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Felt Breed 20 review

26 Nov 2021
Verdict:

The Felt Breed 20 is an ideal gravel bike – a good looking, nice riding jack of all trades

Cyclist Rating: 
For 
Versatile • Thoughtful design features • Nice ride quality
Against 
Heavy • Specced tyres aren't ideal for British conditions

The Felt Breed 20 is as well-executed as aluminium gravel bikes come. Aluminium has always seemed to me the perfect construction material for a gravel bike. A gravel bike needs to be lighter and racier than you can create using steel, but be able to take a hit better than some lightweight carbon frames, plus not be too eye-wateringly expensive to replace should the worst actually happen.

That said, there are aluminium frames and there are aluminium frames.

Fixing a few tubes of the stuff together doesn't guarantee an appropriate blend of attributes will be created. There is a real risk that the result will be as heavy as steel but as skittishly uncomfortable as an extreme carbon climber's bike.

Thankfully that isn't the case here. 

Mixed materials

Having long been at the cutting edge of composite construction, Felt is synonymous with carbon fibre. So its first gravel bike appears unusually utilitarian considering the brand's usual focus on competitive performance.

 

Rumour has it something racy and carbony is in the works from Felt for the gravel sector too, but neither fact should lead to the Breed being discounted, for that would be doing the bike a disservice.

'Performance' comes in many guises and the Breed is packed full of smart design features that mean it makes a decent fist of everything you could reasonably expect a drop bar bike to do.

 

It's worth bearing in mind too that just because a frame isn't made from carbon fibre doesn't mean it isn't technologically advanced. Felt has chosen to hydroform the Breed's tubeset (the alloy has been pressed into shape using high-pressure hydraulic fluid). 

It's a fairly common construction choice for high-quality aluminium frames but has been employed particularly smartly here.

Hydroforming allows the tubes to be bent into some dramatic shapes, and Felt has taken advantage of that by kinking the non-driveside chainstay sharply just before its insertion on the bottom bracket shell.

 

The first portion of the driveside chainstay is made from a billet of solid aluminium that has been heavily machined and is equally as angular.

The seat tube is similarly modified, having been formed to arc gracefully and follow the curve of the back wheel. These features mean the Breed can boast impressive tyre clearance (45mm at 700c, 53mm at 650b) without resorting to a long back end. The chainstays are pretty tidy for a gravel bike at 420mm.

That tempers the angles at the front of the bike, which are all pretty slack. The tighter rear end keeps the Breed to a reasonable overall wheelbase, which ensures the bike is stable rather than sluggish.

Achieving that with such relaxed front-end characteristics is a great feat, because the chilled handling means the Breed takes off-axis hits really well.

 

When the front wheel fell into ruts in a trail or ricocheted off the edges of rocks, I found the Breed took the impacts in its stride rather than reeling or bucking under me.

That does mean the bike is better suited to eating up kilometres of open gravel roads rather than darting along cross-country trails: its levels of reactivity – both in a turn and under power – could never be described as snappy, but that is a trade-off I'm happy to accept for well-mannered capability in every other area.

The finishing details support the bike's remit. The Breed has a plethora of mounting points – including a neat rack mount machined into the seatpost collar – and unusually makes use of a T47 bottom bracket shell.

It's a relatively new standard but is now commonly considered to be the best solution in terms of performance and reliability, being both threaded and able to accept 30mm crank spindles.

Its oversize dimensions also provide plenty of real estate on which to create a sturdy bottom bracket junction with the respective adjoining tubes.

There was only one area where I felt the Breed missed the mark, and that was more to do with spec choice than design. As their name suggests, Vittoria's Terreno Dry tyres are an excellent choice on dry, granular surfaces. Their low-profile hexagonal centre tread rolls fast, yet they have just enough cornering grip.

However the weather and surface conditions riders predominantly face in the UK make them an odd choice. Vittoria's Terreno Mix or even its Wet option would be a more appropriate choice for the bike in the UK market.

Nonetheless, I came away from my time on the Breed with the opinion that it is impossible to dislike. Without excelling in any one area, it embodies the key tenet of versatility that all gravel bikes should possess.

Felt has long been a master in the dark arts of carbon fibre but the Breed proves that its metalwork is in just as fine fettle too.

Pick of the kit

Rapha Technical T-shirt, £55, rapha.cc

I don't much care about being aero on a gravel bike, and laden jersey pockets bouncing into my back on rough terrain are unappealing, so I tend to ride in T-shirts. Cotton ones tend to hold on to too much moisture though, so technical tees like this are ideal.

It's light and breathable, being made from the same material as Rapha's Flyweight jersey, with an excellent cut that is loose without being baggy.

Typically, it is stylish and includes thoughtful touches like a hi-vis band on the underside of each sleeve hem that can be revealed with one turn-up.

Alternatively…

The other S

If SRAM's DoubleTap doesn't do it for you, try Shimano's STI instead. The Breed 30's swap to Shimano's RX600-level GRX groupset is essentially the only spec change and drops the price to £1,799.

Gravel-adjacent

If a full-blooded gravel bike like the Breed 20 is too far, try Felt's VR Performance 105 endurance bike. It costs a bit more at £2,499 but has a full carbon frame and tyre clearance aplenty for some light gravel.

Spec

Frame Felt Breed 20
Groupset   SRAM Force 1
Brakes SRAM Force 1
Chainset Praxis Zayante Carbon M30 chainset
Cassette Sram Force 1
Bars Devox DBar.A1
Stem Devox StemR.A2
Seatpost Devox Post.C2
Saddle Prologo Dimension NDR T4.0
Wheels Devox WheelRDS.A0 wheels, Vittoria Terreno Dry 40mm tyres   
Weight 9.25kg
Contact feltbicycles.com

All reviews are fully independent and no payments have been made by companies featured in reviews

Price: 
£2,159