Felt’s flagship cyclocross bike has gone through many revisions over the years. When BikeRadar first reviewed the F1X in 2008 it was a budget-friendly aluminum bike. Four years later, it’s a no holds barred race machine with a full carbon frame, premium component package, and price tag to match.
Ride & handling: Forgiving ride with predictable handling
On paper, there’s nothing particularly noteworthy about the geometry of Felt’s cyclocross bikes. The F1X blends old world ideas of cyclocross geometry with a dash of the North American inclination toward lower and slacker ’cross steeds.
The result is a bike with handling that’s instantly comfortable, predictable in most situations and requires minimal rider input while navigating tight and twisty courses.
Unlike many of the new school cyclocross bikes, with slacker head tube angles, the F1X doesn’t have to be muscled through tight turns. On the flipside, you do have to be more attentive during high-speed maneuvers.
The F1X shares the same carbon frame as Felt’s three lower-priced carbon cyclocross bikes. The use of premium carbon and a molding process that eliminates excess material from the inside of the frame keeps frame weight low – our 53cm tester was a very respectable 1,100g.
Should you prefer to choose your own components or aren’t planning to make the leap to disc brakes anytime soon, Felt offers the F1X as a frameset in both cantilever and disc versions for US$2,069 (£1,449 cantilever, £1,499 disc in the UK).
The F1X isn’t the stiffest carbon ’cross bike we’ve ridden, and that’s a good thing. The frame is appreciably stiff and responsive, yet still forgiving enough that it absorbs chatter from rough and rutted courses without skittering around or leaving you more beat up than you expected after an hour of racing.
Frame & equipment: Interesting top-notch build with great geometry
At first glance, the F1X has a distinctly cobbled together look. The glossy black legs of the 3T Luteus Team fork stand in stark contrast to the matte carbon frame, the WickWerks chainrings seem mismatched on the SRAM Red crankset, and the Mavic Crossmax SLR wheels might as well have been stripped off a 29er mountain bike to complete the build.
A bit of aesthetic dissonance isn’t always a bad thing, though, particularly when the components are all top shelf (as they should be for the asking price). Upon closer inspection, the F1X has the appearance of a bike assembled by the fast guy who turns wrenches at your local bike shop to fund his racing habit – parts carefully selected for their performance, not their visual appeal.
SRAM’s redesigned Red group is used for the controls, derailleurs, cranks and cassette – all of which performed flawlessly. Felt chose to use WickWerks chainrings because, according to company road product manager Dave Koesel, “SRAM never got around to creating the 46/36-tooth chainring combination for their new ‘Yaw-Type’ front derailleur and X-Glide shifting design.”
An internally routed Di2 setup is possible
Additionally, the latest iteration of the SRAM Red crankset places one of the five arms behind the crankarm, so while other 46/36T chainrings could have worked, the pin that prevents a dropped chain from lodging behind the crankarm would be in the wrong place.
Felt’s mountain bike team uses WickWerks chainrings, so the brand is a logical supplier. It was hard to discern to what extent the WickWerks chainrings affected front shifting relative to SRAM’s redesigned Red derailleur. In any case, front shift performance was outstanding, even under pressure.
The 3T Luteus Team fork impressed us with its massive mud clearance and impressive stiffness. 3T also supplies the F1X’s cockpit. The ARX Team stem is paired with 3T’s cyclocross-specific Ergoterra Team carbon handlebar.
Despite the fact that carbon seatposts are still frequently shunned by amateur and pro racers alike, the 3T Palladio Team post proved up to the task. Cosmetically, it looks like any other single-bolt seatpost, but inside the head are two toothed rings, one nesting inside the other, that adjust the seat angle in half-degree increments.
Dialing in your fit is a bit of a chore, as the seatpost has to be disassembled to make angle tweaks. The benefit is that once a rider settles on their position, there’s little to no chance that the saddle will shift during poorly executed remounts.
Felt placed on emphasis on making the F1X available to consumers before this season’s cyclocross season got underway, when the lighter Avid BB7 SL mechanical disc brakes weren’t yet available. The differences between the SLs and the tried and true BB7 Road model include the use of titanium hardware, aluminum-backed brake pads and a lighter rotor.
Felt saw fit to shave grams by replacing the Avid rotors with Ashima’s copiously machined AiRotors. Braking performance was acceptable – not quite as good as with Avid’s stock rotors (the trade-off for lightweight rotors that are barely there) – but worlds better than with cantilever brakes.
The portion of the build that raised the most eyebrows was the wheelset. Mavic’s Crossmax SLR 29 wheelset is appreciably stiff and, at 1,620g, reasonably light – though by no means as light as many tubular wheelsets.
“This was a tough choice for us,” said Koesel. “The first instinct was to use some premium disc hubs and lace them to some carbon rims and drop some tubular tires in the box. After considerable feedback from our sales reps and dealers, the idea of a superlight yet versatile tubeless option was chosen.
“We tested wheels from a number of different vendors and the near instant engagement of the new FTS-L Mavic freehub and incredible stiffness of the Crossmax design made it a perfect choice.”
Vittoria’s Cross XG Pro tires have proven to be good all-rounders
The Crossmax SL 29 wheels were mated to Vittoria’s tubeless Cross XG Pro tires and performed without any problems. Weekend warriors might appreciate the ability to use one high-end wheelset and swap tires to suit conditions, while those who own a 29er may enjoy having another wheelset in their quiver.
The only component that didn't mesh with the overall feel of a rig built by a knowledgeable mechanic was the inclusion of SRAM's XG 1090 cassette. While light, this cassette has a well-deserved reputation for its inability to clear mud and debris – the reason most SRAM-sponsored cyclocross racers opt to run the PG 1070 model instead. The recently introduced XG 1090 Cyclocross Cassette would be a better choice for next year’s F1X.
Overall, the F1X leaves little to be desired in terms of performance and spec. The price is high but no corners have been cut in creating an appreciably light, race-ready cyclocross bike.