Parlee Altum-R review

Massachusetts-based Parlee has a reputation for high-end custom-made carbon-fibre frames, but in recent years the company has developed several Asian-built frames to reach a wider market. The Parlee Altum is one of those and seeks to combine light weight, stiffness and comfort

Parlee altum R
Cycling Weekly Verdict

If you are lucky enough to be in the market for a Parlee, the Altum will not disappoint. The ride is excellent, with a harmonious blend of compliance and stiffness when and where you need it. Owing to the relaxed geometry and lack of aero features this is not a bike suited to racing, but the trail and wheelbase create a bike that tracks beautifully in corners and feels stable on descents.

Reasons to buy
  • +

    Sublime ride quality

  • +


  • +

    Lifetime frame warranty

  • +

    Custom paint and spec options

  • +

Reasons to avoid
  • -

    Very expensive

  • -

    Could be lighter

  • -

    Not aero

  • -

You can trust Cycling Weekly. Our team of experts put in hard miles testing cycling tech and will always share honest, unbiased advice to help you choose. Find out more about how we test.


This is the Altum-R, which features the same geometry as the Altum but is significantly less expensive and is marginally heavier thanks to a different carbon layup. Claimed weights for the model we have here are 810g for the frame and 330g for the fork.

The Altum is available in six sizes, with each size available with three different ‘flex fit’ caps on the head tube. These enable you to raise or lower the stack height without using unsightly spacers – and it also maintains structural integrity. Geometry is relaxed, with a relatively high stack and short reach, similar to that of a Giant Defy but with a shorter wheelbase.

Parlee altum R

There are three 'flex fit' top cap options per size. Pictured is the shortest on our test bike, to give the lowest stack.

There’s plenty of clearance in the frame for wide rims and tyres as big as 28mm. The Altum frame shouts quality with lots of neat details such as the seatpost clamp, cable slots and carbon dropouts.

Furthermore, custom paint jobs are something the Massachusetts brand prides itself on. Our test bike came with a standard gloss Grey/White, which looks great. It’s a very current colour and looks superb in the flesh – or rather, carbon. To see an example of this, check out the Parlee ESX-R we had custom painted.

Parlee altum R

The Parlee Altum-R is slightly heavier but significantly less expensive than the Altum


One of the great things about Parlee is that custom builds are offered. Being a top-end frameset, we wanted to do it justice and built it up with the help of Madison, who kindly supplied the latest Dura-Ace R-9100 mechanical groupset.

Wheels can make or break a bike too, so we put in a pair of excellent DT-Swiss RR65 Clinchers, fitted with Vittoria Corsa G+ tyres, tan sidewalls being the cat’s pyjamas.

The saddle is a Pro Stealth while the stem and bar are both Pro Vibe. I fitted a 140mm stem as the reach on the Altum is fairly compact at 381mm in our size ML.

Video - the most desirable superbikes of 2017


Parlee frames are renowned for their ride quality and, having ridden the ESX aero frame, I was intrigued to see how the Altum compares.

Fortunately it didn’t disappoint – the ride is plush and compliant when rolling along less-than-perfect roads, yet put the power down and the stiffness is excellent. Although not crazy light, the Altum-R feels at home on climbs, if a little back-end heavy in our build.

The geometry is relaxed with regard to stack and reach, something which I countered by way of a long stem. However the wheelbase is significantly shorter than many so-called sportive bikes, giving a greater sense of urgency and added agility in the corners.

Parlee altum R

The gloss grey is a standard finish on the Parlee Altum-R. It looks great in the flesh

Handling is assured, but some may prefer a lower front end as the stack is fairly high at 587mm on what is roughly a 56cm frame. Ideal for those wanting a more relaxed geometry, but if you seek an aggressive position, a negative stem may be required.

The DT-Swiss RR65 wheels felt great and the stiffness complemented the frame well, with no brake rub. The Dura-Ace R9100 groupset performed faultlessly too. If you want to read reviews of these, you can click on the links.

Parlee altum R

Parlee Altum features neat and simple cable routing than can accommodate either mechanical or electronic groupsets

While riding the Altum I was testing several aero bikes for Cycling Weekly. It’s not a deal breaker, but I could feel the difference in slipperiness between an aerobike and the Altum, which has not been designed with aero as a priority.

Parlee altum R

Details such as the seat clamp are very neat and well designed


There is no escaping it – Parlee frames have a premium price tag and consequently the Altum is going to struggle to compete in value with direct-sales brands.

However, the quality is excellent and the frame has a limited lifetime warranty. There are lighter frames out there for a similar price but – and it’s is hard to describe it until you ride one – the Parlee Altum feels a little bit special. Parlee is superb at laying up carbon and it results in a bike that’s quite simply beautiful to ride.

Thank you for reading 20 articles this month* Join now for unlimited access

Enjoy your first month for just £1 / $1 / €1

*Read 5 free articles per month without a subscription

Join now for unlimited access

Try first month for just £1 / $1 / €1