Jim Felt's bikes are relative newcomers to the UK and are better known among Americans who have enjoyed his range for decades. The F75 is one model down from the F55 that heads up their aluminium range.
The frame is essentially the same tried and trusted 7005 series butted aluminium frame that is built with traditional (non-compact) geometry. The bare welds look good under a satin black paint job and the graphics don't scratch. A wishbone back end joints neatly into an aluminium spigot at the back of the seat-tube and there is a replaceable gear hanger.
This cheap and easily replaceble component can sacrificially break in the event of an accident to protect the frame and rear mech - unlike more maleable steel, aluminium can not be bent back. The carbon steerered fork with its aluminium crown and carbon blades is between 110g and 160g lighter than the others on test and is one less component to consider on the upgrade path. There are six sizes ranging from 50-60cm based on the centre of bottom bracket to top of seat-tube measurement.
The words 'traditional frame geometry' might sound old fashioned, but in essence the difference is simply down to the use of a level top-tube instead of a sloping one used on all so-called 'compact' frames. Thanks to a light fork - at this price point - the complete F75 is half a pound lighter than the others here, and this, coupled with a lower than average riding position, made it easier to jam up steep climbs.
Reaching the crest of a rise and plunging into an all-out effort on the descent, the bike's forward-biased riding position always ensures plenty of feedback for despatching fast, sweeping bends with confidence. Handlebar width is a personal thing and while these are wider than the norm, at 46cm they provide good stability for manoeuvring through heavy traffic.
The Felt almost scored a 9 here thanks to its hugely practical compact 34/50 chainset and the kit represents reasonable value for money in terms of weight and finish. While the own-branded kit isn't commercially available separately, the closest we could find to it was the Deda Big Piega bar at £25, and the four-bolt Deda Quattro stem at around £20. The seatpost is a Felt-branded product too with a setback type clamp and 27.2mm diameter carbon seat post that would be around £25 at retail prices.
The callipers are non-series Shimano but bear a close resemblance to the latest Tiagra brakes. The Felt-branded saddle was popular with the testers and the shape bares a strong resemblance to the new Velo Pronto SL line that uses double density foam bonded to a carbon base with chromoly rails, and costs around £32.
The Shimano WH-R500 wheels on the Felt are fairly basic. Their ball and axle hubs are often found to require a little adjustment to make the bearings run smoothly and they are usually found on bikes costing half the price and otherwise equipped with Shimano Tiagra groupsets. In terms of value, at £75 they are fairly average on a bike costing £1,050. In terms of performance, they weren't electrifying either and one of our heavier test riders mentioned that the rims flexed too much when powering up climbs.
On a positive note, we haven't heard of any reported spoke breakages and the nipples can be adjusted easily using a traditional spoke key. The Vittoria Rubino Slick tyres have a larger air space than the others and we have found them to be a little more resistant to pinch punctures as a result.
The Felt falls just short of expectations for the £1,050 asking price, and while the low front end lends itself well to time trialling, the level of equipment could have been better. On top of this, the indifferent ride makes it an average performer in this company.
Frame geometry: Aside from the usual frame angle figures and tube lengths, frame type is generally referred to as either 'compact' (sloping top-tube - downwards from front to back), semi compact (slightly sloping top-tube) and traditional geometry (level top-tube)
Gear hanger: Sacrificial bit of metal that attaches your rear mech to the frame. In an accident it will bend or break instead of your aluminium frame
Specialized Allez Elite £899
Giant TCR Zero £1,099
Focus Variado £599
BH L60 £1,279-£1,399
Specialized Allez Elite £899 The Elite 2007 is based on a full aluminium frame, Shimano 105 groupset together with FSA chainset, Mavic CXP22 rims and has a carbon/alu/ carbon fork commonly seen on bikes costing over a grand. Specialized - +44 (0)1159 775900 www.specialized.com
Giant TCR Zero £1,099 The TCR uses Giant's proprietary Aluxx aluminium tubing throughout and looks like sound value for money based on a full complement of Shimano Ultegra equipment, together with Giant-branded wheels and finishing kit. Giant - +44 (0)1159 775900 www.giant-bicycle.com
Focus Variado £599 Came a resounding 3rd in our 'Budget race bike of the year 2006' and is now probably the best value bike currently available for less than a grand. The Focus has a fully butted aluminium frame with semi- compact geometry, and the spec is based on 105 triple and Shimano's WH-R550 wheels. www.wiggle.co.uk
BH L60 £1,179 This took 1st place in the C 2006 awards (C 191), winning 2006 Race Bike of the Year. The Shimano 105-equipped BH L60 is a pound lighter than you would expect for this money and is currently discounted down to an incredible £1,179. BH - +44 (0)7977 157223 www.bhbikes.com