Felt’s Z95 has something other bikes under £650 don’t necessarily have: nine-speed gearing. The significance isn’t the number of gears, but the Felt manages a higher top gear than some other theoretically racier bikes, and a low bottom gear. There are no mudguard eyelets, so it’s not in winter trainer territory, and given its geometry stands in the ground marked endurance and sportive bike.
The frame is par for the course – Taiwanese-made 6061 aluminium – but it’s beautifully finished for the price and the fellas at Felt have seriously raised the game when it comes to spec. The nine-speed Sora groupset with compact FSA Tempo chainset is a very impressive setup for your 650 quid.
Sora’s levers are, ergonomically, a huge improvement over both Shimano’s 2300 and the Microshift specced on the 2012 Z95. Unlike 2300, shifting up the cassette is possible when you’re riding on the drops, and paired with the 11-32 cassette – with saucer-size inner sprocket – its gear range is virtually the equal of a triple.
NThe knee-friendly lowest gear more than makes up for the downside of larger jumps between gears, and allowed us to stay in the saddle and climb regardless of the length or severity of the hills we hit.
It’s ideal for a bike for long-distance riding and sportives, lower gears coming into their own after long, hard miles. It’s a good choice for newer riders too, or returning older riders who might need to look after their knees.
The combination of slightly shorter top tube, slacker head angle and taller head tube (18cm) puts less pressure on your lower back as the miles mount up, but the position isn’t that extreme, and with the 50x11 top gear you can hit high speeds and maintain them well.
The Felt also has great stoppers: cartridge brakes, combined with chunky dual-pivots offering the best mix of power and control. The wheels are pretty much the norm: Alex R500 rims with Felt’s skinny own-brand hubs. Competent if not hugely exciting. The overly padded saddle wasn’t that popular either, but might appeal more to newer riders. The only compromises have been in the use of own-brand kit.
If you’re looking for a bike for sportives, Felt’s well-specced, comfortable and classy-looking Z95 should be close to the top of your list.
This article was originally published in Cycling Plus magazine, available on Apple Newsstand and Zinio.