The Felt Z Series was overhauled for 2013 and our time on the Z2 has revealed a fast and fun machine which combines the best bits of a sportive cruiser and racing thoroughbred.
The Z Series carbon fibre collection starts with the Z6, leaving our model as second from top in the range, with a retail price of £4,999.
While the Felt F Series is the American company’s range of racing thoroughbreds, with the top-of-the-range F1 ridden by Marcel Kittel’s Argos-Shimano team, the Z Series is tweaked with the sportive rider in mind. Z Series machines have completely new frames for 2013, which Felt say are lighter and stiffer than the 2012 versions, without sacrificing the comfort which is so important to the range. The basis of the Z2 is a Ultra Hybrid Carbon Advanced carbon fibre frame with a tapered headtube, BB30 bottom bracket and internal cable routing. You can read more about the frame in our ‘first look’.
The result is very impressive. The sloping top tube leaves plenty of the 27.2mm seatpost exposed in order to achieve my desired saddle height and that, combined with the tweaked frame (super-skinny seatstays and an elbow joint where the seatstays meet the chainstays), results in a more comfortable ride than most, smoothing out the imperfections in the road on my regular testing loop.
The Z2’s geometry also reflects the brief to design a bike with comfort in mind and our 56cm test model had a tall 180mm headtube and longer than average wheelbase (1012mm). That results in a geometry which is neither head-down-arse-up, or sit-up-and-beg, allowing you to comfortably adopt an aggressive position on the drops to push the pace along if need be, or to canter along with your hands on the tops.
The Z2’s biggest achievement, however, is the marriage of comfort with a fun, lively ride. Swing your leg over the top tube and the Z2 still provides a responsive, racy experience, with the relaxed geometry having little effect on the bike’s ability to propel you forward – fast. Jump on the pedals and the Z2 responds superbly to sharp accelerations, quickly pulling itself up to speed, while the handling is sharp – not twitchy – and at its best when descending, carving a smooth, accurate path through quick turns.
It also climbs very well, thanks in part to the super-light 6.58kg weight of our SRAM Red-equipped machine – that’s comfortably under the UCI weight limit of 6.8kg, so you’ll need to add some additional baggage should you have your sights set on a spot on the Tour de France, but otherwise it’ll give you the best possible start in any hilly sportive.
Speaking of the spec, our test model came with the latest incarnation of SRAM Red, which is, quite simply, brilliant. We reviewed the group at the back-end of last year, and you can find our in-depth thoughts here, but on the Z2 it provided crisp, accurate shifting which feels excellent under hand, while the new ‘yaw’ feature, which effectively maintains a smooth alignment between front mech and cassette, is impressive.
RCUK test bikes are rarely specced with SRAM wheels but the American component manufacturer’s S30 hoops, which have a 30mm-deep, aero profile rim, proved stiff and smooth-running throughout our test, while the 3T finishing kit performed admirably (with the carbon fibre seatpost, in particular, helping to dampen road vibration). The Prologo Scratch Pro Ti 1.4 saddle didn’t suit this derrière and was swapped out for something a little comfier, although saddle choice is very much a personal choice. We also replaced the Vittoria Diamante Light tyres after a handful of rides, as while a good rubber for fast riding on good roads, they are not best suited to winter training.
Credit, though, to Felt for putting together an excellent spec. They haven’t cut any corners and the result is an excellent machine which has the built-in comfort you’d expect from a sportive bike, while still having enough about it for very fast riding