FELT V55 – A DISC BRAKE ADVENTURE BIKE FOR THE BUDGET CONSCIENCE
In 2015, Felt introduced the V line of Adventure Bikes, with two models: the Felt V100 at $999 and the Felt V85 at $1,499. These bikes are aimed directly at the burgeoning adventure bike market and were really good values at their particular price points with well sorted geometry and solid component specifications. For ’16, Felt has expanded their category options with the higher spec Felt V55 at $2199, which just started shipping. I just finished building a ’16 Felt V55 for a client and it is a bike worth a review as the V55 offers a lot of performance, and a high level of component spec for a very reasonable price of admission.
“An aluminum bike at $2200? Don’t I want carbon?”
As opposed to other adventure bikes I’ve recently written about like the carbon Parlee Chebacco or titanium Moots Routt, the Felt V55’s frame is constructed of hydroformed, butted, TIG welded aluminum. However, don’t be too quick to scoff at aluminum as a material. In fact, it wasn’t that long ago when aluminum was the primary material quality bicycles were build. If used properly, aluminum can offer lighter weight than steel along with excellent stiffness for power transfer. However, aluminum fell out of common use on higher quality frames in favor of carbon fiber, in part because aluminum bikes had the reputation for having a harsh ride (at it often had to be overbuilt for durability) and carbon fiber prices came down markedly (learn more about carbon fiber manufacturing here). Aluminum was often consigned to most manufacturers’ entry level bikes. However, if you pay attention to what is happening in the market, some of the major manufacturers are reintroducing higher performance aluminum models that are not restricted to their under $2,000 bikes. This is happening for a few reasons and the continued refinement of hydroformed construction is one of the reasons.
What is Hydroforming?
Hydroforming basically consists of putting a round aluminum tube into mold of the desired tube shape and then pumping hydraulic fluid into the tube at very high pressure. This causes the aluminum tube to expand until its shape matches the mold. This is all done at room temperature, without heating the aluminum, which is a good thing for the strength of the tubing. The result is tubing that has a higher stiffness-to-weight ratio than was previously possible through conventional aluminum frame construction technologies while allowing for more shaping. Hydroforming has helped aluminum to be used in frame designs beyond standard round tubing and has allowed designers to control the overall ride quality of the frame with more precision as well. Both of these are “win-win” and thus allow a well executed aluminum frame to ride much better than some of those brutally harsh over-sized aluminum frames of decades past and usually at a very competitive price.
Felt V55 Frame Geometry and Fit
Like most bikes in the adventure bike category, the overall geometry of the Felt V55 is taller and shorter than your average road bike and the center of gravity is kept low to maximize stability. For example, the bottom bracket of the Felt V55 is lower to the ground than on a cross bike while the wheelbase and chainstays, which allows the bike to accept wider and taller tires. The head tube angle on the Felt V55 is a relatively slack 71 degrees and the combination of all of these things result in a bike that rides smooth over rough road surfaces while being stable and predictable.
The carbon fiber fork is of Felt own design and manufacture, with IS mount brake tabs. The tapered fork measures 1.125″ at the top, and 1.5″ at the bottom, for increased front end stiffness and better control. The carbon fork will help absorb road shock and vibration while being stiff laterally for solid and precise handling. Felt also did a good job of putting fender mounts on the frame and fork, showing that they understand the potentially broad range of use people will put the bike through.
The ’16 Felt V55 uses standard quick release dropouts. At $2200 and with the component spec of this bike we guess that the added expense of a thru axle design was just a little too much for the current V series to offer. Quick release levers work just fine in this application, but aren’t quite as rigid and require a little bit more care when a wheel is installed than thru axle.
The Felt V55 comes in seven sizes: 43, 45, 51, 54, 56, 58, and 61cm, as do the Felt V100 and the Felt V85. While the V55 will not fit everyone, this is a broad range of sizing that will accommodate a good number of riders well. As with any bike, you don’t want to choose the bike under the assumption that it can be made to fit you after the fact. This is a big gamble and means compromise at the least and almost always additional expense in the long-term. Be sure to get a Rider First Bike Fitting first or have us use the information from your fitting to find out if the Felt V55 is a good match for your riding position. This is a guaranteed method of bike selection that is far more reliable than test riding and other variable and easily manipulated methods.
