Despite Felt's reputation as a race-focused brand, the American company's V series bikes stray completely from the world of marginal gains to instead favour a sense of off-road adventure.
Much like the acclaimed GT Grade and the Norco Search, the V85 and V100 are bikes designed to take on a plethora of riding surfaces from Tarmac, to gravel roads, gritty tracks or even non-technical singletrack.
Such versatility comes thanks to a butted, hydroformed aluminium frame with smooth TIG welds. There's clearance for up to 38mm tyres as well as a dropped BB and longer wheelbase for increased stability. This is also aided by a 71-degree head tube angle (size 54), which Felt road brand manager Dave Koesel describes as “almost like a mountain bike front-end” and indeed the brand is sure to court off-road riders who don't fancy the constraints of a traditional road-only machine.
Standard rack and fender mounts mean the V-series bikes can be loaded up as tourers while a traditional 68mm threaded bottom bracket means wide BB compatibility should you need spares during a far flung tour. Naturally, the bikes are disc equipped too.
The hydroformed frame looks smooth with its clean lines
The V85 (£1,175 / US$1,400 / AU$TBC) offers the best spec of the pair with a full Shimano 105 11-speed groupset that offers a 50/34t crankset and 11-32t cassette that can handle just about any climb. Felt's RSL3 Disc wheels are 22mm wide, tubeless ready and wrapped in 28mm Vittoria Zaffiro tyres. The flexibility offered in terms of frame clearance means you can tailor tyre selection to the sort of riding you'll be doing.
IS mounts attach the cable-actuated TRP Spyre disc brakes to the tapered carbon fork and seatstay. The V85 also has a 27.2mm carbon fork for additional comfort.
The V100 (£700 / US$850 / AU$TBC) has eight-speed Shimano Claris shifting, an FSA Tempo crankset (on a square taper BB) and eight-speed compatible RSL4 Disc wheels. These are specced with 32mm Zaffiro tyres as standard. The V100 also mirrors the 50/34t front and 11-32t rear gearing, though it's likely to be a bit gappy with only eight cogs to choose from. The bike gets the same carbon fork as its more expensive sibling, but an alloy seatpost. Braking comes courtesy of cable-actuated Tektro Mira discs.
The cockpit of both bikes uses the brand's CXR SuperLite alloy bar along with its clever VariableAngle stem, which allows around 50mm of height adjustment without touching the headset spacers. Felt has included Tektro top mount levers to maintain braking control with hands on the top of the bars. There are also flat-bar versions of the bikes available for those not cool with dropped bars.
The spec and pricing pitches both machines in the first road bike category, though Felt is working on adding carbon-framed models to the bike in the future. The pricelist also shows a V55 model available for £1,750 – we didn't see this at Felt's 2016 launch in Wiesbaden, Germany, so will update with specs as we get them.
Felt V85 - First Ride Impressions
On Tarmac, the V85 feels much like any other road bike. It rolls well with little sense that you're losing a lot of speed due to the off-road friendly spec, nor is handling at all sluggish. The bike's clearly more comfortable over cracked roads than a narrow-tyred road bike. The wide rubber dissipates the brunt of the buzz without troubling the hands, giving a sense of confident control even as the road degenerates into cracked rubble in places.
Looking to test over rougher stuff, I took the first possible opportunity to ride the bike over a gravelly section and it's here the bike really shone. The way it smoothed the loose bumpy surface of the gritty roadside track was impressive. Potholes held no fear and despite plenty of chain and cable rattle, none of the chatter reached the fingertips in a way that compromised steering. A few deliberate skids, some side to side thrashing of the bars and rolling right off the road and across a grassy, dried mud verge failed to elicit any sign of consternation from the V85 – it remained totally composed. All this made me want to stay on the gravel, smiling broadly, despite the ribbon of Tarmac a few feet away.
The 28mm tyres have plenty of give for rougher surfaces
The Selle Royal Look saddle on my test bike is topped with squidgy gel that would only make sense without a chamois pad. After feedback from Bikeradar and other journalists attending Felt's 2016 launch, the call was quickly made to spec a firmer saddle for the European market.
The V85's not a lightweight climber – and isn't designed to be. The heft is obvious on climbs, but the compact crankset and wide cassette range mean you can spin up virtually anything without much drama. There's no discernible give from the frame itself, nor noise from the rotors, when working out the saddle up steeper inclines.
Braking power was a bit underwhelming in terms of discs, with performance similar to rim brakes. However, this was a factory fresh bike with no bedding in time. Even so, I'd put a cable-actuated brake with a hydraulic chamber, such as the TRP Hy/Rd, on the upgrade list. The top mounted levers went largely unused, but didn't get in the way while spinning up hills. Control remains better from the hoods when on the rough stuff too.
Utterly stable and great fun to ride, the V85 could be a fine companion for mixed surface rides when you're seeking to get away from the roads, explore the world and have fun in the process.
We'll have a full review once we've tested the bike fully.