The Felt F85 cuts a distinctive swathe through most of the more brightly coloured 2015 bikes, though if the green ‘Army’ shade isn’t you, a muted black is also an option. But the butted aluminium tubing, carbon/alloy fork and Shimano Tiagra kit are all spot on for the money.
The weight is very good too. It’s just 220g heavier than the Cannondale CAAD 8 we also recently tested, which is £200 more expensive. And while its 9.3kg overall weight doesn’t exactly push it into the super-light category these days, it’s light enough to wow your non-cycling friends and its weight is on a par with that of Tour de France-winning bikes from as recently as the mid-90s. It’s not as if it's carrying much excess flab, which is much more likely to be the preserve of the rider!
F-Series machines are Felt’s racing bikes, with the frame silhouette you'd expect from that end of the spectrum. The F85’s angles are also virtually identical to that of Felt's F-FRD, which can lay claim to Classics wins and Tour stage victories, and similar to both the CAAD 8 and Specialized’s Allez, another go-to budget race bikes. All three have pretty classic frame angles around 73 degrees, but the Felt has a shorter wheelbase than either and – more noticeably – a 2cm shorter head tube, just 15cm on our 56cm frame. This houses a tapered 11⁄4-11⁄2in steerer, which contributes to a strikingly sharp front end, great cornering and rapid descending.
That short wheelbase does mean clearances are quite tight, so if you're looking to fit mudguards or use tyres wider than 25mm, you'd best look elsewhere. But one of the striking themes with today’s aluminium road bikes – even the quite modestly priced ones – is that of much-improved comfort. If your only experience of riding one dates back a decade or two, you could be very surprised by today’s flyers. Decades of building in alloy has not gone to waste, and that's evident in the F85's seat tube, which is narrow at the top before flaring out towards the bottom bracket shell.
Ten-speed Tiagra isn’t up there with the 11-speed 105 now found on a lot of £1000 bikes including Felt’s F75, but it’s effective and efficient, and the compact chainset and 12-28 cassette form a versatile pairing. And though the wheels themselves aren’t exceptional, Felt has future-proofed them; not only are they tubeless ready (pretty unusual at this price), but the rear hub is 11-speed compatible.
Elsewhere, Felt’s own kit is up to the job. The own-brand saddle helps with comfort through the rear, with the grippy gel bar tape doing equally good work to insulate your hands. Stylish bar-end plugs are another welcome touch on a well-priced bike. The brakes come with cartridge calipers and the Zaffiro Slick tyres performed well during some treacherous winter testing conditions, though we’d still consider tougher models in the long term, or lighter ones if you’re competing.
If your budget doesn’t quite stretch to a grand and you’re looking for a racy rather than recreational road bike, the F85 really is a flyer. And if you’re looking for a less aggressive ride, Felt’s Z series ‘Endurance’ bikes echo the F Series – and includes a Z85 at the same price with near-identical kit.
- Weight: 9.3kg (56cm)
- Frame: 7005 aluminium
- Fork: Carbon, aluminium steerer
- Gears: Shimano Tiagra 50/34, 12-28
- Brakes: Unbranded
- Wheels: Felt Road RSL3 tubeless ready
- Finishing kit: Felt bar, stem, 27.2mm aluminium seatpost and saddle, 23mm Vittoria Zaffiro Slick tyres