This is the first installment of the Coffee Rider Collection, which is a series about bikes I own or have owned.
The first bike is this series is my Parlee Z1, which I’ve twice toyed with selling when something else was about to come in.
The story of this bike starts in roughly 2003-2004 when I first learned of Parlee as the bike Tyler Hamilton was riding instead of his Team CSC Cervelo. I didn’t know much about Parlee at that time other than it was a small builder out of the Boston area. Naturally, I became intrigued about this bike that was so special as to displace a perfectly good team bike. At that time, I just filed it under something interesting. In 2004 or 2005 my friend Albert (who dabbles around the bike industry and generally gets industry discounts as he did on this one) picked up a Parlee Z1 (level top tube) and had his name and red polka dots under the clear coat. He loved it and I lusted after it. Since borrowing it wasn’t an option due to a roughly 6-inch height difference, the only way I could ride on was to get my own. Not only was there the cost involved, but there was also fit. The Z1 and “lesser” Z2 only came in sizes that were a bit too big for me, so a Parlee wasn’t an option anyway.
Fast forward a few months and Parlee introduced the Z3, which had a sloping top tube and would fit me. Acting irrationally and despite already owning a few bikes and having recently spent too much on bikes, I decided that I needed to get one, so I did. The Parlee Z3 was my favorite bike for a long time, and I ultimately had it reconfigured for electronic shifting and ultimately sold it. I became quite the Parlee fan ultimately owning a Z4 and then a Z5 (my first bike with a 9000) group until, one day, I saw this listed by John Hunt on the Velocipede Salon as something a friend of his was selling.
I clearly loved Parlees and had always coveted a Z1, but was this for real? A used Z1 (they were about $7500 new at the time) in a size that would fit me? I only wanted the frameset due to the cost of the complete bike and the fact that I was a tad bit of a retro grouch in terms of not being sold on electronic shifting. Nonetheless, I wanted this so badly that I decided to buy it complete even though I didn’t “need” the electronic shifting. A wrinkle developed in the process. After I mailed the check, the seller had second thoughts about selling since he like it so much. Fortunately, he reconsidered, I got the bike, and he presumably got the Moots he was selling it to fund.
After 7 years and several sets of wheels, I still adore this bike. It’s beautiful and rides well. A lot has changed since got my first Parlee and even since I got this bike. Indeed, Parlee is now considered one of the top carbon builders (it builds its top models in house) in the world. As with most other bikes of its era, it only takes 25mm tires, which are still plenty good for road riding. I listed it for sale a year ago when a custom frameset showed up and almost sold it at one point, though the buyer blew the deal and I decided it meant too much to me to sell it. As such, I kept it and it fit even better once I adjusted my position after getting a new professional fit. I am again toying with selling it since I now have a disc Moots, which I like better, though the question I ask myself is what the Parlee is worth to me. Thus far, it’s still worth more to me than it is to anyone else. If I keep it indefinitely, so be it. It’s been amortized and will never be any less of a bike no matter what else I get.