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by Dave Rome
February 4, 2020
Photography by Felt Bicycles
As seen in use at the Tour Down Under, Felt’s new AR aero bike has now been officially unveiled. Like every new bike launch, the company is claiming this new model is better than its predecessor in every way.
Said to be faster, more comfortable and stiffer, we take a quick look at the new aero bike that continues a long legacy in Felt offering aero road bikes.
At one point Felt was a do-it-all brand and had everything from hybrids through to performance mountain bikes. However, with Felt now under the ownership of the Rossignol Group (same owners as Time), the brand is transitioning to a narrower focus on performance with a commitment to road, cross, track, gravel, and triathlon. The new AR is notably one of the first wholly new bikes to come from the company since its acquisition in 2017.
Much like the latest Specialized Venge, Giant Propel, and Cannondale SystemSix, the new Felt AR is a disc-only machine. And like many of those latest aero bikes, it’s aerodynamically designed around wide rims and tyres – up to 30 mm, in fact.
A careful look at the seat tube reveals a unique curvature, something Felt is calling the “Fish Lips”.
The new frame replaces the traditional airfoil shapes found on the previous AR, and moves to more modern truncated airfoil shapes. The head tube has an hourglass shape, while the seat tube features a patented “Fish Lips” design that’s said to shield the rear tyre from the wind without impacting tyre clearance.
Felt’s press release offers some aerodynamic figures for how the new AR compares to the old. While the numbers are fairly useless without a quoted speed, the company is claiming the new AR is nearly 10% faster at 0-degree yaw angles, while only about 1.4% faster in a weighted yaw-angle distribution calculation. Felt has said the new bike has been optimised around the idea that most riding is done in low yaw angle conditions.
The new AR continues Felt’s long-standing use of TeXtreme spread tow carbon fibre fabrics, a reinforcing material previously kept for Felt’s premium FRD (Felt Racing Development) range. The tape-like material allows the layup to be made thinner, and in turn, can be used to create a lighter frame that’s less susceptible to internal material wrinkles or flaws.
The new frame is claimed to have received a significant boost in stiffness, with the head tube and bottom bracket improving lateral stiffness by 11% and 14%, respectively. The fork is quoted to be laterally and vertically stiffer, too.
The new seatpost is slotted along much of its length, and only joins together near the top.
The frame may be stiffer, but the seatpost certainly isn’t. Felt claims the new frame receives a 112% boost in vertical deflection at the seatpost (compliance), most of which comes from the new proprietary aero seatpost that has a split leaf-spring-like design not unlike the Canyon VCLS seatpost. This seatpost offers a reverse clamp with 0 and 20 mm offset options, and Felt even states that the ability to tune the amount of flex in the post is in development.
This seatpost is retained in the frame with two separate binding bolts, with each one clamping just one side of the seatpost wall – an unusual setup, but one that’s less likely to slip (or damage the post) than more conventional systems. The post also fits in the frame with a “Damping Sleeve”, effectively a one-piece shim made from plastic and rubber that Felt claims to reduce high-frequency vibration. In reality, the sleeve is more likely helpful in preventing the seatpost from slipping and making noise.
You’ll struggle to find a new aero bike without some form of integrated cockpit, and the new Felt AR is no exception. The cables route under and through a proprietary carbon stem, but the stem does work with any 31.8mm handlebar. Regular aftermarket stems can be fitted via the use of a dedicated spacer, and there are traditional cable ports on the frame if you go that route.
This stem is unique to Felt, but the frame can work with regular stems, too.
Felt’s carbon stem uses a removable cover to hide away the cables and the stem can be removed from the bike without having to undo or cut any cables/hoses. While Felt’s chosen system doesn’t fully enclose the cables from the wind like some more integrated setups, it’ll surely be easier to work with.
Up front, the stem’s faceplate is designed to work with existing aftermarket computer mounts (seemingly using the Cervelo/Fizik/3T mount design).
The geometry and size options of the new Felt AR.
The frame features a BB386 press-fit bottom bracket shell and includes an integrated chain catcher.
Currently Felt has only released details of the Advanced-level AR, and the pro-level FRD version (as seen at the Tour Down Under) is still to be released. It’s quite likely the FRD version will simply be a lighter, more expensive, and perhaps stiffer, version of the AR Advanced – and one that makes more generous use of the TeXtreme material.
Speaking of weight, Felt’s press materials notably make no mention of the AR Advanced’s frame weight. While weight should be fairly low down on the list of priorities in making a fast aero bike, the fact the company has shied away from quoting figures should be telling that it’s unlikely to be light.
Also, how the quoted aerodynamic and stiffness figures compare to the competition are currently unknown. All we do know is that the new AR is better than the last.
Complete bike options start from US$4,999 / €4,999 with a Shimano Ultegra mechanical groupset, with the Ultegra Di2 version priced at US$6,499 / €6,399. Framesets (including the stem and seatpost) are priced at US$3,499. It’s likely that more expensive specification options will be released along with the FRD-level frame.
See more at feltbicycles.com.