Since their relaunch in 2001, Felt have gone from strength to strength, with Bradley Wiggins riding their bikes with great success in this year’s Tour de France. The £850 Z80 boasts a lovely lightweight frame with smooth, comfortable handling.
- Frame & fork: Light and sophisticated, with a great finish too (9/10)
- Handling: Stable, neutral and with a fairly upright riding position (8/10)
- Equipment: Competent budget kit throughout, and the cyclo-cross style levers are welcome (8/10)
- Wheels: Heavyweight hoops, but made with good components (7/10)
Boasting hydroformed 7005 aluminium tubing and very neat smooth welds, the Z80's Taiwanese-made frame has both internal and external butting, helping to keep it stiff and weight down to a minimum. It weighs less than 1.5kg, which is an impressive achievement at this price, as is the speccing of a carbon seatpost.
Felt split their road bikes into several distinct ranges – aero, performance road and sportive road – and in spite of the Z80's svelte frame, it is actually part of the sportive range. One sign of its slightly less racy inclination is the extra set of brake levers on the handlebars.
Forget the bolt-on extension levers that kids sported on drop-barred bikes in the Seventies which deservedly picked up the nicknames ‘suicide levers’ and ‘death grips’. These cyclo-cross levers (also called ‘interrupter’ levers or ‘in-line’ levers) offer pretty much the same amount of pull as the drop levers, and are a massive boon if you ride a lot on the bar tops, for example if you’re continually stopping and starting during a long commute.
Another example of the Felt’s more sportive-y and novice-friendly setup than other bikes at this price is that it comes with a triple chainset. The 32in bottom gear should get most riders up just about any incline, while only the strongest riders are likely to ﬁnd the 113in top gear too low. The Z80 has a longer wheelbase than many rivals, and a taller head tube too.
The wheels aren't light (1,365g front, 1,845g rear), but Felt haven’t compromised on the quality of the components. Mavic’s CXP rims are mated to Felt’s own-brand hubs with stainless DT rims. Costs are cut with the 25mm Vittoria Zafﬁro tyres. They're hardwearing, but starting uphill in the wet they lost traction a couple of times.
Overall, though, the Felt has a hell of a lot to offer. As a long-distance commuter bike, training bike or as a leisure and ﬁtness bike it really comes into its own.
You could tackle competitive cycling on it, but its forte is a bit more laid-back than that and its weight – though far from heavy – won’t do you any favours if speed really is your thing.
The Z80 is ideal for shooting through city streets or zipping along country lanes, where you’ll ﬁnd the slightly more upright position and steady, neutral handling bang on the money. And that frame is deﬁnitely good enough to keep a few years down the line if you decide it’s time for upgrading.