Felt’s road bike line-up is split into three specific styles: the AR series, built purely to go fast, with pro style geometry matched to an aerodynamic carbon frame; the F series that retains the pro geometry in a lightweight carbon frame; and the Z series, which retains the lightweight quality of the F but introduces endurance geometry in the shape of a taller head tube and shortened top tube. Aimed at the enthusiast distance rider, the Z has still found its way into the pro ranks, with top US female rider Tayler Wiles choosing a Z series for this year’s cobbled Classics.
The Z5’s frame has a sublime smoothness to it, the rear end being comfortable over rutted surfaces. We expected the all-carbon fork to deliver the same characteristics up front, but on rides of four hours or more the level of vibration getting through had our hands tingling. We weren’t convinced it was down to the fork: the 32-spoke Mavic CXP22 front wheel is overbuilt and massively rigid, and when we tried a Fulcrum Racing Zero instead this cured the vibration.
The 185mm head tube on our 56cm test bike lifts the front end but keeps a reasonable length top tube, creating a frame that could easily be used for more competitive riding. Felt’s clever stem has a wedge shaped shim that can be rotated before the stem is bolted down, offering +/- 5, 10 and 14 degrees of rise or fall. It’s simple to set up and means the Z5 can easily be changed from a low front end for the occasional time trial, to a much more sedate high front for long rides. In its +5 degree position it offers the ideal balance of comfort and great handling.
We really enjoyed pushing the Felt up to speed. The big volume 25mm tyres, thick bar tape and long, deeply padded saddle make the Z5 very well cushioned, yet we could still feel a decent connection to the road. It never got the floaty feel of more relaxed bikes. Those wheels are limiting though; we really appreciate the 25mm tyres, but added to these hoops it means the bike is carrying most of its weight there. That leads to an overall sluggish feel, especially on the climbs. When we did try the Z5 with lighter wheels we could feel so much more of the character of this great frameset.
This article was originally published in Cycling Plus magazine.