Felt's 2006 F75 won the Bicycling Magazine Editor's Choice
Award for entry level road bikes.
The fastest growing cycling
category over the previous five years is the entry level road
bike. This is the bike we buy for the customer who is beginning
road riding, might be doing Spin classes and is interested
in multisport events such as entry level triathlons as well
as road riding, club rides and charity events.
This is the fastest growing demographic in cycling. It
is a demographic populated with an increasing number of
females- more than any other segment of the market. These
are riders in charity rides such as the MS 150, Leukemia
and Lymphoma Team in Training rides and the AIDs Awareness
or Breast Cancer Rides. They are also riders trying their
first triathlon or group ride. They are a different type
of customer than we’ve seen in previous decades. They
may say they are beginners, but they actually are not. This
group is more physically fit, more involved, more informed,
more ambitious and goal oriented than any other category
except perhaps competitive age group triathletes and bicycle
racers. They may sell their abilities short, but they represent
the backbone of the sport today and they are critically
important to our industry.
The F75 fills an important and growing need for
cyclists who want a versatile, high quality entry
level road bike.
|Buying the right bike for
this customer is extremely important. They need a
“step-up” bicycle at an entry level price.
Their demands on equipment and bike fit are greater
and more sophisticated than they realize. Comfort
and reliability are their key concerns. That said,
they are not pedestrian cyclists. They are the emerging
group of “new athletes”. They want the
best bike for a long ownership experience at the lowest
price. They also need versatility that will enable
them to experience many different types of road riding.
Three years ago at the annual Interbike Bicycle Trade Show
in Las Vegas we went looking for this bike. Vendors such
as Trek, Cannondale , Specialized, Giant were all beginning
to recognize the emerging value of this important consumer
category, but may have been too caught up with “Lance
Fever” to understand that this was their most important
product category over the five year horizon. It was the
age of the high end road bike, and every company was proud
to show their offerings above $2000, but almost no one had
viable, well thought out models at the entry price points.
Our shopping list when we went
looking for this bike included some critical items this consumer
A price point well below
$1500, closer to $1000.
Fit and geometry that emphasized
comfort and endurance over quick handling and stiffness-
especially in the smaller to medium sizes. We need
a wide range of sizes, especially at the smaller end.
The ability to use aerobars
on the bike and maintain stability- something not
found on many road bikes.
including trouble free shifting- especially on the
front derailleur. This bike is for customers who do
not know how to work on bikes.
A true compact double chainring/crankset-
not a triple or a watered-down “compact”
with chainrings larger than a 34 tooth for the small
A cogset that started on
an 11 tooth cog in combination with a 50 tooth big
chainring for athletic riders who are fit from Spin
classes and can pedal athletically.
Comfortable saddle and easy
to use pedal system.
An overall component spec
that would not need upgrading during the first five
years of the ownership experience.
Frame quality that is good
enough to be upgraded if the customer wanted to.
|For the last three years we couldn’t
find the bike we needed. There were some close matches,
but no bike matched our shopping list exactly. We
buy hundreds of bikes per year and several thousand
over the next five years, so we showed vendors our
spec list. They showed us ideas that were close, but
the constraints of price point, a lack of enthusiasm
over this category on the part of vendors (due to
the focus on more expensive bikes) and different interpretations
of what this customer needed meant that no one came
close to matching this bike.
Among the consumers who are attracted to Felt road
bikes are the growing number of female road cyclists.
In 2005 we went to several vendors (again) with our wish list.
Each conceded it was a good spec but none had a bike that
matched it. At the time, Dave Koesel from Ann Arbor, Michigan
was our outside sales rep for Felt Bicycles. Koesel has been
in the industry since he was 15 and owns a State Championship
medal in every cycling discipline: Track, road and cyclocross.
He joined us in benchmarking other brand bikes against our
spec list. Late in 2005 Koesel was promoted to Sales and Product
Manager at Felt Bicycles and went on the fast track of one
of the fastest growing bicycle brands in the world. Koesel
took our spec list with us. As it turns out, we were far from
alone in looking for this bike. Several months later, the
quintessential “best buy”, highly versatile, first
time buyer road bike was born: Felt’s 2006 F75.
The Felt F75 nails the component
specification, price point, frame sizing, fit and geometry
for the first time road bike buyer who needs a versatile road
tool. Within months of its introduction the F75 won Bicycling
Magazine’s Editor’s Pick for Best Value Under
While no bike is 100% perfect,
and the Felt F75 has its flaws and weak points, this bike
comes closer than any other bike we’ve bought to the
perfect first road bike.
Felt starts with frame quality.
