Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Fitwerx and Parlee Z5 Review

Ever dream about finding that ultimate bike shop? Of course, it would have to sell high-end bike goodies-even better, it has them in stock so you can see and feel the bounty, as if you need something to push you over the edge. Then it's instant gratification--out the door you go with the much "needed" goods--much better than the standard operating procedure of "we'd be happy to order it for you."

If asking for in-stock, super high-end goods was not enough, let's ask for a staff that knows more about all things bike than you ever thought possible. Now I know this is already sounding too good to be true, but in my dream world, the customer service would be second to none and while I'm at it, I would also ask for a mechanic that treats my bike like the piece of art that it is.

Well, I finally found the perfect place--Fitwerx in Waitsfield, VT.

I had avoided getting a new road bike for quite awhile, mostly because my current road bike at the time was a rolling torture chamber and I had no desire to pay a lot of money to revisit that pain in a new flavor. After talking with Joey about how much less taxing it can be to train on the road, he assured me that Ian at Fitwerx could solve all of my problems. After doing some online research, all of which was extremely positive, I took the plunge and called Ian to talk about my needs. We scheduled a fitting (you can read about the process on their website). The fitting was most impressive--four hours later, after many measurements of both me and my current bike, much conversation and some very cool video footage, Ian had his numbers--the magic angles, inches and centimeters that were going to change the years of unnecessary suffering I had done on my Litespeed.

Much of the conversation was about my desire to have a road bike that was not only race-worthy, but more importantly, comfortable enough to ride all day. Of course I had to build the bike with components that will last a good long time. I was amazed by Ian's knowledge of a wide variety of frames and components but even more remarkable was his insight on how each of these parts would or would not best suit my needs. I left the shop thoroughly impressed. Several days later I got an estimate for my perfect bike and as you know, that was the Serotta Ottrott--I can only say I love it more now after several thousand miles than the day I got it.


So why am I writing this now? Well, several months ago you may remember the wheels started churning so to speak and I wanted to build a bike to climb Mt. Washington. So again
I called Ian and did not really say much more than "I need all the help I can get to climb Mt. Washington in August--what can you build up that is super-light, comfortable and tough enough to ride everyday?" We discussed several frames and that was that. Realizing that my requirements were somewhat of an oxymoron, I was not expecting a build quote by the end of that day but I got one. Again-perfection! A mixture of components that I never would have thought of on my own--and I do a lot of on-line research--built up on the new Parlee Z5.

I took a couple of days to research the parts I was not familiar with--the frame, Zipp crankset, and Hive brakes, to name a few--all of which got high praise across the board in the performance, light-weight, style and durability departments. The most clever part of the build is the SRAM XX rear derailleur and 10 speed cassette which will give my feeble little legs a bunch of bail-out room as the gas starts to leak all over the place half-way up Mt. Washington--very smart and I'm sure I'll love it even more when I have to use it.

I can go without my power so I have the 404 on the back for training purposes.

The Zipp 202 tubular--I went with Continental GP 4000 tires because they are super puncture resistant. I'm sure I could brake the 13 pound mark with lighter tires--not sure it's worth it.
I also used Tufo Extreme gluing tape instead of glue which works very well--lots less hassle and has eased my "transition" to tubies.

The SRAM XX 11-36--lots of bail out room.

It's like a piece of jewelery--now I want to upgrade the mountain bikes to the XX.

The 202 rear wheel with the SRAM XX 11-36 cassette. I think I will eventually try a Red 11-28.
This wheel is close to a pound lighter than the 404 (with Powertap).
I'll tell you what, I sure do love having power on board--my only regret.

SRAM XX rear derailleur to accommodate the XX 11-36 cog. I am going to put a Red derailleur on after Mt. Washington.

The Selle Italia SLR team edition with carbon rails--the same saddle that is on the Ottrott--love it more and more each time I ride it. The Easton EC90 post is an old favorite--I think it's my third one now--if it just had some markings on it to help with adjusting saddle angle it would be perfect.

The bottom bracket area is big and stiff. I can't honestly tell the difference of the narrower BB30 bottom bracket which is a good thing. The Zipp cranks came with ceramic bearings--very nice!

I've never been a guy to buy high end pedals but these rock and were well worth the upgrade.

The Zipp cranks are another piece I wish I had put on the Serotta as they are lighter and of course look great. The biggest benefit though is that you can go to a 53x39 by changing the rings--a lot cheaper than swapping out the whole crankset.

Everyone seems to love the SRAM red. I keep hearing great things about it, but truth be told, I did not put it on the Ottrott because after riding it I was not impressed. This time around, after hearing even more positive feed back from other riders I went with it--still reluctantly but justified my decision because it weighs less than the Dura Ace. I'll be honest and I thought I would never say this I'm a big fan--it just took awhile to get used to. Now I'm wishing I had it on both bikes because going back and forth between the two is causing me, with my limited mental capacity, to make a lot of bad shifts.

The Hive brakes--awesome--what else can I say. They stop like crazy and are super easy to adjust--can't ask for any more than that.

More about this later--the new Joule 2.0.

With this build, after the initial estimate, I worked with Steve for the majority of the process--with big-time industry credentials, he knows bikes and could not have been more awesome to work with. Like Ian, Steve went above and beyond--prompt in returning phone calls and e-mails, and pleasant in dealing with my last minute vanity changes--top notch customer service.

So, here she is, all 13 lbs 2 ozs of her.
( wt is with the 202 rear wheel)

So back to why I am writing this now. I picked up the new bike a month ago and have had the chance to really ride it (close to a 1000 miles now)--again, as with the Ottrott, the Z5 fit is spot-on perfect. As for the ride, out of this world--for being as light-weight as it is, the bike feels surprisingly beefy, stiff, smooth and super comfortable and yes, it climbs like a mountian goat. I'm still waiting for the stem, which is on backorder from Zipp.

My second go-around with the crew at Fitwerx was again fantastic--since getting the bike, I have received several e-mails and a card thanking me and reminding me to let them know if I have any problems. More so, these guys love their bikes and they just plain want to make sure I love mine too. So you can bet on it, I'll be back--hopefully in time for cross season, if I can just somehow sneak it past my wife.

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