2015 Felt SPORTe Step-Thru Review

Highlights

Technical Specs & Ratings

General

2015

SPORTe Step-Thru

$3,999

Class 1

Step-Thru

28.0

10

Hydraulic Disc

Mid-Drive

350

396 Wh

396 Wh

40 lbs / 18.16 kgs

Components

FSA No. 42 1-1/8" to 1-1/2" Tapered Integrated: ACB Water Sealed Bearings with Felt Tornado Aluminum Top Cap, Custom 1 X 15 mm Curved, 3 X 5 mm and 1 X 10 mm Straight Washers

Felt SL Design 3D-Forged Aluminum with 4-Bolt Handlebar Clamp

Felt 6061 Double-Butted Aluminum Flat Bar

Felt Ergo Grip Dual-Density Kraton Rubber, Wing-style

Felt Twin Clamp Micro Adjust 6061 Alloy

27.2

Selle Royal LookIn Athletic Gel

Felt Low-Profile Nylon Cage and Body with Rubber Grip, Taper Head Cr-Mo Axle

Hydraulic Disc

Shimano BL-M615 Hydraulic Disc with 160 mm Rotors

More Details

Forward Aggressive

Lifetime Frame, 2 Year Drivetrain and Electronics

United States, Canada

8.8

17.32, 19.29

Small 17.32" (Head Angle 70.5 mm, Seat Angle 72.5 mm, Top Tube Horizontal 555 mm, Head Tube Length 170 mm, Seat Tube Center to Top 440 mm, Bottom Bracket Drop 55 mm, Chain Stay 470 mm, Wheelbase 1072.15 mm, Standover 620 mm, Rake 45 mm, Reach 374 mm, Stack 575 mm), Medium 19.29" (Head Angle 70.5 mm, Seat Angle 72.5 mm, Top Tube Horizontal 565 mm, Head Tube Length 190 mm, Seat Tube Center to Top 490 mm, Bottom Bracket Drop 55 mm, Chain Stay 470 mm, Wheelbase 1082.88 mm, Standover 623 mm, Rake 45 mm, Reach 378 mm, Stack 594 mm)

Gloss Black with Red Accents

Fender Bosses, Rack Bosses

Shimano BL-M615 Hydraulic Disc with 160 mm Rotors

Video Reviews

Written Reviews

The Felt SPORTe Step-Thru is a more approachable version of the standard SPORTe. It’s available in two smaller sizes and both have a lower stand over height so they’re easier to mount and hold at stop signs and lights, especially if you’ve got gear on the rear rack. This thing is part road bike, part city bike. You get a stiff, relatively light weight aluminum alloy frame (though not as light as their NINEe hardtail) with efficient narrow tires mounted on a 700c medium-dish rim. While aluminum is known for being durable, it’s not super comfortable over extended distances at higher speed… That’s why many road bikes offer a carbon fork and some city bikes, like those from Surly, opt for Steel. Given the soft gel saddle, ergonomic grips and two frame sizes, this ebike strikes a balance between power transfer and comfort but I’d consider adding a seat post shock for daily use with 10+ miles of riding. There are plenty of mounting points for fenders and racks and Felt even offers their own as premium matching add-ons along with quality lights from Busch & Muller that can run straight off the main battery pack. At ~$4K this bike is well priced given its use of the Bosch Centerdrive but similarly priced electric bikes like the Haibike Trekking include fenders, rack and lights as well as a suspension fork for the same price. The thing is, the Trekking is only available in a mid-step frame, doesn’t come in as many sizes and weighs 10 pounds more… I’m so excited to see Felt entering the ebike space because they produce quality gear with an emphasis on performance. The question with this is, why doesn’t it have drop bars if it’s meant to be a road bike and if not, why isn’t there more emphasis on comfort?

The drive system in use for the Felt SPORTe Step-Thru features a 350 watt geared center drive by Bosch. It’s their second generation system built for the US market capable of reaching 20 miles per hour with pedal assist mode only. I love how responsive this system is; it senses your pedal torque, pedal speed and wheel speed on the fly. I also love that Felt has added a custom chain guard cover that conceals the front cog and keeps your pants clean. This could be especially useful on a step-thru frame where a rider might be wearing longer flowing outfits (I’m talking about girls in dresses, yes). The motor itself is mounted low and center which creates excellent balance (especially since the battery is mounted just above) and it leverages the 10 speed cassette in the rear to perform optimally as you switch from low to high gears. One downside to this system is increased noise when compared to a gearless direct drive motor like that found on the Specialized Turbo S or Stromer ST2 but again, limited sizes and heavier frames there. The mid-drive wins out when doing wheel, tire and tube maintenance and it also reduces unsprung weight… but for a road bike like this, that doesn’t really matter as much and I prefer the quiet operation of gearless motor systems that sometimes even offer regenerative braking (like those from BionX). The Bosch system is smart, sensing when you shift gears to limit the strain on your chain, but most ideally suited to climbing and distance applications in my view.

