After all the changes that I’ve made — and blogged about — to turn my two very different road bikes into bikes that could be used for multiple purposes, the manufacturers have suddenly managed to discover that I’m not the only one in the market for such a bike. They were already drifting in that direction with the advent of cyclo-cross and gravel bikes, but when I saw the specs on Felt’s new line of adventure bikes last summer it seemed like they had taken their specs right out of my own wish-list for the ideal all-around road bike.
The VR series comprises a number of variations starting at the lower end with aluminum frames and basic components all the way up to full carbon models with high-end component sets such as the Dura-Ace Di2 group. For me, the VR5 fell right into the sweet spot both spec- and price-wise. Its outstanding feature include:
- Carbon fiber frame with relaxed geometry.
- Frame designed for compliance and shock absorption.
- Room for wider tires (up to about 700×35 or so).
- Disc brakes.
- Shimano 2×11 gearing with low ratios for the hills.
- Thru-axles and hidden cabling.
The bike basically fits in somewhere between a pure road bike and a gravel bike, the latter generally being built more ruggedly and with knobbier tires. Thus the new adventure bike classification.
The gear choice is of interest because, instead of achieving a lower ratio by using a large sprocket on the rear as I had done with my existing bikes, they are using a new line of adventure cranksets by FSA that have smaller chainrings such as 48-32 or 46-30 as opposed to the usual compact 50-34 crank. This does sacrifice on the high end, but there’s no way I ever use the higher ratios unless I’m going down a steep hill, and maybe not even then!
In addition to standard road riding — which I don’t do that much of these days — the bike will be perfect for paved and unpaved rail-trails as well as the many dirt and gravel roads that we have around here. Those roads are attractive in being quieter and more scenic, and with a lot less traffic than the local paved roads.
I haven’t put too many miles on it yet (still waiting for the warmer weather to arrive!), but I’m pleased enough with it already that I sent my other two road bikes off to good homes via Craigslist. As for carrying capacity, I’m going to make a concerted effort to minimize what I typically carry. I’ve definitely gotten used to carrying everything I could possibly need, but at the cost of increased weight. If I need it, I can always install the removable Arkel rack that I bought for the Synapse, but most of the time I’ll try to make do with, at most, a bar bag in addition to the seat bag that carries the spare tube and tools.