The Felt F85 is a snappy, race-ready bike. Of the eight bikes in our “Best Road Bikes Under $1,000” test, the Felt has the raciest geometry, with a stiff frame and fork to reward sprint efforts and hard cornering.
If you aren’t looking to race — or to ride group rides like races — then the Felt might not be the bike for you. The hyper-responsive chassis also felt somewhat harsh when riding on rough paved sections and choppy dirt roads.
Ride and handling: Great on smooth pavement and in turns, but harsh on rough roads
We tested all our “Best Road Bikes Under $1,000” on two circuits: a 2,500-vertical-foot climb up Flagstaff Mountain followed by a winding descent back down, and then a 10km dirt loop. The Felt excelled on the Flagstaff descent, tracking predictably through corners without any noticeable flex. On the dirt loop, however, the Felt’s stiffness felt a little rough.
Frame: Race geometry in stiff aluminum
The Felt F85 has the shortest head tube in our “Best Road Bikes Under $1,000” test. While all the others have heat tubes of at least 170mm (for a 56cm bike), the Felt sports a race 150mm head tube. This means you can get into a very aggressive aero position.
Of course, your handlebar height isn’t fixed by your head-tube height; a combination of spacers underneath your stem, plus stem length and angle, determine bar height. However, head-tube height does determine how low you can go. If you want a very aggressive position, the KHS Flite 450, with its 190mm head tube, is not for you.
The 1,317g frame (claimed weight for a 56cm) features a butted 7005 aluminum frame, with a carbon fork that has a tapered (1.125in to 1.5in) aluminum steerer tube.
Equipment: Ready for flat speed, not long-and-easy mountain jaunts
As with all the bikes in the “Best Road Bikes Under $1,000” test, the F85 features a compact 50/34 crank (a standard crank has bigger 53/39 chain rings). But the cassette is 11-25, which is among the smallest in the test. Chain rings and cassette cogs have an inverse relationship: bigger chain rings mean more gear, more speed and more effort, while bigger cassette cogs mean a smaller gear, less speed but less effort — especially when going uphill. So, as with the geometry — the Felt is set up for race-like efforts, not long-and-easy jaunts up into the hills.
Two of the bikes in the test have 10-speed Microshift shifters; the other six have 9-speed Shimano shifters. In addition to the extra gear, the Microshift system features a somewhat unique type of shifting, with two buttons on the outside of the brake lever.
The Mavic CXP-22N wheels are decent quality, and the Shimano 105 rear derailleur is the best in this class.