With the advent of the adventure category—or whatever it’s called this minute—we’ve been obsessed with the “one-bike-does-it-all” potential of these things. Too often we are disappointed. Too often the bikes are heavy or sluggish, or just outmatched by truly adventurous terrain. They try to be a Jack-of-all-trades and end up doing nothing particularly well. It was this reality that Parlee was taking head on with its Chebacco—it races ’cross and gravel, it can commute and, of course, it can ride road. We know, because the claim made on the website, right under a fancy picture of the bike, says: “Now, for the first time, you can do all those things on one bike….” Sure, but can it do them well?
Of course, Parlee has an advantage with the Chebacco. It hasn’t tried to stuff a larger tire onto an endurance bike, or just relaxed a ’cross bike in the name of versatility. The Chebacco, named for the Chebacco Parish north of Boston, Massachusetts, was built from the ground up as a do-it-all, with no previous model’s baggage holding it back.
In the name of gravel, Parlee has gone up to 40mm tire clearance (with hidden fender mounts)—in our mind the minimum to be considered a true gravel racer. Other dimensions make a nod to the gravel gods. For stability, the head tube is slack at less than 72 degrees and the chainstays quite long at 430mm. The bottom-bracket drop is 70mm and more of a road dimension—not ’cross high, but not gravel low—and actually matches Parlee’s Altium road racer.
The Chebacco has another trick up its sleeve to help riders attain true “do-it-all” performance. The slight hump at the Chebacco’s head tube integrates with the Flex Fit Top cap, which gives riders three options of stack. On our size large, the test bike’s stack could be raised 16mm without the need for any spacers, allowing riders wanting a more relaxed position to find it and still ride a tidy, slammed cockpit. If you want a more aggressive road or ’cross fit with your “do-it-all” bike, ride the short Flex Fit cap. The slight hump also stiffens up the bike’s head tube, critical for precise handling in gravel, ’cross and aggressive road riding.
What Parlee really relies on to give the bike the reactivity needed to bridge the gravel, ’cross and road worlds is its carbon knowhow. While the Chebacco as a stock bike is not made in Massachusetts like Parlee custom bikes, it still uses the manufacturing techniques and materials honed during the development of the Z-series road bikes and the new Altium, all bikes famous for a light, lively and “racey” feel.
Our test bike was of the LE variety, which means two things. While it’s the same Asian-made carbon frame as the standard Chebacco, it gets the upgraded Parlee carbon cockpit—bars, stem and seat post—as well the option to custom-paint the bike and spec it with your dream build direct from Parlee. Our Chebacco was awfully close to a dream build: SRAM Red eTap and DT Swiss ERC 1100 combined with the Parlee carbon cockpit to create a true ultimate build, which comes with an ultimate price tag of $9,850. Of course, different Chebacco LE builds can come in at thousands less. The frame itself weighs well under 1,000 grams, helping the complete bike to weigh a svelte 7.7 kilograms (16.9 pounds) in a size large, with deep-dish carbon wheels.
Parlee has been largely successful in its goal to build the perfect all-around bike and we are big fans. The Chebacco is very capable and very stable with the large tire volume and relaxed front end, yet has a more lively and responsive feel than is typical with big tires and a long rear end. No doubt, its light weight and Z-bike heritage make that happen. We rode the lowest stack integrated Flex Fit top cap and an aggressive position to help it feel racier too.
If the bike does trend in one direction over the other it is certainly gravel and adventure. The angles lead to a bike stable enough to handle even steep and sketchy terrain, while the dedicated ’cross racer may want a steeper, shorter front end. The endurance road rider, with a set of 28mm or 30mm tires will also fall in love with the Chebacco. It’s with these lower-volume tires that Parlee’s expertise really gets a chance to shine. The Chebacco’s supple rear end and Parlee seat post make magic out of rough asphalt and chip seal, subtleties you won’t notice on 40mm gravel tires.
There are compromises inherent in any bike-straddling categories; it comes with the territory. With the Chebacco, what Parlee has done better than almost any other manufacturer is minimize those compromises to the point that only a dedicated ’cross racer on a technical course or a pure road racer in a tight bunch may find fault. For the rest of us, the Chebacco is a gorgeous and potent tool on any surface.
PRICE: $9,850 (as tested)
WEIGHT: 7.7kg/16.9 lbs; (size large w/o pedals or cages)
BUILD: SRAM Red eTap, Parlee bars, stem and seat post, fi’zi:k Arione saddle, DT Swiss ERC DiCut 1100 wheels and Vittoria Terreno Dry tires.