Felt introduced their second iteration of their aero road bike, the AR, last year, and while I was able to write a bit about it at their media event, I didn’t have the chance to ride it. Nor did I have a chance to ride it at Interbike’s Outdoor Demo last year, for the simple reason that it caused enough of a stir that I simply couldn’t get one. So this year I made Felt my first stop at Outdoor Demo. I’ve been intrigued by this bike because: A) aero road bikes have come a long way in general; B) Felt is doing some of the most advanced layup work out there; and C) according to their own testing the AR is more comfortable than their traditional road frame, the F.
The key to the AR’s comfort is this seatpost. Instead of a seat binder that wraps all the way around the seat tube, two small clamps pinch the walls of the seat post. That’s why the seatpost has those channels. Once a bike is set up, urethane guards are pressed into the channels to restore the seatpost’s aerodynamics.
Out on the road I found the AR to be very quick feeling, but without GPS and known roads I didn’t have any real reference point. Out of the saddle there was a bit of flex at the BB, but this bike was much stiffer than some other legendary aero bikes I’ve ridden. The other point about the bike’s ride I appreciated was that it had a lively feel, like some of the better road bikes I’ve been on, and this was only the AR3, an Ultegra-equipped bike, that goes for $3499. With this kind of ride, they deserve to sell this bike by the truckload.
A couple of years ago I did a post about Felt’s non-existent F1 PR. This is the revision of the F1 that the ProTour teams they have previously sponsored used at Paris-Roubaix. A quick recap: Felt’s head of engineering, Jeff Soucek, designed special dropouts for the F1. The new fork dropouts were longer, in order to give more clearance at the fork crown for 28mm tires. The rear dropouts positioned the axle higher and further back than normal, again for tire clearance. The longer dropouts in the fork included more rake to offset the slacker head tube angle, while the rear dropouts lowered the bottom bracket height and increased the wheelbase.
So the F1 PR is an old-school, stage-race geometry bike made with one of the best carbon fiber layups I’ve ridden. I’ve been eager to ride this bike the way I’ve been eager to drive a McLaren MP4 12C—I never thought it’d happen, but thanks to the UCI, Felt had to sell this bike in order for it to get their approval to be raced.
I own an F1 and really love the bike and this bike contained everything I love about the F1 plus something I love even more—a lower bottom bracket. Having spent time on two bikes recently that both have lower bottom brackets, I can confirm that I’ve really never stopped loving that Italian geometry.
And yes, the F1 PR was shod with true 28s, Challenge’s Paris-Roubaix tires. This will be sold as a frame set only and will be in very short supply. They’ll probably all be sold by Christmas, but this is easily one of the most interesting bikes I’ll see all week. If I had a garage of unlimited size, and a budget to match, I’d have one of these in there for sure.
Unlike last year when 200 degree, 40 mph wind blew sand and dust directly into my corneas, this year it’s raining and 70 degrees. I’ll take it, but it has made for some blustery rides and a need to protect my camera (as usual). Unfortunately, I had to cut my ride short after finally getting out on Giant’s aero road bike, the Propel, another model I was unable to ride last year, due to its popularity. With the wind blowing the way it was I really couldn’t get a great feel for the bike, but it performed well out of the saddle and didn’t feel like a block of wood, which makes it automatically better than most efforts.
My longest ride of the day was on an ebike from Haibike. That had less to do with the fact that I was being assisted than the fact that I was having a really interesting conversation with the director of Bosch’s ebike division. We rode most of the way to Lake Mead while holding a delightful tete-a-tete on bikes, advocacy and wine. The fact that we could continue talking on the climb back up was nice. I’ve become a believer in ebikes and think they could grow the number of cyclists worldwide pretty significantly.
I closed out the day with a ride on the new Giant Defy with Ultegra Di2, discs and Michelin’s new Pro 4 Endurance 28mm tires. I and some of my other journalist colleagues did a ride down to Hoover Dam, taking a gravel trail I rode for the first time last year.
The first thing I noticed on our ride was how comfortable the new Defy is thanks to the design of the rear triangle, with its ultra-flattened seatstays and the D-shaped seatpost. As we rode I could see the saddles of the other riders bob as they hit bumps, which indicated a level of compliance that surprised me.
These tires performed well on the gravel, as well as I’d hope for a slick, 28mm tire. Where I liked them most, though, was on the bike path where I had a better feel for the low pressure—these are rated to a max of 6.5 bar—about 94 psi; our tires were pumped to 87 psi—and low rolling resistance; they made the rather smooth asphalt feel like glass. They were reasonably supple even beyond the low pressure thanks to the 110 TPI casing. They also feature a dual-compound tread to give them great rolling resistance when going straight but improved traction when cornering and thanks to their size, riders will be able to make much better use of the softer tread area. I can’t wait to give these a more thorough ride.