Parlee Chebacco Long term review
Road + Gravel + CX - All in one bike!
Parlee’s Chebacco is the best bike I’ve ridden, hands down. Maybe it’s the best because it’s three bikes in one. I’ve had the bike for over a year now, so this isn’t an off-the-cuff opinion based on a couple of rides. According to Strava I’ve put over 6200 miles on the bike! I can confidently say I’ve put this bike through the wringer and it’s come up a winner. I said three bikes – it’s a road bike – a comfortable, distance-loving road bike. It begs you to ride further. It’s a gravel bike – I’m not even sure what the max tire size is – I ran 42 Schwalbe and Clement tires with plenty of clearance. It could be your cross race bike as well!
I kept asking myself why this bike was so much fun to ride. Some would call it an endurance bike – and it is that. Part of the appeal of this bike is it’s user-friendliness. It’s a perfect build. Shimano Ultegra Di2 is the finest drivetrain you’d ever need on a road bike. All the cables are routed internally and enter and leave the frame in tidy little ports. In the time I’ve ridden this bike, I haven’t had to adjust a single thing and the shifting has been flawless. Yes - I did have to charge the Di2 battery and replace the disc brake pads. Also, the compact crankset is absolutely the way to go. 50 – 34 up front and 11-32 kept me spinning at a good cadence and left my legs fresh on some truly hard all day rides. Also worth noting is the front and rear thru axles. They have quickly becoming the standard for this new breed of gravel/do-it-all bikes, and while it's hard for me to isolate what parts do what on any bike, it tracks straight and true when you need it to.
The trick with this bike – and how it can actually replace two (or even three) bikes in your stable is having a bike like the Chebacco and two different wheelsets. The bike came with the MAVIC Ksyrium Pro Allroad wheels, which I rode for quite a while, although I quickly swapped out the Mavic rubber in favor of the Clement Strada 32. The Ksyriums worked fine, but left me wanting to try a carbon wheelset – you know, to see how the bike rode with better wheels. Luckily Reynolds were kind enough to have us try their ATR wheels, which we eagerly set up with Schwalbe G-One 42 tubeless. Guess what? A nice bike became that much nicer. We also wanted to try a lighter, more road-oriented wheelset, so we test rode the Reynolds Attack wheelset, which we rode with the Schwalbe G-One Speed 32c tires (also tubeless) and the bike rode even better. Those G-One Speeds are still my favorite all-rounders.
So, between a beautiful carbon bike, Ultegra Di2 (compact) Road tubeless, and Road disc setups, I firmly believe this is the future of road for me. I’m not Mr. Adventure, where every ride has to mean getting lost in the forest for 8 hours – but I DO appreciate the ability to do an all day ride with 25 miles of dirt road. The thing about this bike is that it inspires confidence. If the ride is long, the bike is going to help you remain comfortable. If the ride is rough, put on your 42c tires, lower the tire pressure, and enjoy the terrain. Going on a fast roadie group ride? Put on your road wheelset and 28 – 32c tires and enjoy the speed, without stressing out when you hit bad pavement. The greater clearance of the bike, paired with hydro disc brakes, (and the added security of road tubeless) is a revelation for me. Since I don’t race road, there is no real reason for me to ride anything smaller than a 28c tire. I appreciate the comfort and reliability of a larger tire – and I now run the 32c tires between 50 and 70psi. Gone are the days of 25c tires pumped up to 110. There’s just no good reason to do that.
The only negative for me on this bike was the flexfit headset cap. I must have left some play when installing a shorter stem, because I had some rubbing and noise from the headset. After re-installing the stem, it worked fine, noise-free, but I couldn’t help thinking it was too complex of system for a bike built for gravel riding. The Flex fit system is borrowed from Parlee’s Altum bike that allows the rider to choose different headtube spacers to customize the fit. It allows Parlee to do fewer frame sizes. Going forward though, once adjusted properly I’ve had zero problems with it, so for me it’s more aesthetic. I’m confident that Parlee has their engineering well in hand. They clearly know what they’re doing!
The ride of the bike is fantastic – just pure comfort. But don't get me wrong when I say comfort - the bike is not a pokey touring bike. Put down the hammer and the bike responds. It's plenty stiff, without being harsh in any way. Many folks commented on the dark blue paint job with bright green accents. Also worth noting is the seatpost, stem, and bars are all proprietary Parlee designs. So, basically everything is custom Parlee design if you consider the fork as well. You could complain about a $6000 price tag, but a bike this versatile, with so many talents, is a bargain. This is a bike that will have you rethinking your quiver of road and gravel bikes. The combination of Shimano hydro disc brakes, larger volume tubeless tires and a bike that’s built for rough surfaces has revitalized road cycling for the better. I descend with much more confidence and I don’t flinch when the pavement gets rough or turns to gravel. The overall weight of the bike is worth noting also. It feels slightly heavier than an ultralight race bike, but still svelte enough to hang on group road rides, if I'm so inclined.
My winter M.O. was to fill a large sized Ortlieb saddle bag or Revelate Pika seatbag with spare clothing, to get used to riding loaded and also just to know that I had what I needed for longer rides if the weather took a turn for the worse. I keep a mountain feedback on the handlebars to make sure I bring enough food. So what rides did this bike inspire? It got me through a particularly nasty Stampede.
Stampede photos by Ron Lewis
Portland it the perfect testing grounds for this bike. We have great rides out the door with access to some sweet gravel in the mix. Here are a few of the most notable rides I had on the Chebacco. There are some pretty “out there” Dave Guettler routes in this mix. All are highly recommended adventure rides.
Most of the bigger gravel rides were done on the Reynolds ATR wheelset with Clement MSO X’Plor 40c. I seem to remember the Gravel BOG ride being on the Mavic wheelset with Clement Strada 32s. The gravel sections were hard on that combo, but I got through it fine.
I can’t say enough about this bike. The bottom line is that it has inspired me to ride more – and allowed me to do some pretty big rides comfortably. For me it comes down to versatility. Maintaining fewer bikes means spending less time maintaining and more time riding. This is the future of road riding and it’s a blast. Well done, Parlee!