Felt Introduces (Most of) Their 2014 Line

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On Tuesday I went to Felt Bicycles’ headquarters in Irvine for the introduction of their 2014 line. Of all the bike companies I know, they are the most intensely product-focused. By that I mean they devote a disproportionate amount of their resources to product. It’s a double-edged sword; no other company this small (they have fewer than 50 full-time employees in the U.S.) produces such a vast range of bikes, but I’m also reasonably certain that no other company producing product at the quality level and value they do spends less on marketing and advertising. There again, another double-edged sword. By spending a fraction of what Specialized does on marketing, Felt’s bikes are noticeably more value-packed at a given price-point. I’ve encountered riders for whom the effect induced suspicion, as if there must be a man behind a curtain somewhere.

Maybe that will change for 2014. Felt is coming off its most successful appearance at the Tour de France in the company’s history. Marcel Kittel of Argos-Shimano won four stages and wore the yellow jersey for a day. And let’s be honest, Argos-Shimano is a team that doesn’t get the props, attention or respect that Garmin-Sharp does, yet they gave Felt a far better return on investment. Also, while this isn’t exactly germane to the point at hand, I don’t mind adding that with four very evenly matched sprinters (Kittel, Mark Cavendish, Peter Sagan and Andre Greipel), the sprint stages at this year’s Tour were the most thrilling the race has seen in decades.

Before I go any further, I need to clarify what I meant in the headline. There are bikes that we saw that are currently under embargo. I’ll report on them shortly.

The other thing worth noting about Felt’s line is that they offer road bikes at some nearly unheard-of values. Case in point: the Z5, which retails for $1699. While it’s possible to find a carbon fiber bike in this price range, most of Felt’s competitors are spec’ing a Shimano Sora group. Felt specs a mostly 105 group. That’s a big step up in quality.

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The other really interesting development I can talk about for now is the new Virtue Nine. Pictured here is the Virtue Nine One, the top-of-the-line. The Virtue has been Felt’s trail offering, fitting in that 120mm to 140mm-travel range (it’s 130mm front and rear). Thanks to a newly designed seat tube and (for those models that use a front derailleur) a new front derailleur mount, Felt’s engineers were able to revise the rear suspension to keep the rear wheel in tight enough that you can pick up the front end when you need to. The challenge they faced was Felt’s patented Equilink design, which is actually a six-bar linkage.

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The bar running vertically behind the seat tube minimizes pedal-induced bobbing and helps control the path of the rear wheel. Of all the new mountain bikes I’ve seen announced for 2014, this is one of the ones I’m most excited about.

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I continue to marvel at the quality of the layup work on Felt’s bikes. Little touches like the one above, which are cosmetic rather than structural, are a great chance to showcase just how good the work is. So far, I’ve only seen work like this showing up on bikes from Alchemy.

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Felt also offers an astounding number of cruisers, fixies and other assorted city bikes. Give them a frame and they’ll come up with five ways to spec it. The bike above is the York, which features a steel frame, aluminum fenders, that carrier and a two-speed kickback hub and carries a suggested retail of $829.

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The ever-popular (and nearly impossible to get) New Belgium Fat Tire cruisers have been produced by Felt for the entire run of the offering. Each year they change them up a bit. This year they head in a new direction with the addition of 29″ wheels and a new Felt tire.

The embargo will run out on … other stuff in about 10 days. Check back for more revelations then.

 

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8 comments

  1. Ben

    Hmm, save for the rear brake location, the AR series is looking a lot like the Cervelo S3. I wonder if Felt will get a few converts from the Cervelo crowd who were displeased with the looks and rough-ride of the S5.

  2. becomingblue

    We had a 20 or 30 year old Raleigh bike, an early hybrid, show up at the shop the other day for a tune-up. After the customer left, the guy that checked it in and wrote up the work-order said to the other employees, “Look everyone, this frame is just like the new Trek Madone. It has rear brakes mounted under the chainstays.” Now Felt, and apparently others, have followed. Good grief.

    Speaking of wind tunnel action. I thought Trek’s excuse for mounting the rear brakes under the chainstays was for aerodynamic reasons. Now Shimano has developed a nifty quick release for the rear brake to make fixing a flat a little easier. And Felt mounts it right up there where it may catch some wind. So, is the net effect of mounting the brakes under the chainstays with Shimano’s nifty gizmo still more aero than just mounting the brakes on the seat stays?

  3. MCH

    My first reaction to chainstay mounted brakes is similar – more challenging to set-up, more maintenance, etc. On the other hand, that clean rear seat stay is dead sexy. I think we’re all going to have to get used to this stuff – aero is here to stay.

  4. Chris

    Looking forward to a review of the new AR series. My F5 (a 2011 frame from when the F2-F5 were identical), is the best handling road bike I’ve ever pedaled.

    That said, I’m not sure how I feel about the vernacular of aero engineers. ‘Blowing’ a bike?

  5. Roger

    My 1986 Bridgestone MB-1 has a roller-cam brake on the chainstay too. Maybe Grant Peterson was a slave to fashion back then??

  6. Wsquared

    Felt is more “product focused” than Cervelo? Thats nonsense. And oh by the way, Argos Shimano announced they are dropping Felt bikes in 2014 in favor of Giant.

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