Powering the motor and optional lighting kit is a 400 watt hour Lithium-ion battery pack. It mounts directly to the downtube and is so narrow that it won’t touch your legs when pedaling. Unfortunately, given the limited space on the downtube of this bike there aren’t any water bottle cage mounting bosses so you might consider accessories like this that fit on your seat post. Despite this one hangup, I’m actually a big fan of the battery pack and mounting design for the aforementioned weight distribution and balance benefits. I love that the pack can be charged on or off the bike and includes a solid metal core lock (by ABUS) for security. Considering how light this bike is to begin with, if you choose to remove the 8.8 pound battery you can actually enjoy riding in non-electric mode just as you would with a regular bike. Removing the pack also makes this ebike easier to transport or carry up stairs to store inside etc.

To turn on this bike you simply connect a charged battery and then press a power button at the lower left corner of the display. The large backlit console is mounted front and center for easy viewing and offers several readouts with a constant show of speed, battery and assist level. I love that the display is removable in case you’re parking in a rough area or want to reduce sun exposure. There’s a button on the top right of the display, as well as the remote button pad fixed near the left grip, that has an “i” on it and this lets you cycle through overall distance, trip distance, max speed, average speed, estimated range, and time. My favorite readout is range because it dynamically adjusts as you arrow between four levels of assist (and weighs in how much battery capacity you have left). The higher levels of assist provide more power and torque but also drain the battery more quickly. So, using the left mounted button pad you can literally change assistance without taking your hand off the grip and without even looking down thanks to the tactile “click” feedback. It’s a great design that lets you focus on riding the bike vs. interpreting menus and it’s native to all Bosch Gen2 systems.

Overall this bike features some excellent hardware accessories (Shimano hydraulic brakes, Deore XT derailleur, Selle Royal gel saddle) and a solid frame setup (stiff light weight 6061 aluminum, rack and fender attachment points, CNC ferrules for integrating wires through vs. on top of tubing) but I’m left with a few gripes. I’m probably being extra hard on Felt because they’re a leading bike manufacturer and this is their “regular” edition bike that most people will gravitate towards (especially shorter riders). Electric bikes tend to be ridden more often, over further distances and at higher speeds than their traditional bicycle counterparts and this one could have been designed with a greater emphasis on comfort in my view. On the flip side, if it’s a road bike then comfort could be less of a focus but the geometry isn’t aggressive enough and it should have drop bars and weigh even less. What remains here is an in-between solution that’s meant to be an affordable catch-all and uses nylon pedals that aren’t as stiff or grippy, ergonomic grips that don’t have lockers and can end up shifting and rotating as you ride and some great city “options” that cost extra money to add. Frankly, I’m a bigger fan of the Felt NINEe hardtail for commuting because it’s more comfortable but still fairly efficient given the large 29″ wheelset and suspension lockout for reduced bob.

Pros:

  • Awesome fit! Your choice of two sizes in a step-thru frame configuration of the SPORTe platform, excellent for people with shorter inseams and those who appreciate an easier stand-over and mounting experience
  • Felt is a mainstream performance brand known for high quality bicycle builds, strong emphasis on frame and component quality
  • Gel saddle provides added comfort on longer rides and bumpy terrain, designed to stay extra cool in hot temperatures
  • Front and rear wheels have quick release which is handy for service and transport, the battery pack is also removable for convenient charging and to reduce the weight of the frame during transport, for security the battery has a built in locking core made by ABUS
  • 10 speed rear cassette offers good range for climbing or reaching higher velocity on paved tarmac
  • Bosch display panel is removable for safe storage, backlit for night use and includes a breakout button pad that clicks when you press down so you don’t have to take your hand off the left grip or eyes off the road to navigate menus or change assist level
  • Rear braze-ons provide versatility for mounting a rack, Felt offers an optional lighting and rack kit designed to fit and match the bike
  • Purpose built frame (CNC Aluminum Ferrules) conceals most wires for shifting, braking and motor systems on the bike
  • Having the battery and motor mounted low and center on the frame improves balance and also makes servicing the wheels and drivetrain akin to traditional bicycles which makes it easier for you and shops to do work
  • Pedalec system is extremely responsive (measuring pedal torque, cadence and bicycle speed) cuts out quickly which is important when riding off-road terrain
  • Hydraulic disc brakes provide excellent stopping power while minimizing hand fatigue in off-road environments
  • Solid two year warranty on drivetrain, components and electronics with a lifetime warranty on the frame and a good reputation from Felt
  • Includes a well positioned kickstand so you don’t have to worry about leaning this up against walls or having it tip as easily

Cons:

  • Stiffer ride (great for power transfer) can feel uncomfortable on rough surfaces when riding longer distances, consider adding a seat post shock
  • No throttle mode available here, this is a pedalec only and requires rider pedaling input to activate the motor
  • This is one of the pricier city or road type electric bikes I’ve reviewed but you do get quality and a solid warranty
  • Lower end plastic pedals that can slip when wet and ergo grips that don’t have lockers that can spin, no water bottle cage bosses, consider a seat post mount adapter

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