The UHC carbon frame is new for 2013, and in the well-priced Z5 you’re getting a superbly smooth, sportive-focused ride.
Frame & equipment: Classy at its core
The original Z-Series carbon frame combined endurance-focused geometry and decent components at competitive prices. More recently, though, the frame has been starting to show its age, lacking provision for electronic drivetrains and needing to lose a few grams to keep up with the competition.
For 2013, the Z-Series carbon has been revamped from the ground up. Not that you’d know from its classy, understated looks and the gratefully received absence of overstated acronyms.
The front end has an all new, all carbon fork with a steerer that tapers from 1 1/8in to 1 1/2in. The ridged central spine on the fork legs continues into the oversized head tube. These ridges change the profile into a more oval shape, which Felt claim bolsters front-end stiffness.
This leads into a square-profile, oversized down tube flowing into a huge BB30 compatible bottom bracket. Oversized chainstays lead into full carbon dropouts that kick upwards in their final few inches, flowing in one continuous piece into slender seatstays.
The bottom half of the frame is all about stiffness and power transfer, while the top sections are designed to offer comfort. The top tube starts wide and broad but quickly tapers down to a very slender joint with the equally slim seat tube. Pinned into this is Felt’s UHC carbon seatpost, in a 27.2mm diameter.
Ride & handling: Quick to react, with sublime bump absorption
Getting on board the Z5 and hitting the Tarmac, it becomes immediately apparent that this bike has ample bump- and buzz-reducing abilities running through its DNA.
The ride is defined by its smoothness, and that’s impressive seeing as Felt haven’t resorted to fitting a 25c tyre, instead relying on Mavic’s standard 23c Aksiums, which come as part of the wheelset package. We’d love to try the Z5 with 25s, and expect that change would turn it into a cobble-busting blaster perfect for the Classics.
The ride position is quite upright, though the geometry of a 72.5-degree head angle and 73-degree seat angle, combined with a 200mm head tube and 575mm effective top tube length, isn’t particularly relaxed.
We quickly dropped the stem down, as it comes with more than an inch of spacers below. We would have dropped it further but a cone-shaped headset bearing top limits slamming it down more.
Despite the slightly elevated position, the Z5 still has behaves impressively – the beefed-up front end reacts quickly without getting nervy, and never gets dramatic, even under out-of-the-saddle power efforts. The long, 1,022mm wheelbase adds plenty of stability but does dull the edges a little when you’re snapping through a pack or railing through S-bends.
The 105 gearing works as smoothly and efficiently as you’d expect. Felt have taken a considered approach to gearing, specifying a 50/34 compact combined with a wide-ranging 11-32T cassette. That gives a decent gear for speed and a 34/32 bailout that will get you up and over the toughest of climbs.
The new Z5 is a significant improvement over the old model; it’s lighter, smoother and better equipped for less cash. That’s something well worth shouting about.