Road bikes are evolving, with the two biggest developments being the adoption of disc brakes and wider tyres, fuelled by an increasing appetite for bikes that can be used for more than just road riding.
The growth of the gravel and adventure bike category has been swift and the latest entrant into this arena is the Chebacco, from US carbon fibre specialist bike brand Parlee Cycles. Here’s how Parlee describes the Chebacco:
“It’s at home wherever roads can get rough and rides turn into adventures. Gravel grinding, cyclocross racing, tackling a commute in the urban jungle.”
Let’s dive into the key details of this new bike. Tyre clearance is a whopping 45mm without mudguards or 40mm if you make use of the mudguard mounts. A 28mm tyre is swallowed easily and looks a bit skinny given how much air there is between rubber and carbon.
The wheels are bolted to the frame and fork with thru-axles, an almost standard issue on this sort of bike, with 15mm at the front and 142x12mm rear. The modular rear dropouts will cater for any current axle standard you might want to use. Dropouts are made from carbon fibre, but to protect them, they’re sandwiched between metal plates.
The carbon fibre frame is bristling with neat details. One standout feature is the adjustable head tube height. To allow the handlebars to be raised or lowered to suit different height riders without a huge stack of ugly steerer tube spacers, the head tube top cap is available in three sizes.
All cables and hoses are routed internally, the front hydraulic disc hose is routed inside the fork. Interchangeable ports ensure compatibility with mechanical and electronic groupsets. There’s a pressfit 30 bottom bracket and Parlee makes its own adapter to fit a Shimano crankset with its 24mm axle. The area around the bottom bracket is substantially oversized, with a tear drop shape where the down tube, seat tube and chunky chainstays all meet.
Parlee claims a frame weight between 870-980g, depending on size, with a 390g full carbon fibre fork. There’s just one stock paint job, this Alaskan Railroad Blue with Diablo Green and Silver accents, but custom finishes are also available.
The appeal of a bike like the Chebacco is the ability to fit very wide tyres and the choice that opens up. Our roads aren't exactly getting smoother, and people have been cottoning onto the benefits of wider tyres for improved comfort, as well as the impressive rolling speeds offered by some wide tyres.
Parlee has worked to ensure it’s a bike that should provide good road manners if fitted with a narrow slick tyre while also being at home in the rough with a cyclocross or gravel treaded tyre fitted.
“The biggest thing we were trying to bring to the bike was a road bike feel, so a lot of that had to do with the tuning in the main triangle. We really tried to tune so it would feel good with a gravel or cyclocross tyre, but also feel good with a 23mm tyre at 100psi,” explains Parlee Marketing Manager Tom Rodi.
Gravel bikes typically split the difference between an endurance and cyclocross bike. The geometry of the Chebacco is aimed at producing a bike that is comfortable and stable on the road, and surefooted in gravel. Compared to an endurance road bike like the excellent Giant Defy Advanced, the Parlee has a slightly slacker head angle, longer wheelbase and shorter head tube, but offers space for much wider tyres and has mudguard eyelets. Some of the geometry numbers of the Parlee bring it quite closer to a cyclocross bike like Specialized’s Crux, but the Parlee is shorter and higher and, of course, it accommodates wider tyres with mudguards.
At the moment, the Chebacco is only available as a frameset in the UK (the company offers complete builds in the US) and it will set you back £3,499. If you want a complete bike, Bespoke in London (who look after Parlee in the UK) will happily build you a bike.
To allow us to review the Chebacco, Parlee sent us a complete bike with a Shimano Ultegra Di2 groupset. A compact chainset and 11-32t cassette point to the sort of riding the bike is intended for, the low ratios should help on steep off-road climbs.
The wheels are the new Mavic Ksyrium Pro All-Road and they’re fitted with 40mm Clement X’PLOR MSO tyres. A pair of 28mm slick tyres were also sent with the bike, and plan to test the bike with a variety of tyres to test it in numerous guises.
Parlee has recently developed its own carbon fibre handlebars, stem and seatpost, and they’re fitted to this bike. A Fizik Arione saddle and Lizard Skins bar tape complete the build. Without pedals, it weighs 8.51kg (18.76lb).
I’ve already put some miles on the new bike, having used it for the Dirty Reiver 200km gravel race last month. You can read about how I got on, and how the bike coped, here.
David has worked on the road.cc tech team since July 2012. Previously he was editor of Bikemagic.com and before that staff writer at RCUK. He's a seasoned cyclist of all disciplines, from road to mountain biking, touring to cyclo-cross, he only wishes he had time to ride them all. He's mildly competitive, though he'll never admit it, and is a frequent road racer but is too lazy to do really well. He currently resides in the Cotswolds.