We review the Felt ZW4 women’s bike.
Another pro approved frame – as ridden by the Exergy Twenty16 team – the ZW4 sits at the top of Felt’s women’s-specific range in the UK (US riders have a choice of two higher-specced models too). It’s a notch up the price range in our test and the build is noticeably higher quality, but it’s still a friendly and accessible bike for first-timers with the cash to splash on it.
Frame and fork
As its name suggests, the ZW4 shares more in common with Felt’s Z-series long-distance frames than the F-series race bikes, but that comes down more to female shape and preference than to intentions for the bike’s use. This is designed to be an all-rounder.
The female-specific frame shape is built from Felt’s UHC Performance carbon fibre and made using the company’s InsideOut construction, which means it’s shaped and smoothed on the inside of the frame walls as well as the outside – Felt says this gives the frame greater consistency and allows it to create more intricate tube shaping. Cables slip neatly into the frame at the top and side of the top tube and down tube, so there’s no awkward looping around the bike’s front end.
Generous, subtly tapering tubes give the bike a solid feel, though in weight terms it’s certainly no lump. The paintjob deserves a mention here as sadly, the glossy sports-car red is out for 2014, replaced by a sleeker white and blue look. If it’s go-faster red or nothing for you, though, you should still find this version in the sales (and you’ll be getting a fantastic bike for your money).
The ZW4 comes fully decked out with the reliable and relatively light Shimano 105 groupset, from brakes to shifters to derailleurs. The rear cassette comes specced with a whopping 30-tooth big cog which, combined with the compact 50/34 FSA chainset up front, should get you up any hills you’ll encounter. Shimano RS01 wheels are a sturdy and dependable choice, though we’d recommend something lighter for racing duties.
Felt’s Fit Woman stem and short reach handlebars, along with lovely plush own-brand bar tape, make for a front end that’s easy to handle and a pleasure to ride on for long periods. The carbon seatpost is a luxurious touch but we weren’t mad about the Prologo Kappa saddle that came on our model – we’ve had Fit Woman saddles in the past and would rather Felt had stayed in-house for this one, too.
The ZW4 doesn’t quite shoot off in the manner its red-for-danger looks would suggest, but the ride certainly doesn’t disappoint. It handles really well, swerving around potholes easily – in fact, when we (accidentally) took it off road for a few kilometres down a badly rutted National Cycle Network route, we even managed a few jumps and stayed upright. Despite being reasonably light, the bike feels robust, with a BB30 bottom bracket and tapered head tube adding stiffness where it’s needed.
The ZW4 certainly lives up to the Z-series’ billing as high performance bikes that are relaxed enough for long days out. The carbon frame is incredibly comfortable and as at home on a lengthy training ride or sportive as it is on a casual commute. The narrow, shallow handlebars help add to confidence in being able to control this bike, but it’s never a nerve-racking ride anyway and we’d be happy attaching tri-bars to without any fear of temperamental twitching while we’re in a tuck. It’s great fun over rolling terrain too – we tested the huge gear range over some of the steepest climbs we could find and had no trouble.
This is a bike for safe companionship over longer routes rather than sharp jabs in shorter races, though. Acceleration is hardly dull, but it doesn’t shoot out of the blocks like stiffer rides, though it always feels sturdy underneath you; that’s a great characteristic when you’re in the saddle for hours and you could do without rattle. If you really want to frighten your competitors with surges of speed, this may not be your weapon of choice. But if you’re looking for an accessible ride fit for most purposes, this is a quality bike that’ll almost always have an answer for you.
Pros: Smooth-riding, sturdy feeling ride for long days in the saddle
Cons: Not quite as sharp as we’d like for all-out race sprints
- Price: £1,799
- Contact: feltbicycles.com