The F75 uses the same frame as the Felt F55 Dura-Ace equipped
race bike at $2100. Since frame quality is the single most
important component specification on the bike you have to
ask yourself who is getting the better deal: The person buying
the frame with a good component spec at $1300 +/- or the person
buying it with an up-spec at 43% more money. The fact is this
frame is good enough to use in combination with Tour de France
winning Shimano Dura-Ace components when wearing a $2100 price
tag. Felt also sells a similar frame with a stiffer down tube
called the CA1 for $1099 for frame and fork alone. Felt’s
use of the F75 frame on other, higher end models in their
line emphasizes the value built into this bike.
With a one piece molded carbon seat stay the F75
has a high end frame at entry level prices.
The carbon fiber seat stay assembly improves ride
quality and damps vibration on some road surfaces.
The F75 frame uses a carbon fiber, molded, one piece rear
seat stay wishbone assembly. This design reduces the road
shock you feel from the rear of the bike. The effect is noticeable
when crossing a set of railroad tracks at speed or on rough
chip and seal pavement. You simply don’t feel the vibration
from the rear of the bike as much. The down tube of the frame
is multi-shaped and swells at the bottom bracket for improved
stiffness. A moderately oversized top tube maintains good
front end stiffness and steering but gives enough ride quality
even in the small frame sizes for long rides. In the largest
sizes such as 58 cm and 60 cm, the frame may be a little more
forgiving than a racing cyclist may like but will be fine
for a road enthusiast.
A curved, moderate
rake carbon fiber fork.
|The fork is a carbon fiber bladed,
curved design that works well and has moderate rake
for predictable steering with most stem lengths. Felt
anticipated a detail on this bike when they incorporated
a 3cm conical top cap on the headset with a flush
top cap underneath. These spacers are used so the
rider can have the bike with the handlebars in a relatively
high, relaxed position or remove the conical spacer,
slide the bars down the fork steer tube to lower them
and make room for aerobar elbow pads. Few new riders
will understand the benefit of this until they need
it, but it is one of several features on the F75 that
readily facilitate aerobar use. The flush top cap
is already mounted underneath the conical one by Felt.
Felt appears to have anticipated cross-examination when they
specified the component list on the F75. There are few discrepancies.
The shifters are the new Shimano 105 10-speed
that has more in common with their big-brother Dura-Ace shifters
than the previous model year 9 speed STI dual control lever.
The shifters have a shorter throw (you move them less to shift)
and a larger, more comfortable grip surface than previous
9 speed versions. Some manufacturers, including Specialized,
are still specing the older 9 speed versions on their current
2006 model year bikes. The benefit of the new 10-speed used
on the F75 is a more comfortable grip section for less hand
numbness, easier shifting since you have to move the shift
levers a shorter distance, faster shifting since the cogs
are closer together a wider range of gears for varied terrain.
The shifting is quieter and this is reassuring to newer riders.
Shimano R500 aftermarket,
upgrade quality wheels and a Shimano 10 speed drivetrain
with an Ultegra rear derailleur will provide a low maintenance,
trouble free ownership experience.
The bar and stem on the F75
are largely nice with one concern. The stock stem is Felt’s
ST stem with a four bolt, front plate handlebar clamp. It
is a fine stem but is one of those components usually changed
during the final bike fitting. We often substitute the slightly
up spec Ritchey stem of the appropriate rise and angle for
the stock stem to get the fit correct. The bars are an alloy,
semi-anatomic bend that almost everyone likes except people
with very small hands. For extremely small hands we substitute
a round bend bar at no up charge. Our concern with the bar
is that it uses the 31.8 millimeter clamp diameter (not 26.0
millimeter) and has a pronounced taper as the oversize section
of the bar comes out of the stem clamp. This makes mounting
aerobars on the stock handlebar impossible- you can’t
bolt an aerobar on a section of handlebar that is tapering
down to a smaller diameter. . If a customer mentions they
are thinking of mounting aerobars when we do their fitting
we simply swap the stem and bars out for a 26.0 millimeter
combination without a taper so that aerobars can be clamped
on the handlebars. This is a minor annoyance but one we wish
Felt would address in upcoming model years.
The wheelset on the Felt F75
is best in class for any bike even $200 above the F75’s
price category. Felt uses the excellent Shimano WH-R500 integrated
wheel set on the F75. This wheelset is extremely durable but
not overweight at 1884 grams complete. The wheels use 20 high
quality, drawn stainless spoke in the front laced radially
and anodized black and 24 spokes for the rear with a cross
2 pattern. The hubs are labyrinth sealed, one piece hub shells
that will be entirely maintenance free based on our experience.
