Felt's value-packed US$1,499 F1X cyclo-cross bike is a lightweight and smartly-specced racer good enough for riding just about anywhere.
At 20.6 pounds complete, this off-the-peg machine could become a roadie's dirt trail dream machine. For those not as enthusiastic about catching big air off road or hurtling down a rocky embankment, the F1X holds its own on the tarmac, thanks to its aluminium frame and carbon fork.
Ride: stiff and light; good for some, not for others
Light and stiff are good qualities to consider, but for someone accustomed to the forgiveness of steel or titanium, aluminium can be a bane on the neck, shoulders and back. Felt's carbon fork guides the F1X frame nicely, chattering up the bumps. The smallish rear triangle helps keep the rear wheel tracking straight, but may have been the contributor to my sore back after 45 minutes on the fire trails at Saratoga Gap.
Ultra-stiff aluminium rockets are common in 'cross these days, and for a 60-minute or so race, one can easily overlook a little discomfort. The beauty of the F1X is the smart geometry, with a traditional 72-degree head angle and 45mm fork rake for sharp handling. The 55mm bottom bracket drop is somewhat high, but adds to the quick acceleration out of the turns and in sprints.
Mud clearance was decent; if one needed more, I'd recommend swapping out the 700x35c tyres for a more race-worthy 30 or 32c. I enjoyed the fatter rubber, though; I rode with my full-suspended mountain biking buddies, who laboured on bikes weighing 10-plus pounds more. Climbing in the drops was a breeze.
Frame: custom-drawn aluminium with clever touches
Southern California-based Felt knows how to manipulate frame tubing, and its extensive use of Easton tubing in its early days was envelope pushing. The F1X frame is made of 7005 custom-butted aluminium. Despite its somewhat svelte appearance, the gently sloping frame has ovalised top and down tubes for easy shouldering and ride stiffening. The clever rear brake braze-on offers an ideal and clean stop for the rear cantilever.
Equipment: top-notch mix sprinkled with name brand bits
Felt has done its homework on speccing the F1X: Shimano 105 mixed with Ultegra where needed, and a healthy dose of FSA mixed with Felt-branded bits (some of which closely resembled popular offerings from fi:zik and Ritchey). I've used the Tektro Oryx canti brakes for years; they are cheap, light and strong.
The combination of 46/36 chainrings and 11-25 10-speed cassette proved ideal, even in rather hilly conditions. The medium drop bars are easy to move around on and work well when grunting up the climbs. The top-mount brake levers came in handy for feathering the brakes on fast descents and technical corning. The Mavic CXP-22S rims stayed true despite the beating I gave them.
At a titch over 20lbs for our complete 57cm tester, the F1X proved its pedigree in every condition, on road and off. The familiar Felt Matte Black is easy on the eyes, but as a complete package the bike has no fear. A credible 'cross racer for anyone's stable, value packed and ready to take a beating, just like a pirate should.