really fast bike.

ParleeCycles.com

33 COMMENTS

  1. I have an altum disc, and I think it looks great. I want to like the RZ7, but given the number of spacers I’d need, it ends up pretty fugly.

    Also, while the altum does handle really nicely, the fork is a noodle – the front disc rotor rubs anytime I’m out of the saddle. How’s the RZ7 fork?

  2. Parlee RZ7 looks absolutely brilliant! Love the disc covers and sure many other brands will adopt this concept. Are these handmade in Beverly, Mass? or Overseas…
    What tire pressure did you end up liking? Great review T.

  3. So Parlee tells you not to worry about the kink brake lines and then they state you are the first to complain about the obvious heel strike on the frame. If it was me spending that kind of money, both of those issues would be a deal breaker.

    • Soooooo many spacers…. Makes it look like a rolling giraffe. I wonder if that much space–and that long of a steerer–is the cause or the cure for a crazy back ache…

  4. I quite like the look of this bike and would love to own a USA made Parlee. However this comment in the article made me laugh, “…and when I mentioned it to Parlee, Rodi said I’m the first person to mention it.”

    I’ve worked in the bike industry for 30 years and have heard from bike brands or wholesalers so many times the line of “I’m the first person to mention it.” when it has come to bringing up a known issue or fault with a product.

    “I’m the first person to mention it.” actually means “We are aware of this issue and realise we’ve overlooked it in our design/manufacturing/quality control/assembly process, but we’re not going to admit it as we know it will scuttle our sales of this product. So we’re going to keep selling it knowing it’s going to cause some/many/all of our customers issues and when anyone mentions it we will act like it’s our customer that has a problem unique to themselves”.

  5. The real reason there are so many spacers is they have a limited number of pre-fabricated sizes at their asian factory to choose from, so they are trying to jam everyone into a smaller frame size than they should be riding. Hence the huge stack height and heel strike.

    Parlee has lost their way.

    • Yeah. I don’t understand it. They have a norma range of frame sizes. Either Tyler is huge, or something is off.
      Check the touchpoints. All the stem spacers and huge exposed saddle length did was shift the rider backwards on the bike. A larger bike would have the same touchpoints, but with more forward weight bias, a good thing on a road bike. Although its possible Tyler needs a short reach but high stack fit.

  6. I got the r7z with the ar41 wheels and have about 2000 miles on it. I took about 2″ of the steerer tube and changed the tires. It’s responsive, comfortable, feels fast, handles well and with the shorter stem it looks even better.

    I have not noticed my heel hitting the stays, I have had that before with a Tarmac but it turned out in my case it was a fit issue.

  7. “…This design keeps the bike looking fast and racy while allowing 99% or riders to get comfortable on it.”

    I don’t think it accomplishes that first goal at all. It looks like someone bought a bike with race geometry for their octogenarian grandfather and adjusted it to fit them.

    Or just bought a frame size that is way too small. What size it is? What is your normal bike size?
    Your fit/posture is “racy” enough looking at your touchpoints. The weight balance on that doesn’t look right/too rearward biased due to the stem extensions and short CS combined with very long inseam of the rider.

    But what do I know, you seem to enjoy it so I’d say that is most important.

  8. I was highly considering this as my next bike. Or may other option would be a Specailized Aethos Expert and switch out the wheels and handlebars. What are people’s thoughts?

    • Get a custom steel or ti frame. Custom geometry, custom paint and much more durable. Not to mention avoiding the bottom bracket problems many carbon bikes have… for details see Hambini on YouTube.

      • You’ll learn nothing from Hambini. He attacks brands on sample sizes of one and attacks people in an aggressive way including sexually offensive attacks on women. He’s an engineer yes but he’s also a low life. There are many other engineers who are good people.

  9. Unfortunately Parlee doesn’t make the RZ7 frame in a M/L like they do with the Chebacco and Altum. If you are in between sizes, you end up getting a medium with a stack of spacers.

  10. Clever as the method of feeding the hoses through the headset might be you still need to disconnect both brake hoses to replace the headset bearing. Turns what should be a quick job into a mess. All the aero bikes do this and I think that they ought to consider serviceability and come up with something else. Also, press-fit bottom bracket- no thanks. I would have a problem with heel rub because I ride a lot heels in.