This is a nice quality, aftermarket upgrade wheelset made
by Shimano, the company that makes the primary drive train
components. Tires are a flat resistant version of the Vittoria
HSD in 700X23c. It is a heavy-ish tire but dependable and
The Shimano R500 wheels
are exceptionally strong
and wear a pair of genuine Vittoria HSD high mileage,
flat resistant tires. The 700 X 23c size is perfect
for most riders.
|Seatpost and saddle on the Felt F75
is a nice carbon wrap, ultra thin wall aluminum
seatpost. You don’t see the aluminum since
the carbon is wrapped over the top of it. This is
primarily cosmetic but may help dampen road shock.
The head of the post features an odd little clamping
system with an allen bolt and little red dial adjustment.
The adjustment for saddle angle is a little fumbly
but works well once you learn it. It is likely a
consumer will never touch this adjustment. The saddle
is a very nice racing saddle that bears no small
resemblance to a Sell Italia SLR. It is a racing
saddle, narrow, low and firm. Some new riders may
need to go to a more comfort oriented model but
I argue this is the right saddle for the F75. Most
riders who try the saddle with good quality bike
shorts will like it. We frequently do saddle upgrades
on entry level road bikes to make people more comfortable
on their bikes at first, then switch back to a performance
oriented saddle once they have some miles under
A carbon wrap
seatpost and valid race saddle that may work for
Drivetrain on the Felt F75 is another home run with a Shimano
Ultegra 10 speed rear derailleur, 105 ten speed front, Shimano
chain and a Shimano brand 10 –speed 11-23 cogset.
This cogset is used in combination with an FSA Gossamer
50/34 tooth compact crankset.
The brake calipers
on the F75 are an all-alloy,
high performance lightweight OEM set that stop very
Brakes on the F75 are a fine
OEM caliper that uses excellent quality pads and a metal
quick release lever combined with an all-metal barrel adjuster.
Somewhat incredibly, the brakes weigh exactly 28 grams more
than Shimano’s highest end Dura-Ace calipers but at
a fraction of the cost. This difference is much less than
the weight of a single gel packet. It is a very nice brake
set that feels good and stops powerfully as well as holding
its adjustment precisely.
The true 50/34 crankset on the F75 is one of its
primary selling features. No other bike in class
uses this exact configuration.
|The compact crankset on the F75 is
so well conceived it is worth talking about. It
is unfathomable that no other manufacturer used
a similar crank in their component specification.
Firstly, the benefit of a “compact”
crankset is that it gives you gears nearly as low
as a heavier, less dependable triple crank but is
lighter and has better dependability and much more
consistent, quieter shift quality on the front derailleur.
Shifting is quiet and quick between the two gears
in the front. There is no trade off for this performance
when done correctly, and Felt has done it correctly
on this bike. The high end (largest) gear is a 50/11.
This gear is largest enough to win the sprint in
a local category 2 criterium. The lowest gear is
a whopping 34/23 combination that will get you up
very steep grades. This wide range of gears from
a powerful, large sprinting gear to a an ultra-low
climbing gear is the perfect combination for a new
cyclist. There are plenty of stops in between on
this cogset too with a total of 20 usable gears
and a center spread of gearing that promotes good
cadence habits. No other bike in this price category
has a gearing configuration that is conceived as
well as the F75’s.
Felt went one step further with the F75 and used a square
taper bottom bracket. The reason they stayed with square
taper has been a rash of problems with low priced splined
style bottom brackets. The square taper is still used on
high end component groups like Campagnolo Record and by
almost every elite level track cyclist because it is strong
and dependable. At this price point no splined format bottom
bracket can match the durability and serviceability of a
square taper bottom bracket spindle. If the bike ever did
need service and you were at a an event such as the MS 150,
AIDs Ride or other rural cycling event it would be much
easier to service the square taper bottom bracket on the
F75 than a splined model that may require proprietary tools
not available in the field.
Excellent frame construction
and a reliable bottom bracket design add to the durability.
If we have one major beef with
the Felt F75 it is the pedals. We think Felt should simply
leave the pedals off he F75 entirely. Instead the bike is
supplied with a rather poor set of generic, OEM alloy, SPD
style clipless road pedals. The pedals work, but they are
small and difficult to use. It is also easy to confuse the
pedals for ones that work with Shimano brand SPD cleats. That
is a mistake- they are actually not 100% compatible and clip-in,
clip-out performance can suffer with the use of a cleat other
than the one supplied with the pedals. Our concern is that
people will have shoes set up for spin classes with a genuine
Shimano brand cleat and attempt to use that cleat in the pedal
that comes on the F75. That is a mistake: They are not truly
compatible. There will be problems clipping in and out if
the appropriate pedals and cleats are not used. You should
never cross brands of pedals and cleats. Minor differences
in their design and manufacture could result in problems getting
in and out of the pedals. This is one area Felt would have
done well to just leave alone. Customers want to spec their
own pedals systems and shops can make a couple extra bucks
here selling a nice quality shoe and pedal system set up correctly.