Felt V55 Drivetrain Specifications
Both the front and rear mechanical derailleurs found on the Felt V55 are Shimano Ultegra 6800. The rear derailleur is the medium cage GS model, so the bike comes equipped with a nice wide range Shimano 5800 11-32 cassette. One of the great spec choices on the Felt V55 is the Shimano Ultegra 6800 crankset, with 50/34 chainrings. If the 6800 derailleurs are a surprise at this price level, the 6800 crankset is absolutely stunning as it is one of the best functioning cranks on the market and a place where many manufacturers cut costs. We appreciate that Felt has changed some of their frames back to the “older” threaded standard and the Felt V55 is one of them. The threaded bottom bracket design is very proven and does a good job of minimizing creaks and Felt has threaded a solid set of Shimano bearings into the frame.
The 11 speed shifter/brake levers on the Felt V55 are Shimano ST-RS505. This is a Shimano 105 level component, providing full hydraulic braking with up to 10mm of in/out lever adjustment, so riders with smaller hands can reach the brake levers more comfortably. Admittedly these lever housing are not as elegant looking as some of Shimano’s other shifters as they are longer than most. However, they are high quality and the ergonomics are very good.
Felt V55 Brakes
At the price point of the ’16 Felt V55 you will frequently find bikes with mechanical disc brakes, or maybe hybrid mechanical/hydraulic, such as the TRP HY/RD. The Felt V55 features full hydraulic brakes– not only are they hydraulic brakes, but they are Shimano (ST-RS505) hydraulic brakes. The bike comes with Shimano Ice-Tech Center Lock rotors, 160 mm in the front and 140 mm in the rear. The combination provides powerful braking with good brake feel once the brake pads are bedded in. As heat build-up is a major concern in any braking system, the combination of rotor design plus the finned brake pads help to dissipate heat and Shimano’s Ice-Tech system is known to be one of the best in this regard.
It is worth noting that in our initial experience, the ST-RS505 brake levers do not have the same feel as Shimano’s top of the line hydraulic levers with more initial lever travel before pad contact. The brakes are plenty strong, but for riders used to immediate pad contact, your expectations will need to be adjusted. While there are some mountain bike disc brake levers (like SRAM’s Guide RSC) that have adjustable pad contact, we look forward to this technology eventually being applied to road hydraulic brakes. We suspect this may not be happening anytime soon though…
Felt V55 Spec Conclusion
One thing we like about the Felt V55 is that it has a very strong spec for its price with many Ultegra level parts; full hydraulic brakes and a “complete Shimano” kit without a lot of cheaper parts from “house brands” subbed in to save costs. Anyone who has ridden a bike equipped with Shimano’s latest generation of Shimano components will know that the shifting performance will be virtually flawless, both front and rear. The spec on the Felt V55 is hard to fault and will outperform many competitors in this price range.
Felt V55 Cockpit, Saddle and Wheels
The aluminum alloy handlebars on the Felt V55 are of the short and shallow variety, and are made by Felt. The stock alloy stem is Felt’s own design that and it offers rise/drop adjustment of 8 degrees or 16 degrees, depending on the alignment of a shim that is inserted between the stem and the fork steerer tube. If you have worked with Fit Werx before, you know that some of this spec matters little as we set the bike up to your needs and fit numbers in our Pro Build. This makes it easier to set the proper handlebar height for the individual rider. The Felt V55 comes equipped with a ProLogo Kappa EVO PAS saddle, mounted to Felt’s own carbon fiber seatpost.
The wheels on the Felt V55 consist of Novatec rims attached to Felt R2 Center Lock disc brake hubs. The front wheel has 24 spokes, and the rear has 28 spokes. The wheels are mounted with name brand Challenge Strada Bianca OT Pro, 700c x 30c tires. If that is not wide enough for you, the frame can accommodate tires up to 38mm wide – so a nice wide range that will meet the needs of many riders well.
If you do a great deal of dirt road riding and encounter sand and loose gravel frequently (events like the Rasputitsa or D2R2 are good examples) , you may want to consider investing in a set of wider tires and if you plan on spending the majority of your time on the pavement you may want to go a little narrower. Otherwise, ride this bike on the paved and dirt roads as is and the stock tires will treat you pretty well.
Felt V55: A Good Choice for the Rider on a Budget
All of these various elements make the Felt V55 a very capable bike for both paved roads and dirt roads. At a price of $2,199, this bike is a bargain, particularly with the drivetrain and brake spec. We also see a number of riders buy an adventure bike like the Felt V55 and then turn it into one road bike for all conditions and rides by purchasing a second set of wheels. For well under $3000, you can have your Felt V55 and a second set of wheels and brake rotors with 25mm wide tires and you now have a bike that will give up little against a standard traditional road bike on the pavement while just taking a swap of wheels to give you a great dirt road blaster too.
Looking for an all-road bike on a budget? The V55 is a very good option for any rider in this price range and that it fits well. Contact us to learn more about our fitting and bike selection services and start to find the best bike options for your needs today!