Felt bikes have brought a ray or two of Californian sunshine into the lives of many Brits since Bradley Wiggins posted the nation’s best Tour de France performance in a couple of decades on one.
The Felt Z85 is another reason for us to be happy. At this price point it’s rare to find such a beautifully designed and manufactured bike. It costs well under £1,000, which is often regarded as the starting price for a ‘proper’ road bike, but apart from the fact that it’s made from aluminium rather than carbon, and runs a Shimano Tiagra groupset – which is more or less a quarter the cost of Dura-Ace 7900 – there’s no suggestion of cheapness about it whatsoever.
The frame is made from butted 7005 aluminium with some hydroformed stiffening features such as the ‘spine’ that emerges as top tube meets seat tube. Welding is smooth at the head and seat tube joints and more industrial looking at the bottom bracket. A Felt-branded carbon fork and carbon seatpost provide vibration damping.
The Z85’s geometry says that it is aimed at the sportive rider – a sensible decision that’s up to date with the current trend in road cycling. The longer head tube and proportionately shorter cockpit length means a more comfortable position, although the head and seat angles – 72.5° and 74° respectively on the size 54cm – are no different from those of a race bike, so you’re getting the best of both worlds.
The Tiagra groupset is where it starts to get serious in Shimano’s line-up, and we think the shifting and braking performance is perfectly good. The chainset and bottom bracket share the same Hollowtech II design as Dura-Ace, with external bearings, providing a stiff drivetrain.
Alex R500 rims on Felt’s own 32-hole hubs are OK, but if you wanted to make the bike lighter and more responsive, the wheels would be the place to start.
All the own-branded Felt equipment is attractively colour matched and works well.
One of the highlights of the Z85 for us is the attention to detail in areas that many manufacturers wouldn’t even think about. The red anodised ferrules at the ends of the white cables are a smart, custom touch, and you get matching red bottle cage bolts and the replaceable rear mech hanger is even red, too. The black cable-rub stoppers at the head tube have the Felt logo etched onto them in white.
All in all, it's an excellent bike and we've never seen a better-looking one for this price.