In July, I took the Felt AR Advanced on one of my hilliest local routes. Previously, the bike had me cruising like a missile on flat courses, including a loop in a nearby industrial park great for hard efforts. But how would the bike fare on some inclines? The hills in my area are humble, but they do the trick. I was impressed with the AR. While this build is heavier than some climber’s bikes by more than a kilogram (my test model in size 54 was 8.41 kg), I could still motor up rollers. It’s a versatile wind-slicer.
The most-recent update to the AR was in 2013, which in bike years, is a while ago. Earlier this year, Felt released the new AR with contemporary features, such as thru-axles, disc brakes and the frame’s ability to accommodate 30-mm-wide tires. (The launch only featured a frame with the company’s second-tier carbon-fibre formula. The top-of-the-line FDR frame is rolled out in September.) The tubes on the 2020 bike have truncated airfoil shapes, instead of the more traditional airfoil forms of the earlier generation frames. The new frame, however, still looks like an aero bike with its deep tubes, unlike the much shallower truncated airfoils that are appearing on climber’s bikes. The latest AR is optimized for yaw angles of apparent wind (the vector sum of your forward speed and the actual wind direction) of less than 10 degrees. That range reflects Felt’s thinking, and that of other companies, that you mostly face apparent wind at more acute angles than at angles more than 10 degrees. The new truncated airfoils have you covered for the majority of winds you’ll ride into.
Designed for easy maintenance
As Felt conducted its research for the new AR, it heard from shops and riders that the full integration of components for maximum aerodynamics might not be worth it. A mechanic didn’t want a bike that was so complicated that it would take a day to build. A rider wanted to be able to do basic maintenance. Felt got the message.
One component that helps with the bike’s user-friendliness is the stem. The AR integrated carbon stem runs hoses and cables into the frame. It’s a beefy component, but it’s fairly easy to take off from the steering tube if you want to pack up your bike. Also, two-piece spacers let you adjust the stem’s height without the need to re-hose or re-cable the bike. The AR comes with handlebars by Felt’s house brand, Devox. The setup, however, is bar agnostic. You can, and should use whatever bars you like. “The handlebar can be as personal a touch-point as a saddle,” says Alexander Soria, director of product development at Felt. “How would you feel if we gave you a bike with a saddle and said, ‘Sorry, you can’t change it. That’s just the saddle you have to run.’ I think that that would get some pushback.”
The cruising speed of the Felt AR is fantastic. As a light rider, I couldn’t get the same starting snap from the AR that I can from climber’s bikes. Still, I’m sure a crit rider or true sprinter might not feel the same windup. The AR handled great at speed, but I found it vague at slower velocities. If you are on a climb with this bike, climb like Marco Pantani, your hands in the drops: the bike seems to track better that way. Then, on the descents and flats, just boot it with the Felt AR.
Felt AR Advanced
Shimano Ultegra Di2 drive-train with 11–30 tooth, 11-speed cassette and 52/36-tooth chainrings. Ultegra R8070 hydraulic disc brakes.
Reynolds AR58 DB custom carbon
48, 51, 54, 56, 58, 61