’15 Felt F5X Cyclocross Bike Review
We have been carrying Felt bicycles for over five years now. Several years ago, Felt introduced a new line of cyclocross bikes and in February, 2012, I wrote a brief review of the Felt F4X. I was very impressed by the ride quality of the Felt F4X, as well as the spec that the bike offered; it offered excellent value and was a very strong bike in its price point. Felt revamped and updated its cyclocross line of bicycles for 2015 and we recently built a ’15 Felt F5X for a cyclocross racing client. I found this bike so appealing, and such a good deal, that it compelled me to give it a write up too!
At $2199, the ’15 Felt F5X offers a full carbon fiber frame and an aluminum steerer tube equipped carbon legged fork. The frame is constructed of Felt’s UHC Performance MCC carbon fiber and the ’15 Felt F5X uses the same carbon fiber frame found in the top of the line Felt F2X – a $6000 bike. The fork is tapered from 1 1/8″ at the upper bearing to 1.5″ at the bottom, to provide increased lateral stiffness in the front end. This frame design provides a comfortable, stable, and responsive ride, echoing my favorable opinion of the previous generation Felt F4X. The ’15 Felt F5X comes with a nice frame. If you choose to upgrade components over time, you won’t be throwing your money away.
The shifters and derailleurs on the ’15 Felt F5X are Shimano’s new 5800 11 speed 105 components. The 105 series continues to offer very good performance for the price. Shimano 105 frequently offers many similar features and construction to Ultegra, but using slightly heavier construction and materials. The rear derailleur that comes on the bike is Shimano’s “short cage” design, meaning that the largest cassette cog in the rear cannot exceed 28 teeth. For a nominal charge, this derailleur could be swapped out for Shimano’s “medium cage” 5800 design that will handle cassettes with a 32 tooth largest cog. The new 11 speed Shimano 105 series shares the basic design elements of Shimano’s revamped Ultegra and Dura Ace 11 speed road series and, like Ultegra 6800 and Dura Ace 9000, the shifting is lighter and more precise than previous generations. Shift cables, housings, and cable ends are of Shimano’s new design, with the cables being polymer coated. As skeptical as I was about these new Shimano polymer cables and housings making much difference, I admit to having been mistaken in my doubts. The new Shimano polymer cables and housings really do make a difference in shifting quality and effort. For the budget conscious rider, Shimano 105 components are an excellent choice, giving much of the features and durability of its big brothers, but at a reduced price. Ride it or race it and it is up to the task.
The brakes on the ’15 Felt F5X are TRP HY/RD hydraulic disk units. The TRP HY/RD hydraulic disk brakes are a very interesting hybrid brake design. The system is a combination of cable-actuated brakes and hydraulic disk brakes. The Shimano 105 STI shifter brake levers on the Felt F5X pull a standard metal brake cable, as though they were actuating traditional caliper rim brakes. However, instead of operating a caliper brake, the cable connects to a hydraulic disk brake caliper. The hydraulic master cylinder in the caliper engages the brake pistons. I was immediately impressed with the performance of the TRP HY/RD hydraulic brakes. Comparable cross bikes in this price range usually come with cantilever-type brakes, or just mechanical disk brakes and I found that the TRP HY/RD brakes not only work much better than cantilever brakes, but they also out-performed mechanical disks. While not providing the same strength or modulation as fully hydraulic disk brakes such as the new Shimano R675 Hydraulic or the SRAM Hydro (there is still cable stretch and housing flex that robs the brakes), the feel and modulation of the TRP HY/RD is quite good. Once “bedded in”, the brakes require only a light touch, as the hydraulics are supplying the force, not your hand muscles. All in all, the TRP HY/RD brakes found on the ’15 Felt F5X are well sorted and are a great brake on a bike of this price.
The rest of the components on the Felt F5X are what one would expect. The crankset is the solid and ubiquitous FSA Gossamer BB30 crankset, with 46/36 chainring combination, the standard chainring configuration for cyclocross bikes. The wheels are Felt’s own design, with disk brake specific hubs and Felt rims that are tubeless clincher ready. The rims are shod with the versatile Vittoria Cross XL tires. While these are not tubeless tires, they are a high quality clincher CX tire from a reputable manufacturer. The saddle is a name brand Prologo Nago Evo X10 T2.0, while the stem, handlebars, and seatpost are aluminum and of Felt’s own design. While some “house brand” components can be questionable, Felt does a better job than most in this department. Felt product designers have created handlebars/stems and posts that are functional and well built for the ’15 Felt F5X.
All in all, the ’15 Felt F5X is a no nonsense and well equipped bike for the surprisingly low price of $2,200. The Felt F5X is compliant, accelerates well and handles sharply – all the hallmarks of a nice cyclocross bike. Felt bikes have always offered better than average frames, with parts of a higher quality than usually expected for the price, representing excellent value. The ’15 Felt F5X continues this tradition. Whether you are thinking of dipping a toe in the cyclocross racing world, or are just looking for a bike to tackle the myriad dirt back roads during the rainy season, check out the ’15 Felt F5X, or indeed Felt’s entire line of new cross bikes. If a Felt F5X cross bike fits you well, rest assured that you will be getting a bike offering a lot of frame and component for the money.
Contact a Fit Werx location near Boston, NYC/NJ or near Burlington, VT for more information or to make an appointment.