Felt’s “Variable Road” platform blurs the line between the endurance and gravel categories. It feels equally at home on pavement and dirt thanks to its endurance road geometry and a host of adventure details like big tire clearance and Rotor’s new 46/30-tooth adventure crankset. It’s the ideal bike for seeking out new roads, exploring unmaintained dirt tracks, or for riders who simply favor comfort over speed.
Endurance geometry puts you in a somewhat upright riding position, with a 185-millimeter head tube and long, stable wheelbase (1013 millimeters). It’s a relaxed fit that makes long rides more comfortable and provides stability when hitting dirt and gravel roads. You can still jump in a local road race or gran fondo of course, but don’t expect to find too much of an aggressive race position.
The VR’s seat stays change from round at the top to flair in the middle and then finned flat at the bottom, allowing for vertical buckling that leads to compliance. The top-tube-chainstay junction is lower on the seatpost to provide even more vibration absorption. We immediately noticed the effects when pedaling up rugged dirt canyon climbs. It was easy to maintain overall comfort, leaving us ready to tackle more bumpy miles.
The 35mm tire clearance dips the VR3W into gravel bike territory. Felt recommends only going up to 30mm and the VR3W comes stock with Shwalbe Pro One 28mm tires. But we tested the bike with Schwalbe’s 35mm G-One smooth rolling gravel tires and would stick to the bigger rubber for the added comfort and versatility.
For a true adventure bike setup, Rotor’s 46/30-tooth sub-compact configuration is a smart spec. If you plan on taking the bike off road and up steep mountain climbs, the smaller gears feel great. However, in its endurance bike configuration with faster rolling tires, the adventure gearing is a bit too small and we quickly spun out on shallow paved descents.
The VR platform includes additional adventure details like a third set of water bottle mounts on the top tube just behind stem. You can attach a “bento” box or food bag here for easy access on long rides. Hidden fender mounts are a nice touch as well for riders who won’t let a little rain stand in their way.
Our one minor complaint about the VR3W’s versatile spec, however is the massively-wide 46cm handlebar. While a wider bar is more off-road capable and provides extra leverage for technical terrain, 46cm feels excessive, especially for a women’s bike. 44mm bars make more sense but we’d prefer 42mm bars with flared drops to provide both a normal riding position on the tops and extra leverage when in the drops.
It’s unclear whether to call the VR3W a semi-gravel bike, all-road bike, or an extremely capable endurance bike. Ultimately, that doesn’t matter. All you need to know is that this bike is fun to ride on almost all types of roads. It’s what endurance bikes should have been all along: capable and comfortable for seeking out lesser-traveled roads and trails.
Component Highlights: Shimano Ultegra drivetrain with Rotor 3D30 Adventure 46/30 crankset and Ultegra 11-32 cassette; Shimano RS805 hydraulic disc brakes; Novatec 30 CL disc wheels