The impression I got from my first ride of the Breed Carbon gravel bike is that it’s a very promising all-rounder. Fast for sprints and relatively lightweight, it was a pleasure on the flat and on climbs. And when the trail pointed downwards, I felt confident in the handling and my position on the bike. It’ll take more riding with tyres better suited to the terrain to reach a firm conclusion on the trail-aspect of the performance, though.
Stiff platform for sprinting
Lots of clearance
Not super lightweight
The routing of the external cables around the cockpit
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Felt has shifted its focus to concentrate primarily on the performance market - with the Breed Carbon gravel race bike being one of the first models to be launched under this new egis.
Although Felt is very much still a Californian brand - with its headquarters on the Pacific coast - its parent company, Pierer Mobility is based just north Salzburg, a historic city in the foothills of the Austrian Alps.
Having covered the release of the Felt Breed Carbon on the day previous, next up was the first ride.
Driving out just 10 minutes and following the river Salzach upstream, the varied terrain allowed for a little bit of everything - from the ‘prime gravel’ along the banks of the river to the mix of single- and double-track twisting its way up, around and through the hills and forests lining the valley floor.
Sprinting and the flat
With the route encompassing such a range of tracks, trails and tarmac, a chronological description of the ride feels like what would make the most sense. With that in mind, let’s wind right back to the very start with a few car-park sprints to bed-in my test bike’s virgin pads and rotors.
Counterbalancing those initial high-torque pedal strokes with heavy pulls on the alloy bars, that leverage didn’t elicit any notable flex from the boxy headtube. And it was a similar story at the rear, with the connection from the cranks to the hub feeling super direct and without watts being wasted in torsion around the BB shell.
These sensations married up with the overbuilt tube shapes and Felt’s design decision to go with a more ‘robust’ lay up of carbon. It was a conscious choice not to go into battle for the title of ‘lightest gravel bike’, preferring instead to opt for a build that puts a bit more of a focus on durability and resilience to knocks.
Don’t get me wrong, in this SRAM Force 1x12 build with Zipp 303s carbon wheels, the Breed Carbon still felt a lightweight bike - it just didn’t have quite that particular feathery feel of a bike that’s around the six-point-something mark, such as the Specialized Crux for instance.
The first part of the ride proper followed the river Salzach, rolling along the wide and smooth shared-access path. With hardly anyone else around, it was easy to tap along at a decent pace and, having slammed the stem and being at the upper end of a size medium/54cm frame, I was able to get low enough at the front to be feeling quite efficient.
The tyre choice really added to that, with 38c Vittoria Terreno Dry 2.0 semi slick tyres front and rear having such low rolling resistance and easily soaking up the minor imperfections of the trail. Beyond the speed and efficiency, with the trail being so smooth straight and flat, there isn’t a great deal more to say about this part of the ride - it’s the climbing and descending where there’s the most to discuss.
After swinging off the valley path, the first section of climbing that presented itself was a series of tight, tarmacked switchbacks. Thanks to the reasonably light weight and fast rolling tyres, that feeling of efficiency continued up the hill - which in turn encouraged pressing a little harder, rather than accepting defeat and knocking it into the smaller gears to winch up.
With a sufficiently long front centre and the slack 70.5 degree fork, I didn’t have to coordinate my pedal strokes to accommodate any toe overlap on those tighter turn. Very much appreciated and also much less common a feature than really it should be.
The road then started to give way to gravel, ultimately turning into a soft and damp forest trail - with the gradient steadily increasing all the while. It was at this point that the Breed Carbon’s capabilities began to get masked by the tyre choice.
Those semi slicks - and in only a moderate width - just didn’t have the necessary contact patch or knob height that the terrain really demanded. But with that said, there was only actually one point during the ride that I wasn’t able to regain control after breaking traction at the rear.
With a seat tube angle of 74 degrees, I was able to get into the positions I wanted on the saddle, balancing my weight distribution pretty well between the front and the rear. Helpfully, the front wheel was pretty easy to keep tracking straight and didn’t have a tendency to wander or flop at these slower speeds.
Although it would have been more enjoyable to ride tyres maximising on the clearance the Breed Carbon offers and with taller knobs, I can understand the reasoning behind the choice. Tyres, after all, are very location specific and there is no one model that will suit all people in all terrains.
Felt believes that the riding that most people buying the Breed Carbon will have access to is best matched by a set of semi slicks and so that’s what the bikes are coming set up with - therefore, that’s what the test bikes are specced with.
In terms of testing the actual bike Felt is selling, it makes sense using the stock spec on this first ride. To get a full picture of the bike, though, we’ll be getting one sent over for a review and that’ll give the opportunity to swap in some more appropriate rubber.
Coming now to the descending, there were similar issues with the tyres and the grip and cushioning. But in the interests of seeing the performance, I did my best to push it as far as I could.
On the tarmac switchbacks, the bike felt great. I felt super confident in really pushing it and was able to take the corners fast and tight. Naturally it didn’t have that razor sharp and super quick handling of a road bike, but it was still fast. And, in having that confidence, I was able to really maximise my speed.
On the more technical corners with a heavy layer of shingle, and also off-camber turns in the woods with a mulchy covering of leaves over the roots, I simply wasn’t able to push the bike sufficiently hard to get a real feeling of it.
But on the rocky and rooty straight sections, with no deviation in line, the bike felt quite good. The front end was easy to keep tracking on my chosen line, not feeling skittish or unpredictable and the rear end, although longer than other racy gravel bikes at 430mm compared to 425mm, I didn’t get so much of the feeling of disconnect and getting hooked up as longer chainstay’d 435mm gravel bikes (which is the majority).
I will need to ride it with my own set of tyres and on familiar trails, but the experience was quite promising in all.
The Felt Breed Carbon impressed as a promising all-rounder. Relatively lightweight and responsive for sprints, it was a pleasure on both climbs and the flat. Plus, when the trail turned downwards, I did feel confident in the handling and my position on the bike.
Of course, it'll take more riding on familiar trails and tyres better suited to the terrain to get the full picture - so stay tuned for that.
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