“Felt produces road, mountain, track, bmx, cyclocross and cruiser bikes. For our first Felt Bikes review, we feature Felt Z95 Bike. Check it out below!”
evanscycles.com / saddleback.co.uk
Mirinda Carfrae and Becky Lavelle are among the triathletes who reached the podium on Felt bikes in 2012. The American company’s bikes always look the part, but their Z95 endurance machine has brought something more tangible than just good looks to the party: nine-speed Shimano Sora shifting. The significance is the range: the Felt doesn’t just have a higher top gear than a lot of bikes at this price, but also a much lower bottom gear.
FRAME AND FORK
The frame is exactly what you’d expect for £650 – but for an entry-level machine it’s very well finished. It’s a welcome sign for today’s bike buyers that even comparatively modestly priced bikes look so much like their dearer siblings, and in a lot of cases ride like them – riding this you could easily believe you’re on something much more pricey.
The frame has all the evidence of hydroforming. It has an oversized down tube and its curved top tube narrows as it nears the seat tube, where it forms a junction with the slightly dropped seatstays. The seatpost is standard 27.2mm diameter rather than oversize, but this year it’s aluminium rather than the carbon of the 2012 model.
It’s paired with an excellent fork too. Felt’s own UHC (ultra-high-modulus carbon) Performance fork has an oversize 1.125in aluminium steerer tube – the sort of fork that would have been on more exotic bikes a few years ago.
Felt has seriously raised the game when it comes to spec. Though it’s only one level higher than 2300 in Shimano’s hierarchy, Sora offers an extra gear and its levers are, ergonomically speaking, a huge improvement. Most significantly for competitive riders, you can change gear when on the drops, the paddle lever being much more accessible than 2300’s thumbshifter.
Paired with the 11-32T cassette, the gear range is virtually the equal of a triple. But it does this without the weight of the extra chainring and the possible increase in Q factor. We reckon the knee-friendly lower gears more than make up for the downside of slightly larger jumps between gears.
In addition to a good groupset for the price, the Felt also has some decent stoppers, its dual-pivot cartridge brakes offering both excellent stopping power and good modulation. The chainset is FSA’s Tempo compact with square-taper bottom bracket, BB30 not yet having made it to bikes at this price. It’s tried and trusted technology, easy to replace and straightforward if you want to upgrade.
Wheels, too, are very much the norm, with Alex’s R500 rims and Felt’s skinny own-brand hubs. They’re competent rather than exciting, but are easy to service. Felt’s own all-weather 25mm tyres favour durability over performance, but their 25mm width offers an ideal balance of comfort and performance.
Although endurance- rather than performance-orientated, the Z95 actually has pretty typical road bike frame angles – 73.5° seat angle with only a marginally slacker 72.5° head tube. What Felt has done is to shorten the top tube a little and raise lengthen the head angle slightly, though not to extreme proportions, and fit a shortish stem. The slightly upright riding position that results puts less pressure on your lower back, emphasising its suitability for distance rather than sprint events, but the front isn’t so high to prevent you fitting tri-bars.
The Z95’s lower gears come into their own late in a ride after long, hard miles, allowing you to climb riding in the saddle, which is more efficient and uses less energy than out-of-saddle efforts. The gearing also makes it a very sound choice for less-experienced riders, or older riders returning to cycling who might have issues with their knees.
But that shouldn’t make you think this is a bike for dawdling. It’s not quite as urgent around the corners or on climbs as some of its slightly lighter rivals but it’s no slouch, and with that 50/11T top gear you can hit high speeds and maintain them well – and in comfort – with the added ability to change up when riding on the drops.
The drops are quite deep, which offsets some of the effects of the heightened head tube, and the padded gel bar tape proved very welcome too. The dual-density saddle may be a little spongy for some, but the extra softness may be popular with other riders.
+ Great groupset for the price – Sora is a massive step-up from 2300
+ Good build quality, and excellent transmission range
– It’s heavier than some of its rivals, and its upright geometry won’t appeal to racers
– Dual-density saddle can be an acquired taste
The Z95 majors in comfort over all-out performance, but would make a great long-distance machine if its upright position suits you.
More at Felt Z95 Bike Review