Hailing from the quaint New England town of Beverly, Massachusetts, Parlee is one of the world’s most revered carbon bike builders. With skills learned from 20 years as a boat builder, Bob Parlee founded his bike brand in 2000 with the goal of building the best bikes possible by utilizing carbon fiber to its full potential. Over the years Parlee has developed a reputation for building niche, custom, carbon-lugged dream machines like their bespoke Parlee Z1. But in recent years they have sought to expand their reach with more accessible production frames.
This is where the Parlee Altum comes in. The Altum is produced in Asia rather than New England, but Parlee carefully chose their carbon factory to ensure that every frame is built exactly to Parlee’s design. The Altum has the same high-end DNA as Parlee’s custom frames with the same exceptional build quality and paint that they’ve become known for. The frame has a more contemporary look than its custom carbon-lugged counterparts, with a monocoque design that strategically uses carbon in specific areas to achieve the desired weight and ride characteristics.
It's said that Bob Parlee insists every bike bearing his name must ride in a certain way. The ride is must always be smooth and comfortable, but become more lively and responsive when you get on the gas. The ovalized toptube and downtube flare out where they join the headtube and bottom bracket to increase strength and stiffness, providing good steering precision and a responsive rear end.
The geometry is more relaxed, with a slightly higher stack height and shorter reach for a more endurance oriented position. The wheelbase, however, remains short, making the Altum quicker handling and more agile than other endurance style bikes.
The Altum comes in three specs, the standard Altum, the Altum Disc, and the Altum-R, which is slightly (100g) heavier but more budget friendly. The Altum-R frame is still fairly light, weighing under 3 lbs for the large sizes. It’s not a featherweight, but any frameset under 3 lbs is impressive, and easily noticeable when I handle one in the shop. A modest (e.g. Ultegra) build will easily come in under 16 lbs, while a blingy high-end build will likely push 14-15 lbs.
The frame features a Parlee carbon fork and swappable headtube inserts. This innovative design increases the length of the headtube without spacers to provide a wider range of fits (the frame includes the shortest stack option which is level with the toptube). Overall, the Altum-R is a solid frame that exhibits all the things that make a Parlee what it is: great carbon engineering, great build quality, great paint, and a great ride.
Bruce is a writer who loves getting his bikes dirty, trying new tech, and riding tough trails that make him suffer for hours at a time.