On The Town: Me and The Felt Verza City 2 Review (And Also Using It To Commute)

The Felt Verza City 2

2012 Felt Verza City 2, Tinted Bronze

The Felt Verza City 2 is a “midrange” “lifestyle” bike. It is a 700c hybrid clearly aimed at townie and commuting use. It has an aluminum frame and fork, 24 speeds (3×8), mechanical disc brakes, flat handlebars, 700c rims with 42mm road tires, a good rack, and metal fenders. It’s part of Felt’s Verza (Lifestlye) series, and the middle entry in their City series. The Verza Cities replace the older X-City bikes, but they kept the characteristic twisted rectangle top tube, and the half-aero half-upright geometry. As if embracing its “middle” child status, all the components are solidly middle-end bits. They play nice together. Much of the bike is Felt custom (frame, fork, stem, bar, rims, post, post clamp, saddle, grips, rack, fenders), and the build quality on those parts seem nice. Mostly. My first bike came from the factory with a damaged down tube. Felt actually argued about replacing it with the shop, which wasn’t a great start. They did, though, and the second frame was perfect.

It’s not a light bike. I’ve also had heavier. Without my panniers, frame pump, bottle cage, and lights, it weighs in around 30 lbs. Just a bit over. I’m not a big guy (I stand between 5’8″ and 5’10”, depending on how good your ruler is, how soft your carpet is, and how many jumping jacks I’ve been subjecting my knee cartilage to), so I got the small. Overall, the differences in the sizes are largely vertical, with the length of the bike staying pretty close to the same. At the time of this review, the retail price for the Verza City 2 was $749. I got mine for 10% less than that. It came in a bronze/silver, or blue. I got the former.

Visual

It’s gorgeous. No other commuter on the market looks like it, and the silver/brown motif is elegant without being flashy. I get lots of good response every time I post a picture of it to Facebook. It’s got a quirky look that strikes me as European, even though I know it clearly isn’t. It also seems old-fashioned despite not being old-fashioned at all. That’s actually pretty impressive, and I dare anything made by Trek to pull that off. Straight tubes are functional, and there’s an elegance to function. But the Felt has style. No doubt.

The Frame / Fork

The heart of this bike is the 6061 aluminum frame. The characteristic twisted rectangle top tube is hydroformed, and both the top and down tubes are double butted. The rear drops also show a lot of cut-outs, further indicating that efforts were genuinely made to keep the weight down. The rear stays are unusually formed by the drops, with much more of a boxy shape and much less of a triangle one. Part of this is to support the disc calipers. All the cables run on the bottom side of the down tube. The down tube and seat tubes have the usual brazing points, and came with nice, round-headed black bolts. The fork has mid-fork brazing points for front racks (of which there are like, one rack built to use them, the Racktime Topit), and brazing points for fenders at the drops. The rear drops have two brazing points, for rack and fenders. The seats stays both have a brazing point each, which I like. I use one of them and a zip tie to hold my frame pump. Or, did, before the pump’s bracket finished dying. Once I get a new pump, I’ll go back to using the boss.

I can’t speak for the larger sizes, but, the clearance inside the front triangle is tight. A full-size water bottle will fit, barely, on the down tube. Fitting a second bottle cage onto the seat post, or using the seat post bosses for a primary cage, would be an act of masochism I’m just not up to. Right now, my seat post bosses are unused.

It doesn’t come with a kickstand, nor is there the typical mounting plate you would attach one to. I understand most bikes these days omit the kickstand to save weight, but, this is a heavy-ish bike clearly aimed for townies and commuters. The exact sort of people who, honestly, probably need a kickstand. Weird omission. And that extra-tall stay intersection makes finding a stay stand difficult.

 

I ended up going with the O-Stay Stand for Square Suspension. It mounts to the brake-side chain stay, and it works a charm. Still, weird, building a townie that just flat out doesn’t take a kickstand at all.
One thing of concern I have is the drive-side chainstay. I’ve noticed there’s a crack-like fissure in it recently. As I looked closer, it has identical machine-rounded ends, and looks like a piece of fused aluminum. It also doesn’t appear to crack through or have any structural problems, but, I’ve got a line out with the local Felt shop regardless. I’ll update this with their response once I get one.

