By Jim Weaver, Service Manager, Fit Werx, VT It is Interbike (the annual industry trade show) time again and the latest in bike technology is coming out and the new models are being introduced. With that, I try to keep my eyes open for some of the best values. Several years ago I wrote an article about the Felt Z5. At the time, the Z5 was a well equipped bike featuring Shimano 105 components and a full carbon frame and fork, for $2,200. It was a great bargain. Well, looking over the 2014 offerings from the manufacturers we represent, the Felt Z5 once again jumped out as a particularly good bargain. Here are a few of the reasons why:
The ’14 Felt Z5 offers a full carbon frameset, in fact, it offers the same frameset used in the two next higher models, the ’14 Felt Z4 (a $2,100 SRAM Rival equipped bike), and the ’14 Felt Z3 at $3000, equipped with Shimano 6800 11-speed components. This is not an entry level full carbon frame. The geometry of the Z series Felt bicycles is Felt’s most versatile road geometry, fitting the widest range of riders in Felt’s line. I have always liked the way the Z series Felt bikes ride, offering a good combination of performance and comfort.
The Z5 comes equipped with Shimano 105 shifters and derailleurs. While not quite as light and precise as Ultegra, the 105 group is still an exceptional bargain in performance road components. The bottom bracket is BB30 equipped with an FSA Omega crankset and the wheels have Felt hubs and Mavic CXP-22 rims. The cockpit is Felt’s own stem and handlebars, supported by an FSA headset.
This would make for a decent bike for $2,200, which is what it ran a couple years ago, but Felt has somehow priced the Z5 at $1,699 ($500 less) for ’14; it is a total steal. While the crankset and the wheels are not up to par with the frame and the rest of the components, the wheels are durable and the crank works fine and can be upgraded down the road or at the time of purchase. I will not hold the wheels against Felt, as wheels are an almost universally “weak point” for production bikes. In the interest of meeting certain price points, manufacturers almost equip bikes with wheels that do not perform up to the level of the frame and other components. Interestingly, you could upgrade both the cranks and the wheels and still be in the $2000 range on the ’14 Felt Z5. If you go to a nice smooth wheel like the Reynolds Solitude or Easton EA70 you will still be under $2,500 and you will have a great riding and performing bike that will compete with bikes costing over $3,000. Indeed, it will likely have better wheels than most $3000 bikes on the market!
All in all, the ’14 Felt Z5, as equipped from Felt, is a bargain as it offers a frame that is levels above its price range and solid derailleurs and shifters. And, with a few judicious upgrades, this bike will compete well against bikes costing many hundreds of dollars (if not a thousand) more. Despite the budget price, this is a bike that will not disappoint the performance-minded road rider. If it fits you well, the Felt Z5 is one of the very best bikes under $2000 that money can buy.