  11. I built an RZ7 in the spring of 2020. It is by far the fastest bike that I have ever owned. Mine is an XL built with Red eTap AXS and Zipp 303 Firecrest. Bike comes in at exactly 17 lbs. I do not have nearly as many headset spacers in my build and the fit is spot on.

    Heel strike has not been an issue. Concerning the comment “first time we have ever heard this”, well, someone does need to be the first person so I find this quite plausible. For comparison, I clipped in and set my left foot in the 3 o’clock position to compare to the picture. I have plenty of clearance and more chain stay behind my heel than compared to the picture.

    In closing, if you are looking for a fast bike…the RZ7 should be a consideration.

    • Mark – thanks for the comments. I have an XL Altum LE and I am thinking about trading for the RZ7. Curious, how tall are you and how many spacers did you end up with? I have some concerns about the RZ7 geometry, the XL has considerably less stack than my current frame. Also, I will build with Force or Red and 303 or 404 wheels – any comments on the differences? I really like the idea of 17lb XL build. Appreciate any help.

    • 2nd all this, 800 norcal miles on mine.

      I’m 6’2″ on a L very comfortably running two thin spacers but YMMV. No heel rubbing, size 47 Lakes. SRAM Force with Red cranks/cassette/chain and stock AR41s w/ tubes, 18.10lbs.

      Really nice blend of agility, ride quality and aero features. Probably a bad small business model to make aero frames in US like it’s done for conventional CF designs (Z-Zero, Argonaut etc). An internet talking point based on company’s hand-made history which I get.

      Some commenters are 1) obsessing over stack height, you can still slam it 2) understandably not familiar with Parlee support and attention to detail vis-a-vis custom small parts. Other critiques are perhaps applicable to all bikes in same segment (mid-aero weight, Asia, geo/adjustability constraints of fully integrated bike).. even price: spec a similar Tarmac.

      Not a lot of these on the road with COVID and small production #s relative to big brands. To borrow from another forum, “if the 911 Turbo was a road bike”. Love mine, no regrets.

    • Another nod to these comments. I just got my 2021 RZ7 after a lengthy wait (since October) due to lack of Shimano drivetrains. It is the new LE in Platinum metallic with red and white accent graphics. It looks fantastic. I am 6’01”. A large with only 20mm spacers fits me perfectly and looks like it should. I also wear size 47 Lakes (size 13US and MUCH wider than all other shoes except Bont). I have just a couple rides on it so far, but no rubbing issues at all.

      The ride quality is sublime. It is smooth and stiff with very direct steering. I have it setup with Ultegra Di2 and Enve SES 4.5AR wheels with I9 hubs. The mid-aero wheels are 49mm front and 55mm rear, but still very light. The package came in at 7.7kg or 16.95lbs without pedals. That is pretty good in my mind for an aero oriented bike.

      As the cliche goes, “the proof is in the pudding.” My first ride was on an out and back I have ridden dozens of times. I got my PR going both directions. Needless to say, I am all smiles and looking forward to a many journeys on my new ripper.

  12. Appreciate the response Tyler! It’s a difficult decision. I’m looking to keep this bike for a while and can always update parts down the road if I wanted. I’ve spent a lot of time researching both bikes. Should the threaded BB of the Aethos play a factor into the decision compared to the Parlee PF BB?

  13. Well, the Aethos seems beautiful and this bike (IMO) is God-awful ugly and seems designed to make it look like it doesn’t fit you properly. Personally, I wouldn’t spend $1,000 on a bike that wasn’t beautiful, much less $7 or $10k.
    Buy whatever makes you most excited to ride, but since you asked what others thought…

  14. Made in China? check Heavy? check Limited sizes? check Expensive for a mass produced carbon frame? check Purposely complex? check Ugly? check Looks like every other new bike? check Yep, check all the boxes.

  15. Great points! Why they max out at a 120mm stem is beyond me. The bikes are now very short reach and minimal appreciable increase as the frame sizes increase. Their sizing metric are puzzling to say the least. Not every person in the market for a high end machine has zero flexibility and a middle age paunch

  16. What is a “wooden” feel?. I build wooden bikes for Renovo, and they are very lively frames. We think of the suspension as being “alive”. “Wooden” should not be compared to “dead”. It is like a living machine when made into a hike.

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