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Felt F4x

Review: Felt F4x

ArgWorx's picture

Right Out of the Box

4
First Impressions

At first glance this bike is a beast: The massive frame tubes and beefy Novatec rims make for an aggressive starting point, and SRAM’s extra-tall Rival 1 double-tap shifters and Force Cx1 drivetrain only punch that idea home. It’s clear from the moment that the bike comes out of the box that it means to attack whatever is put under the wheels. Hydraulic discs, really clever internal cable routing, tons of tire clearance, and thru-axle dropouts make it abundantly clear that Felt knows what they are doing here.

Ease of Assembly

The bike came factory assembled and required 5 minutes of seat/pedal installation. Really easy initially, however there were a couple hiccups that came up later. For the first hiccup, the rear hub exploded on me, completely seizing up and cutting a nice ride short. Felt was really great about replacing the wheel and overall had great customer service. For the second hiccup, I had the stem release the handlebar while riding, letting the whole thing rotate and drop. This only required a quick fix, but it was a good reminder to double-check the torques on critical connection points before you start riding a new bike.

Bling Factor

Between the killer paint-job, huge tubes, and color-matched wheels and components, I received a daily compliment. People just seem to gravitate towards this frame, from fellow riders doing double-takes to co-workers trying to figure out whose highlighter green bike that is in the bike room. Speaking of the color, this bike melds bright-as-it-gets green-yellow with dark grey carbon showing through the clearcoat at all the decals. The effect turns heads and really enhances the look of the triangular top tube and FAT bottom bracket connection.

Road Test Ride

4
Climbing

Climbing on this machine makes you realize why there is so much carbon on this frame. The big tube cross-sections and extremely filleted joints make for a frame that doesn’t waste any of the energy you throw at it. The massive bottom bracket connection keeps the cranks perfectly straight and the big, rectangular chainstays keep the rear completely free of twisting. This all makes for an incredibly snappy and responsive climb. Even taking the bike up Portland’s steepest street (at a 31.4% grade) didn’t phase this frame.

While there does seem to be a lot of carbon, Felt has done a good job keeping the bike light somehow. Maybe it is down to eliminating the front derailleur with a 1x11 drivetrain or light wheels (for the size), but the bike feels like a feather up a hill.

Cornering & Handling

As you come down the hill, the bike starts to show off its cross geometry. The longer wheelbase helps the bike track true and stay twitch-free coming around the corners. The feeling of safety from this smoothness along with the super tight brakes and extra tall shifter hoods gives you tons of confidence coming downhill to really find that perfect line. While the long wheelbase might seem like it would promote an unresponsive ride, it feels like the head tube and seat tube angles are dialed in just right to really give that great feeling of control and fast responsiveness.

Speaking of the shifter hoods, SRAM has really done something amazing with the new Rival Cx1 Double-tap shifters. They are really tall and almost vertical so that your hands never come off when it gets bumpy. This gets coupled with a perfectly hinged brake lever that can be reached amazingly easily so you never have to reach very far, regardless of being in the drops or on the hoods.

Ride Feel

Overall, riding on the road is a nicely balanced affair. So much so that the Felt became my daily commuter. The gearing is perfect for the city, the bigger tires/wheels make the stiff frame just soft enough to stay comfy over potholes, and the sitting position is a touch more upright than a road bike. The only parts missing from making this a true commuter are attachment points for racks and fenders.

On longer rides there is just enough speed in the gearing to let you cruise along comfortably and enough ease to really hammer the hills. The 30T front chainring and 11-32T rear cassette hits that jack-of-all-trades sweet spot perfectly and makes the bike fully capable on the road.

Dirt Test Ride

4
Climbing

As with climbing on the road, going up off-road couldn’t be more springy and controllable. The bike really proved itself at De Ronde PDX: 8000 feet of climbing and 50 miles over lots of short, steep, and treacherous climbs. As the bike ate up the inclines, it was pretty clear that the drivetrain and geometry helped the bike excel at taking on repeated climbs and fast downhills.

Cornering & Handling

Thanks to the predictable responsiveness, even sharp, loose-gravel turns could be navigated easily. The bike allows for quick corrections when losing traction. I never had any issues really pushing into a turn, knowing that if I needed to I could always make an adjustment.

Ride Feel

The real saving grace here are the wheels & tires. Without much flex in the frame, the Schwalbe X-Ones were doing all the work as I barreled over rocks and through ruts. The tires paired really well with the deep cross section CxR1700 wheels Novatec made for Felt and had lots of grip off the road.

The other really powerful piece are the brakes. SRAM’s hydraulic brakes have great stopping power, but, more importantly, they give really precise control with very little travel. This means you can minutely control exactly what each wheel is doing while flying down a rocky/rooted single-track. The one knock here would be that the really tight clearance on the brakes gave no room for when things flex and move, or when dirt and dust from the trail gets thrown in there.

Beyond the brakes, everything has HUGE amounts of clearance. Not once did I get anything trapped or piled up on the frame and cleaning is a breeze. The cables route nicely through the frame, with a rubber cap at the bottom bracket sealing everything up and helping the dirt situation even further.

Trainer Test Ride

0

This bike is begging to be outside in the rain, mud, sun, & whatever else you will throw at it. As such I didn’t get a chance to put it on the trainer, although my gut tells me that the stiff frame would do pretty well for shorter training sessions.

Race Test Ride

0

While I did get a chance to take the bike on several off and on road rides, the off-season just hasn’t allowed for any racing.

We Liked

  • The stiff, springy, eager nature of the frame
  • The AMAZING Rival Cx1 shifters
  • The really smart cable-routing
  • The single 30T chainring, simplifying everything up front
  • Felt’s customer service

We Didn't Like

  • The tight clearance on the brakes
  • Lack of frame attachment points for accessories
  • Technical hiccups

Upgrades

The greatest gains would be from upgrading the seatpost, stem, and bars. These are currently aluminum Felt standards and the weight conscious could save a lot there. The other potential is that the frame is electronic shifter-ready, so you could go that route. Honestly, the bike seems to be a great all-around package and I wouldn't change much unless I was really trying to eek out that last bit of performance

The Final Say

Overall, the 2016 F4X really hits that sweet-spot between road and dirt that defines cyclocross. If you want a great race bike(albeit not the lightest or most technologically advanced) that you can ride home from the course, can train on during the off-season, and even take on road rides occasionally, this is the bike for you.

It has great, responsive handling, all-around gearing, and puts power down as soon as you do. It feels as capable of fast hilly sprints as it does rolling around single-track, and it does it all looking amazing in shouting-fury green.

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