California-based Felt have radically overhauled their complete range of F Series road bikes for 2011, and we were lucky enough to get our eager mitts on the F5. And what a cycling treat it turned out to be. This might be the cheapest of the carbon F Series bikes, but don’t be fooled by that comparatively modest price – this is a full on high-performance race machine. Not only that, the F5 shares the same super-lightweight frame as the £3,500 SRAM Red-equipped F3.
And it’s that frame that has received most of the changes from 2010. It has cleaner lines than last year’s bike, and has identical proﬁles to the top-of-the-range F1 (a ‘mere’ £7,999); Felt claim it has identical stiffness levels too. The F5’s frame has certainly been on a weight-loss programme since last year, coming in at a tad over 900g – our 56cm test model nudged the scales at just 8.16kg (18lb).
There have been other developments too, with a move to the lighter, stiffer BB30 bottom bracket system, which is paired with a compact FSA50/34 chainset. The rest of the components are typical of bikes at this price – mainly Shimano’s well respected 105 and an own-brand seatpost, aluminium bar and stem. But what most of its big-name competitors can’t offer is a bike that weighs so little, at least not at this price. And that lack of weight is something you can really feel when you’re riding, even with the slightly ponderous wheels.
Those wheels are the inevitable compromise required to put together an 18lb bike for £1,699. Made up of Mavic’s CXP22S rims on Felt’s own hubs, the front wheel has 28 spokes laced in a radial pattern, the rear 32 in a three-cross design. They’re solid, easy to maintain wheels suitable for training, but there is a weight penalty and they feel slightly out of place on a bike of such quality. That said, when they do wear out and it’s time to replace them, you’ll be able to get lighter, faster alternatives that really do the frame justice.
Out on the road, the F5 ﬂies. For the ﬁrst time ever on our tester’s regular Wednesday evening ride to Bristol along the bike path, he wasn’t overtaken by a single rider. This was partly down to the fact that the Felt accelerates instantly and keeps going – but also that the bike feels so light it demands to be ridden at speed, encouraging you into gut-busting, eyeball-bulging efforts. Nobody’s going to get past you, wheelsuckers are history, and all that your fellow riders are going to see are your rear lights disappearing into the distance…
Overall, it’s hard to fault the Felt’s ride quality on any level. It’s extremely lively, handling is lightning quick and the bike responds instantly to any movement of the bar. And it does so without ever being uncomfortable. The move to BB30 has contributed to an improvement in stiffness and pedalling efﬁciency, and the frame is also stiffer than last year’s version.
It still has a 27.2mm diameter carbon seatpost keeping your rear end from getting beaten up. Fast, efﬁcient and comfortable? Yes on all three counts. Pretty much the ideal qualities you want in a bike for racing, fast sportives, ﬁtness and leisure riding. We also reckon that it looks better than last year’s model too.