The most fun you can have with your cycling shoes on?

The wise and witty James Huang over at is always worth listening to, and his recent thoughts on fun, and the having thereof, struck a chord with us.

Power meters, Strava times, GPS, aero kit… they're all a part of the modern cycling world, and when used properly and in moderation they are a boon. But most of us fell in love with cycling as kids, and the sheer fun and uncomplicated enjoyment of getting out there and riding is always at the heart of why we ride.

For me it means digging out the mountain bike for a quick blast; flat pedals, 1x drivetrain, baggy shorts, hop on and ride. For friend-of-Bespoke Brian it means getting into the wild on a "Plus" bike and simply exploring. For Bespoke head honcho Barry it's the Parlee Chebacco that brings out his inner child…

above: If your smile isn't this big, you're doing it wrong!

Bespoke Boss Barry gives his take on the Chebacco:

The Chebacco was launched two years ago and immediately garnered great reviews; my only concern was the price - then at £3499 for the frame only, for what was then a niche market of adventure bikes.

For road frames you can justify that price; stiffness, low weight and high compliance are hard to achieve and there is a premium attached if you can solve these competing demands.

But on a gravel bike; with massive 40mm+ tyres compliance is less of an issue and I felt it was just too expensive to really catch fire in the UK as a second or third bike.

And that's what we have saw initially... But two things have changed:

Gravel/Adventure has gone mainstream, big time. Its really caught people's imaginations, and it turns out that the UK's abundance of tracks, trails and lanes is a perfect match for what could equally well be called a "fun/exploration bike".

Secondly, and perhaps most significantly, Parlee have addressed the question of pricing with the introduction of the "core" Chebacco:

The core range uses the exact same frameset as the original, but built as a complete bike at just £3849 with mechanical Ultegra gruppo, or £4699 for Ultegra Di2 Disc.

For a Parlee that's astonishingly competitive - you are getting a full bike for only £400 more than the frame used to cost!

Parlee haven't cut any corners in the spec or construction, but to offer these savings the core bike comes with no options, it's one standard (high quality) spec.

If you prefer to choose paint go for the Chebacco LE - which is the same frame, but comes in 5 colours and with a full Parlee carbon cockpit.

above: The roads of Chebacco County, not so different from the UK!

Tom from Parlee explains the Chebacco's inspiration:

The development/genesis of Chebacco really started in 2011-12 when we were deep into the development of our first aero road bike, the ESX. The challenge to us in developing an aero road bike at that time was vertical compliance aka comfort.We knew we could develop a fast bike but we wanted to create a fast bike that was comfortable to ride for 100k at a time and back then this meant working around 23mm tires at 100psi on deep carbon wheels.

Bob (Parlee) had devised some clever tricks to make the ESX comfortable but we needed to validate. We had lab test data from the development process but we wanted to road test the bike for comfort in parallel so we made a loop on local roads that featured what we thought was the road with the worst surface around. The name of that road is Chebacco Road. It is not that long or that epic, the worst section is only about 2k in length but it is typically wet, loose and punishing.

We used to joke when we were testing the aero bike and the Altum test mules that followed that we should develop a bike just for roads like Chebacco Road and the name just stuck with us over the years. Here in New England, there are thousands of amazing roads that are simply not paved well.

Less than 50 miles from NYC or Boston or San Francisco or LA even you can find endless amounts of farm roads, paths, fire roads, parks and unpaved ways that are amazing to ride on - but you really don't want or need a modern mountain bike to ride them.

A road bike (especially one that can take fenders) is really optimal but you need more tire clearance and disc brakes and a bit more relaxed geometry vs. a pure road race bike so that is how we arrived at doing a standalone bike called the Chebacco.

The Tech Bits:

The frame and fork are made from high-modulus carbon fibre, with a claimed frame weight in the region of 870-980g depending on size - which is very competitive indeed... 2 years ago that would have been the weight of a lightweight road climbing bike!

The wheels are DT Swiss C1800; not the lightest but they are very robust and roll well. For the money these are an excellent choice, more than up to the job of coping with rougher surfaces without being overly harsh.

ZIPP Service Course contact points bring all the reassurance of a top brand name - they may be ZIPP's entry-level offering, but they're still usefully light and the shallow-drop bars in particular work brilliantly on this sort of bike.

If budget permits, we'd definitely recommend going for either of the Ultegra build options. The base model's 105 groupset performs well, albeit maybe not quite as slick as Ultegra, but the TRP Spyre mechanical disc brakes lack the smooth modulation of the hydraulic options. But... it's hard to argue with that entry level price if you're on a budget, and they can always be upgraded later...

above: any colour you like, as long as it's red - the Core Chebacco

Barry's had an original Chebacco as his own personal commuting steed for some time, but recently he's been spending more time with the Core Chebacco, and particularly comparing it to the latest generation of gravel/adventure bikes.

We've been massively impressed with the 3T Exploro, and particularly with the innovative OPEN U.P.

Can the slightly older design of the Parlee hold up against the new competition? Well, yes and no. If you are looking for a hardcore blaster to tackle the kinds of trails traditionally reserved for MTBs then the newer breed are more capable. But if you're looking to simply have fun, access new routes, and for typical UK riding the Chebacco strikes the perfect balance.

Coming off a 3T Exploro (and with an OPEN UP review to come) it was very interesting to compare the three. The Parlee is definitely the least hard core of the trio; for starters it's the only one that can only take 700cc tyres (and not also 650b).

It very much feels like a 'road plus' bike. The OPEN is more of a MTB made into a road bike; the bigger tyres and the 1*11 groupset exaggerate this.

Where the Chebacco excels is purely and simply in "Fun per £" - you're getting a complete bike, versatile and the ideal complement to an existing road race bike, for the price of a frameset from most of the competition. And it's not some bargain basement offering, it's a true Parlee, built with all their carbon expertise and handling know-how.

below: the Chebacco LE offers custom colours, at additional cost

When "off the peg" becomes "Bespoke"

There's one final point to make about the sheer value for money of the core Chebacco...

We said that Parlee have kept costs down by sticking to a pre-set range of build options and a standard colour. That's true, but we're Bespoke, and so of course our unique offering is a little more nuanced...

When you buy your Chebacco from us we'll include a full Bespoke bike fit, and as always we'll swap any contact points like-for-like to ensure the perfect fit - at no extra cost.

We have plenty more info on the Chebacco range in our online shop and on the Bespoke blog.

To see one in person, visit us in-store (we usually keep at least one on display in Gresham Street) where we'll be happy to answer any questions you may have.