Felt VR5 – A Frame First Carbon Disc Gravel Capable Road Bike

The component specifications for the Felt VR5 are very similar to those of the VR30, but there is one glaring difference between the two bikes – the VR5 has a carbon fiber frame while the VR30 uses an aluminum frame to help it hit a lower price point.  So, where does the value lie? Is it with the lower priced alloy frame VR30 ($1699) or with the lighter, smoother and laterally stiffer carbon frame for $800 more (complete bike $2499)? We’ve reviewed the VR30 already and provided an overview of the entire VR line, so here is our take on the VR5.2017-felt-vr5

Felt VR5 Carbon Frame Construction

The Felt VR5 frame is constructed using Felt’s MMC method.  In summary, this means that Felt molds major pieces of the frame as a unit, rather than having myriad individual pieces that are then bonded together.  Felt also utilizes what it calls its Inside/Out molding process to reduce the incidence of excess carbon fiber and gain better control of resin application. The result is very smooth and finished internal frame walls and, in our experience to date, a frame that not only rides well, but holds up quite well.

Felt uses its own UHC Advanced carbon fiber for the VR5 frame. The carbon fiber used in the frame, and the way that carbon is laid up, works its usual magic, providing a smoother ride than the aluminum VR30, filtering out much of the road shock and high frequency vibration thafelt-vr5-dropoutt an aluminum frame tends to transmit to the rider, while also offering a stiff platform for power transmission to the road.  In our tests, we found the bike to be very comfortable, meaning lots of vertical compliance in the frame and fork, but not flexy or whimpy.  I have found a few disc brake bike that, when pedaling hard out of the saddle, I can hear the brake rotors “swishing” against the brake pads, meaning that the frame is flexing, presumably in the chainstays.  Not much, mind you, as the space between a disc brake and the brake pads is minimal, but they are flexing to some extent.  In our test rides we heard nothing of the sort, which is a good sign for the bike’s resistance to lateral flex. Compared to the aluminum frame equipped VR30, the carbon fiber frame’s lighter weight, vibration damping and additional lateral stiffness are all appreciated.

Like the VR30, the fork steerer and headtube are tapered, the bottom bracket is of the BB386 design, the seat tube is oversized and the dropouts are thru axle.   The fork is full carbon fiber, at it is on the VR30, with a tapered steerer tube.

Felt VR5 Components – Haven’t We Seen This Before?

The shifters and brakes are the same as on the VR30, namely Shimano RS505, and the derailleurs are Shimano 105 as well.  In fact, the Felt VR5 drivetrain and brake spec, with the exception of the crank, is identical to the VR5. The only drivetrain difference between the VR30 and the VR5 is the crankset.  The VR5 crank is upgraded to the FSA Gossamer Pro.  The chainrings on the Felt VR5 are 48/32, so not quite as low as the VR30, but still lower than the conventional road compact double combination of 50/34.  With the stock 11-32 cassette, the gear ratio (obviously) is 1:1. In the end, we have no complaints on the spec, as these components work just as well on the VR5 as they did on the VR30 and the better crankset takes off some weight and shifts a bit better too.

The weight of the VR5 in a 56cm comes in at 19.6 pounds. This is almost two pounds less than the VR30 –  a pretty big difference.

Felt VR5 Wheels and Cockpit

With the exception of the saddle, which is upgraded to the Prologo Kappa Space PAS on the VR5, the remainder of the contact point components on the Felt VR5, such as the cockpit and seatpost, are the same and the VR30, and are all be Felt.  The wheels for the VR5 are the same as on the VR30, featuring 28 spoke hubs, and wide, tubeless ready alloy rims, but instead of the Vittoria Zaffiro tires on the VR30, the VR5 comes with  Vittoria Rubino Pro 700 X 28’s, a step up the performance ladder from the Zaffiro.  While the tires say “28mm” on them, on the 19mm wide rims foudn on the Felt VR5, these tires actually measure 29.5mm wide.

Felt VR5 or Felt VR30? Which is the Best Value?

Assuming that the Felt VR series of bikes fits you well (get a Rider First Bike Fitting before you buy…), there is no advantage or disadvantage to the VR5 or the VR30 in terms of fit and frame geometry as they are identical. While the VR5 has slightly nicer components, I’m not going to tell you that is a big advantage of the VR5 as components are relatively inexpensive to change and the differences are fairly small. The real decision maker for me is your goals with your bike. The VR30 is a really good package bike that offers a lot of “bang for the buck” for someone looking for a great road bike for well under $2K. The VR5, on the other hand, doesn’t have as strong a relative spec for its price point as the VR30. However, what the VR5 has is very solid and reliable components attached to a frame that is a spec above its price. This makes the Felt VR5 a great bike to upgrade in the future as the high quality carbon frame has the potential to ride just like a $5K+ bike with some well thought out future upgrades to items like the wheels. If you are thinking long-term, the VR5 offers great long-term value and is well worth the premium it costs compared to the VR30. This being said, if your budget is below $2K, the VR30 is a really good complete bike and hard to beat at its price point in terms of components, gearing, fork and general performance.

Felt VR Line Conclusions

In writing about adventure bikes, I have frequently noted that the well designed members of this class can do double duty, meaning riding on the road with a 25 mm tire, and on riding on gravel and dirt with a 36+ mm wide tire, simply by swapping tires, or more ideally swapping wheelsets mounted with different width tires. While the Felt VR30 and VR5 won’t accept a really wide tire, they can eliminate the need for that wheel or tire swap for the mixed hardpack dirt and pavement many riders explore.

Felt’s goal with the VR bikes was to design a bike that will have the responsive handling of a road bike on paved roads, but that will also be comfortable and stable on hardpack dirt and gravel roads. To this means, they done very well. If you are on a Felt VR, there is little need to plan ahead where you are going to ride, mounting the correct tires.  Simply get on the bike and go, letting the roads take you where they may.  Admittedly, unmaintained class IV dirt roads and the such are not where the VR bikes are designed to excel and a wider tire capable adventure bike will be better suited to this type of exploration, given the limitations on tire width. This being said, this is not what many road riders are looking to do on a gravel capable bike; many riders just want to be able to ride on maintained dirt roads and pavement on the same ride well. If this is you, the combination of performance and versatility offered by bikes like the Felt VR models is a significant new direction for road bike design.

Stop in or contact us for more information about Felt’s new VR line of  bikes.

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