Felt FR5 ReviewJanuary 19, 2018
- Lightest tested
- Fast race geometry
- Reflective bar tape
- Below average braking
- Skinny tires
- Road vibration
The Felt FR5 is the Best in Class Entry Level Road Bike. What this bike offers at an affordable price is a light and capable road bike that will excel at the core qualities of road biking: going up, going down, going flat, going fast! In the spirit of road riding, it may or may not be the most versatile machine. It is not going to let you take a weekend bike tour with gear, nor hammer the gravel or do a cyclocross race – it is a bit of a one-trick-pony, but it is the best trick. The FR5 is light. That was the defining quality that won the class. A 17-pound bicycle for under $2,000. It is all carbon, and rides like a high-quality racing bike – because it is. It climbs well, descends fast, and has the handling qualities one looks for in a sports car – quick steering, quality turning, and decent brakes. The Shimano 105 group does everything reasonably well, and shifts beautifully. The FR5 is worthy of Best in Class as it is a quality road bike that will not hold you back at an “Entry Level” price.
The first reaction of our test team on the FR5 is that this is a machine that has been tuned for speed. The wheelbase feels shorter at 986 mm, and the overall position a bit forward on a Felt SuperLite 100 mm stem (easily remedied with a different stem). The Felt Race Road HUC Advanced carbon fiber frame and fork feel unusually stiff and racy. It is a very firm set up, less comfortable than some, and prone to communicating road noise. The Schwalbe RaceGuard tires (25c) definitely contribute to that feeling (a wider tire would help). Of course this may not sound too appealing, but I can assure you, when you are down in the drops crushing a flat, or when the road tilts up, the Felt FR5 absolutely shines. Between the skinny weight, stiff set up, and forward geometry, you will go fast(er)!
Everything about the FR5 is about stiffness and translating your work to forward momentum. The frame and fork share tubes shapes and overall profiles with the more expensive bikes in Felt’s lineup, so that racing pedigree finds its way “down” to the entry level machines. It is evident on the FR5, where the slightest increase in pedaling energy manifests in jarring acceleration. Components are either Shimano 105 (shifters and drivetrain) or Felt’s SuperLite (bar and stem) which adds to the overall stiffness of the ride.
Felt’s FR5 has great climb gearing, with Shimano throughout the drivetrain. The rear cassette is 11-28, and the front chain rings are Shimano 50/34. It was only the steepest of pitches that testers were reaching the end of the spread – there are ample climbing gears here. The bar and stem hold up well to out of the saddle climbing, and though some prefer a wider bar, Felt’s SuperLite Road handlebar (420 mm) felt adequate on this bike.
Relatively skinny tires, Schwalbe’s RaceGuard 25c combined with ineffective TekTro Quartz brakes makes for a exciting descent. A wider tire would make the bike more enjoyable, and if you believe the physicists that study such things, faster. The mechanical brakes on this class of bikes has been universally bad, whereas the hydraulic disc brakes when available, wonderful. Putting these two gripes aside, the FR5 carves turns nicely and with speed.
Components: Drivetrain, Shifting and Brakes
The Shimano drivetrain with 105 shifters and derailleurs shifts flawlessly with excellent clarity and little hand effort. The hoods are comfortable in the palm. As previously mentioned the TekTro Quartz brakes are not great, though will likely improve as the rims and pads break-in. The Shimano 11 speed cassette coupled with the Shimano RS500 (172.5 crank arm on the 56) cranks provide ample coverage for the flats and steeps.
Felt R3 hubs center the Felt RSL3 tubeless ready rims. These wheels are light and performed well during testing, including under stressful conditions of sprinting and dirt road riding. Stainless steel with aluminum nipple spokes are included.
The FR5 is a very real value at $1,990. Considering it is largely Shimano 105, and has a frame that shares many attributes with Felt’s higher end bikes, and weighs in at 17.1 lbs, there is a lot to like here for any rider that prizes lightweight over comfort.
Our road testing took place in Colorado and California, which when combined has the best of all road biking challenges: towering climbs, massive descents and endless flats and rollers to push these bikes to their limits. The bikes were tested riding through the coastal mountains and the redwoods of California, testing their grip in slick and slippery road conditions by the seashore and up into the Redwood Rain through the twistiest of descents. Colorado offered opportunities for massive climbs and descents, including the famed Morgul-Bismark road loop which is used on every road bike we tested because of its variety of terrain, 18 percent grade on “The Wall,” and its notorious wind. In all we rode over 750 miles on these bikes, climbing over 75,000 feet of vertical.
Seth Portner has been riding and racing mountain bikes since the late 1990s, specializing in XC, marathon and ultra-marathon events. He also enjoys regular multi-day road tours, and is an accomplished ultrarunner and XC skier. Seth, his wife and their daughter all split their time between Lyons and Winter Park.