Crack or fissure? We'll find out!

Drive Train

The crankset is an SR-Suntour XCT-T308. The crank arms are black, and it does come with the plastic chainring guard as mentioned in the specs, but not as shown in the product photo from Felt. The crank has the usual 48/38/28T triple chainring, and uses a Shimano Altus derailleur, which I don’t think is the Shimano FD-M31 the specs listed. It’s probably the cheapest component on the bike, but, seriously, it’s the front derailleur, and it’s still better than my Tourney was. I’ll give it a pass.

The rear derailleur is the nicer Alivio model. Again, this is solid mid-range for Shimano’s MTB parts, but the only line doing better is the Deore series. It’s pretty snappy at moving the chain around, and it’s been real easy to adjust and has stayed adjusted since. Any performance issues it has are non-issues for commuting. The cassette is a Sram PG-820 8-speed 11-30T. I have mixed feelings about it. It always seems to have an odd jump in power from 5-6, and I’ve had chain vibration on 5, 7, and 8 at multiple chainrings. The vibration is leveling out a bit now after 700 miles, but, I’m not sure I’ll use the same cassette once this one wears out. Otherwise, the 11-30 range is nice when combined with the chainrings. On the middle chainring, the 8 speeds become pretty much my ideal range for commuting, and are all usable. 7 and 8 rub the front derailleur a bit on the first chain ring, and 1 and 2 are pretty obnoxious on the third chainring. That’s to be expected, thought, with an 8-speed cassete. And, if noisy, all those combinations do still work just fine.

Everything uses Shimano SL-M410 rapid fire shifters. They’re well-tuned, snappy, the triggers all just feel right. They have a fuel-gauge style needle to indicate where you’re at, and for the rear cassette only 1 and 8 are marked, per se. So, takes some time to recognize what gear you’re in, exactly, but, you’re shifting gears by feel and not by number anyway, right?

Wheels

Like the rest of the bike, the rims seem built a bit beefier than they probably need to be, which is pretty much exactly what I want on these city streets. They have a big, heavy yellows rubber band inside to keep my tubes safe from my spokes. The tires are pretty wide at 42mm, and I might go down to 35mm once they wear out. The tread holds up well, though Sheldon Brown would’ve told you tread is mostly decorative on roads without snow or ice. Otherwise, they roll. The bearings seem nice. It coasts a good distance. I painted the rims orange. They look totally bosser orange.

Brakes

Oh, the Tektro Io mechanical disc brakes. Where do I begin? I suppose I should mention these are my first discs. I liked the prospect of discs. They seem cooler, they don’t rub my rims, they’re supposed to be better. Mostly, they are. But, maybe you’ve heard that disc brakes squeak. Mine do. They are better if you adjust them right. The rear pad should basically be touching the rotor. The front one is how you adjust your tension and modulation. That didn’t fix the squealing, though. I managed to get some organic pads in. They took most of the squeal out. The rear doesn’t squeal at all now. The front only does when I first engage it. Sadly, I pretty much always use the front brake, because the rear brake on a loaded commuter is a good way to find out how much you love skidding. Don’t get me wrong, the brakes work, and they do so well. Good control. Good power. 20mph to stopped in five bike lengths is not even a worry. No flipping over handlebars. No having to use both brakes to get enough power. Good control. And, they’re still quieter than my buddie’s stiff rim brakes. Those things sound like a ticked off goose.

Still, the squeal bothers me. I’m like that. I’m going to try some Squeal Out. I’ve heard good things, and, since I’m not doing downhill or mountain biking, I can afford to lose that 10% of the power for a quiet ride. Apparently rotors can break-in unevenly, and they’ll squeal forever after as a result. Looking at how ridged my front brake pads were when I swapped them out, I’d believe that could have happened. If you haven’t used discs before, set the pads very carefully first, then brake slowly and evenly for a while. I had my pads misadjusted, and tried to brake in the “hard squeeze” style I used for rims brakes. No bueno, apparently.

