With Felt upping the ante on both the F and Z series frames for 2011, I was anxious to hop onboard. Not only does Felt have quite the reputation in the triathlon circuit, their success in the road racing circuit has certainly propelled the brand and technology forward over the years. With a new carbon layup and build techniques, the Z5 is a budget-friendly bike with a boatload of features.

2011 Felt Z5 features:

  • Felt Classic UHC Performance MMC Carbon Fiber Frame w/ 3KP Weave, External Cable Routing, Forged Aluminum dropouts & replaceable derailleur hanger
  • Felt UHC Performance Carbon Fiber Fork w/ 3KP Weave; Carbon Fiber 1.125 Steerer tube, Crown, Blades, and Aluminum Dropouts, 540g
  • Shimano 105 STI, 105 braze on front derailleur, 105 rear derailleur, 105 compact 50/34T crankset, Shimano chain, 11-28T cassette
  • Shimano 105 Super SLR dual pivot brakes w/ cartridge brake shoes, Felt VS 6061 butted aluminum handlebar, Felt SL 6061 aluminum 3D Forged stem, Felt UHC performance carbon fiber seatpost w/ forged aluminum head twin side bolt rail clamps, Felt D2 anatomic road saddle w/ double-density base, custom embossed cover w/ cr-mo rails
  • MAVIC CXP-22S aluminum rim w/ machined UB control braking surface & wear indicator laced 32H radial Front/32H 3x Rear w/ Cr-Mo quick release skewer & Stainless 2.0mm w/ aluminum nipples
  • Color: Gloss DuPont White
  • Weight: 18.15 lbs
  • MSRP: $2099

Felt Z5 Road Bike Review

This Spring has been filled with ups-and-downs in the weather. Between storms, I’ve been stoked to get out on my typical road tours with the Felt Z5. Being in Utah, the Wasatch Mountains provide the perfect backdrop for intense mountain rides with extensive climbing and descending — all in my backyard.

After unpacking the Z5, I was immediately impressed with the overall package. The new Z5 features the new Z-series MMC full-carbon construction with the existing frameset that’s been around for a few years now.

A quick dial-in lap and I was ready for a few Tour de Draper loops and a great climb up American Fork Canyon. The full Shimano 105 grouppo has performed very well overall. Yes, I can tell the difference between the 105 grouppo and the Ultegra one I have on the Specialized Roubaix SL3, but for most riders out there, 105 will yield excellent performance in all conditions.

Both up and downshifts under pressure have been consistently smooth and the easy-to-reach barrel adjusters have provided on-the-fly tweaking when necessary. The brake hoods offer comfortable hand positions and keep the ergonomic levers and shifters within easy reach all around the bars. Speaking of the bars in more detail, that’s one of the places where the pricepoint of the Z5 rears itself. If I were to pull the trigger on the Z5, I’d opt for a set of carbon fiber bars to improve comfort.

Other than the bars, the stock wheels are good for starters. At this price, the wheels are always going to be a bit of a compromise. I can say that the included wheelset does offer excellent lateral stiffness and the rear hub provides quick engagement. But, the hubs aren’t as smooth-rolling as some and the standard spokes are less aerodynamic than the bladed variety. At some point as finances allow, an upgraded wheelset will turn this bike into a completely different animal.

Lets talk about on-road performance in more detail. The overall feel of the Z5 is great. While climbing up endless pavement, the constant drone of pavement cracks and bumps are muffled to a minimum. It feels like I can just about ignore the typical road chatter and focus on tracking down the next target. The climbing-friendly gearing on the Z5 has been perfect for assaulting my favorite winding climbs.

While the Shimano 105 hoods offer comfortable hand placements, the included bars do not offer much comfort. I much prefer a flat top bar for a wider distribution of pressure and road vibrations. As such, I did feel the need to move my hands around the bars much moreso than I’d like.

While on the descents, the Z5 feels comfortable and predictable. I could hum along at 40-50 mph with near-carefree confidence. At speed, I did notice that the dampening of the frame wasn’t quite as well-tuned for harsh, square-edged thumps in the road. Slow-speed vibration dampening remains solid, but at speed, it can jitter you a bit more than other bikes I’ve ridden. The braking performance of the Shimano 105 brakes was astounding. I experienced fade-free power after thousands of feet of descending.

When I stood and sprinted or stepped on the gas hard, the Z5 always responded with instant power transfer. This frameset is stiff and fast, yet comfortable for endurance rides. At this price-point, its performance is among the leaders in the market.

To get an overview of the Felt Z-Series, you can watch the following video:

The Good

  • Excellent overall value
  • Frame is a solid foundation for a long relationship
  • Vertical compliance smooths out the bumps at low and mid speeds
  • Shimano 105 drivetrain was very smooth with outstanding braking
  • Comes with a climbing-friendly gear ratio
  • DuPont-injected painjob looks awesome and adds durability
  • Frame comes with cadence sensor mount and is Di2-capable
  • The saddle was surprisingly-comfortable
  • Carbon fiber seatpost is a nice feature at this price

The Bad

  • The wheels felt slow and lack bladed spokes
  • The stock bars are like lead pipes… very little shock absorption and no flat area on top
  • Not sure about the Pee Wee Herman white tires (personal preference)
  • At high speeds, the ride can be a little rougher than I’d like
  • No tapered head tube or internally-routed cables

Bottom Line: 2011 Felt Z5

In the low $2k price point, the market has plenty of options. At that price, compromises will be made, but the important thing is to get yourself into a good-quality frame that provides a solid foundation for years to come. The new Felt Z5 will be easy on your pocketbook and most of the negatives I noted can be overcome with the proper upgrades over time.

More Info: Visit FeltBicycles.com

About Author

A native of the Pacific Northwest, Jason quickly developed a love for the outdoors and a thing for mountains. That infatuation continues as he founded this site in 1999 -- sharing his love of road biking, mountain biking, trail running and skiing. That passion is channeled into every article or gear review he writes. Utah's Wasatch Mountains are his playground.


  1. Just wondering how much of the high-speed roughness was being received through the bars and if you think a set of carbon bars would help that aspect. I have flat-top or winged aluminum bars on my own road bike and was wondering how much of a difference a carbon version would make to my hands and arms.

  2. Good question, Tim. I think it’s a combination of the non-absorbing bars and the frame itself. With the Z-series frame, you have an aluminum insert in the seat tube, which may be contributing to some of the harshness at speed. The other factor is the wheels, which is hard to slice-and-dice since I didn’t swap them out for another set during my tests.

  3. As my first road bike, this is a fantastic setup! I was focused on getting a full 105 gruppo and the carbon frame has been amazing at soaking up the bumps. I’ve been really impressed at how a lightweight bike in this class can respond so well – whether it’s climbing or flying downhill, I’m very impressed at the handling and responsiveness!

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