Our recommendation is to trash the stock pedals and up grade.
The existing pedals aren’t worth much to your dealer
or you. Felt would have been best served to simply leave them
off and allow the consumer to pick a system.
The steep seat tube angle on the F75 facilitates
the use of aerobars while the longish top tube
favors average to long torso riders.
|Riding the F75 is a great experience
since any suggestion that it is “entry level”
is gone once you get on the bike. It does feel like
a high end bike. Once your fit and position are
set up correctly the bike corners and climbs more
like a race bike than an entry level bike. It isn’t
sluggish. The fit of the bike is functional and
The dimensions and geometry trend toward a longish torso
fit and features steep seat tube angles, especially in the
smaller frame sizes. A 50 centimeter Felt F75 has a 76-degree
seat tube angle and the 52cm size has a 75.5 degree seat
tube angle. These steeper angles mean aerobar use will be
much better. The bike will remain more stable than most
road bikes with a shallower seat tube angle when riding
in the aero position. If you are using the bikes for duathlons
or triathlons you’ll find that running off the bike
is good, perhaps not as nice as a dedicated triathlon machine,
but much better than a 73.5 degree seat tube angle road
bike. Felt knew their customer when they designed the geometry
of these frames. This is a highly versatile bike. You could
do your first club ride, group ride, your first triathlon
and win your first criterium or road race on this bike.
It will never be an Ironman winner, but this isn’t
a bike for Ironman athletes. It is a bike for people to
learn the sport on and enjoy many different styles of road
|There are eight sizes in the Felt
F75, including a 48cm with 650c wheels. This wide
range of well-designed sizes means you are more
likely to find the right dimensions for you. Felt
has a long history of dedication to correct and
precise bike fit and their willingness to produce
the F75 in eight sizes is further testimony to that
commitment. The F75 is a valid high performance
bike that can be precisely fitted to the rider,
this is especially important for new road riders.
Even the internal cable routing for the rear brake
is well designed and conceived.
The F75 is also available in a so-called “Women’s”
configuration. We’re not fans of bikes marketed to
a specific gender since most times it is more lip service
than actual substance. The fact is that gender does not
influence bike fit. Whether you are a male of a female,
dimensions influence bike fit. While there is a statistical
precedent for a greater number of short torso riders in
the female population that is not to say that there aren’t
males on small frame sizes with shorter torsos and females
with long torsos for whom a “women’s specific”
design would be a poor fit. Also, it is very wrong to assume
that all women “need” or even fit on a so-called
“Women’s Specific Design”. Generalizations
like that are simply too convenient to be correct but do
make for good salesmanship and marketing, especially among
unsuspecting new cyclists who are convinced they may need
a “women’s specific” bike. Especially
for entry level cyclists, it pays to ignore the marketing
hype about women’s specific bikes and go with what
really works. Glossy catalog pages with fun photos of “empowered”
women out in force on their bikes may be inspiring, but
gender marketing is more about hype than substance. Good
bike fit transcends gender and focuses on more specific
issues such as dimensions that match the individual rider’s
actual dimensions, not a broad category such as their gender.
Finally, one would do well to look at the so called “women’s
specific” designs also. Some have identical geometries
to non gender specific bikes (are those “men’s”
bikes?) but are just re-named. In some brands the men’s
“small” frame geometry is identical to the women’s
“medium” dimensions. The biggest difference
is the pink paint job on the women’s model in the
The carbon seat post features index marks for
ease of adjustment and sizing.
|In general we agree with
Bicycling Magazine’s editors and find the
Felt F75 a “best buy” in class. Considering
how competitive and important this price and model
category is, that is quite an accomplishment and
another feather in Felt’s cap. It took a few
years for the bike to arrive but I wager it will
be around for many model years to come and other
models will spin off from the basic F75 platform.
If you are considering a new road bike for the first
time and want to do many types of road cycling the
F75 may be your best choice.
Benchmark Comparison of Entry Level
Road Bikes for 2006.
Avail. at $50 upcharge.
11 tooth cog.
too wide for smaller riders.
easily mount aerobars.
Allez Elite double
Speed 2005 Drivetrain.
flexible chainrings deliver poor front shifting.
easily mount aerobars.
Elita 50/36 cranks.
not have 34 tooth chainring.
Ultegra rear derailleur.
tube is too long for most riders in each size.
easily mount aerobars.
R500 after market upgrade wheelset.
Magazine "Editor's Choice" in this bike
easily mount aerobars.
dealers and less recognized brand (but growing