If that doesn’t work, I’m going to seriously eyeball some Avid BB7s as upgrades. Until I try one or both of those, I don’t know how I feel about discs yet. I want to like them, and I’m glad I got a bike with them. The cost to upgrade to disc-ready hubs later is reason enough to get a bike with even cheap discs out the gate. Much cheaper to upgrade mech discs than to upgrade to them.

The Other Stuff

The rack looks nice. Mine doesn’t center over the wheel. I’m not actually sure it could. I tried, lightly, to center it. It wasn’t having it. I think the disc caliper puts it a bit off center. It’s not critical, and I didn’t spend more than 5 minutes worrying over it. The fenders are nice. Not too much clearance, and they’re metal. Gravel makes an awesome ‘ding” noise now. Love it. The saddle that comes with bike is surprisingly dece. it’s a nice color, good pleather and closed-cell foam with the Felt logo stamped into the nose. It’s about the right size and shape. A bit slick. I’ve replaced it now with a Brooks B17 Aged, but the Felt model hangs on my studio wall should I need an extra saddle down the road.

I’m not actually sold on the flat bars. They work, and they’re responsive. but, even with comfy grips (and my, the Felt ergos are comfy), it’s a bit hard to ride with just the one hand position. I’m going to try a Soma Sparrow 520, mounted in the drop-style and not the cruiser style. Should give me a bit more natural wrist angle, and a few more hand positions. I’m thinking such a hybrid bar or a mustache might have been a better choice for the thing than the flat, but, to each their own.

The pedals are pedals. But, they’re nice. Metal, and they have good bite, but haven’t destroyed any shoes. The stem is non-adjustable, and short. The head is also short, and I didn’t think the three 5mm spacers would be much adjustment, but man, I’ve tried the bar at all three positions and they’re each quite different, so, who knew?

Conclusions

So, the Felt Verza City 2 isn’t perfect. But, what is? Sometimes I wish it had drops. Most of the time I’m glad it uses the cheaper MTB components instead. The Tektro brakes aren’t all ice cream and unicorns, but they’re not really any more annoying than a lot of rim brakes. And they definitely do work as advertised. It’s not a bike built for speed. Getting it over 20mph usually needs you to not have panniers on, and to either be headed downhill, with the wind, or for you to just really be wanting to push those gears in third. That said, it’ll do 14-20mph over anything Indiana can throw at me like it’s nothing. it just glides. Especially in second. The middle chainring plus the 11-30T cassette gives me a perfect range of eight gears for roads, and I can shift with impunity to keep a pleasant pace.

The geometry is comfortable, once you get used to it. It’s not an upright bike. It’s not a road bike. My shadow usually shows me straight-backed at 45 degrees. My wrists are never bent. Once I got the seat adjusted right, pedal  power was a non issue. And, I can still get my toes on the road without hopping off the saddle. The ride is a bit stiff, but not back-jarringly so. And, while the non-Felt components aren’t 100% to my taste, the Felt bits (the heart of the bike, really, since the non-Felt components will wear and need replaced anyway) are above my criticism. The frame is solid, and shows that it took some concerns to keep its weight down without sacrificing durability and comfort. Considering a good frame runs $400 and up anyway, the Verza City frame and disc-hubbed wheels of the bike alone go a long way to being worth the price by themselves. I’m pretty sure I couldn’t have built a comparable bike from components for near the same price, and if I could have it wouldn’t have looked so damn sexy. If the point of buying a bike is to hit the ground running with more-or-less the right components at a good price, the Felt Verza City 2 was spot on for me. Yeah, I might use a different cassette down the road. I’m not sold on the flat handlebars. And those disc brakes might need an upgrade. But, that’s pretty minor stuff compared to everything else it takes to make a bike. And none of those have kept me from putting over 700 miles on it these past couple months.

Over all, if you’re looking for a town bike or a commuter, this is great. Not sure it’s what I’d want for touring, and I sure don’t want to go trail-hopping in it. But, to replace my car for 100-120 miles a week, it’s perfect. Fast enough, tough enough, comfortable enough. I don’t worry about it out there. Actually, I mostly forget about it and just glide. That seems like what matters most, you ask me.

Next, using it as a commuter. In Indianapolis.

 

 

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