First Look: Felt AR2
Aerodynamics and comfort don’t have to be mutually exclusive.
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Out of the box, the 2014 Felt AR2 looks as sleek and aggressive as a stealth bomber. And the likeness held up after a few months of riding, with almost every tester who’s tried it impressed by this aero bike’s speed.
Every company has its concepts about aerodynamics—all of which are tested in a wind tunnel. Although many bikes have turned to air-foil shapes in recent years, Felt maintains that its ovalized tubes are faster.
While it would be prohibitively expensive to put all the bikes in a wind tunnel to test that claim, we will say that on a timed course with the same wheels, the Felt was just as fast as any other aero bike we tested this year. And for the record, Felt says the AR2 is 30 percent faster than a standard round-tube bike, which essentially equals free watts.
Wind-cheating aside, this bike is also very comfortable. Normally because of the shaping on aero bikes, the tubes must be reinforced for stiffness, which can both add weight and make for a jarring ride. The AR2’s frame, however, weighs just 900 grams (claimed weight), and the ride is as supple as some endurance bikes we’ve tried.
If that sounds hard to believe, well, we were incredulous ourselves. But apparently Felt has done its homework with the carbon layups because the bike smooths out bumpy chip-coat and wide heat seams. At first we approached rough patches with caution, expecting a jolt to the tailbone and spine, but soon we realized that the AR2 tracks effortlessly over them.
Our tester is equipped with Ultegra Di2 components, which are as quick and durable as Dura Ace Di2 with just a small weight penalty. The cables are all routed internally, contributing to the bike’s aerodynamics and slick look. The sprinter’s shifters—which allow for gear changes from the drops and even additional shift options from the hoods—are included. Some people complain about the added complication and cost of electronic shifting, but these supplemental shifters (as well as the climber’s shifter, which isn’t included) add benefits that can’t be matched by mechanical drivetrains.
The AR2 is completed with 3T Accelero 40 wheels, which have an aluminum structure (including the brake track) covered by a carbon fairing for aerodynamics. So far, they’re our least favorite component on the bike due to their stiffness. The unorthodox seat clamp design that tightens from either side helps cut through the wind, but it’s a bit tricky to set up. On the other hand, the remainder of the components, including lots of 3T carbon bits and piece, are solid and excellent.
The AR2 is not inexpensive ($6,200), and there are two higher-end models with lighter carbon layups that are being sold as frame sets only. Felt also offers three more affordable versions of the bike: the AR3 R with SRAM Red for $5,150, the AR4 with Shimano Ultegra mechanical for $3,500, and the AR5 with Shimano 105 for $2,500.