Felt B12 £2700

Smooth and speedy

BikeRadar score 4/5

Felt’s carbon-framed contender is a smoothly speedy and well-equipped ride for efficient spinners, but not so great for those big-gear grunters. So, unless you’re an habitual big-gear mangler or steep-hill stomper, the smoothness and reduced fatigue may well pay more long-haul dividends than the potential speed dilution of the flexy power train.

Ride & handling: Comfortable and fluid

First impressions of the Felt depend entirely on which direction you’re headed in. When we rolled out in flat or down-sloped directions with a steady start rate or low heart rate in mind, then the easy speed of the sculpted aerodynamics and deeper-than-average wheels was noticed by all the Felt pilots straight away.

Despite the deeper wheels transmitting more road shock, the skinny frame sections, plush saddle and well-designed cockpit mean very little of it got to the rider. Even over proper back-road asphalt acne, the B12 stayed smooth and serenely comfortable. This enables you to stay down in a tuck and tick over the pedals without any interruption. The overall fatigue feedback from our test riders after their Felt flights was laden with praise for its comfortable, energy-conserving and efficient character.

At speed, steering is steady and the position well-balanced enough to thread through S-bends at 30mph-plus, without worry about staying in a tuck. The springiness of the frame also makes for a lively and buoyant feel through corners or changes of pace, creating a surprisingly playful and enjoyable ride for such a purposeful-looking bike. Relatively quick steering at slower speeds never turns nasty, even when trickling the bike around obstacles.

While it holds a gear well with easy efficiency, climbs, fast starts or anything requiring a serious sprint did expose the flipside of such a comfortable, fluid ride. Push too hard, and the narrow, cutaway bottom bracket and chainstay area starts to squirm around noticeably, softening your pedal push and leaving it lagging when you’re trying to torque the heavy wheels up to speed. Having said that, this is a bike plainly designed for long-haul events, not the more point-and-shoot, sprint or Olympic-distance races.

Frame: Aero-efficient and comfortable for long-distance joy

Felt’s B12 frame is another very well-proven contender, appearing first back in 2007 as the basis of their flagship DA bike. The controversial leading-edge Bayonet fork system has now gone in favour of a conventional sculpted leg aero fork, but otherwise the frame remains the same. Internally routed gear and rear brake cables disappear vertically behind the stem and appear again just ahead of the bottom bracket.

The top tube tapers to a super-skinny connection, while aero seat tube and super-slim down tube both get wheelhugger cut-outs to reduce drag. The rear brake is mounted horizontally in a seat tube cut-out just above the bottom bracket to leave the top of the aero seatstays totally clean. Small threaded stop screws in the horizontal dropouts also allow accurate wheel positioning in relation to the seat tube cut-out. The B12 only comes in four sizes, though, and the seatpost just gives a single steep position, rather than the choice of a laidback position.

Equipment: SRAM Red, Devox cockpit and deep-section wheel are highlights

Value vultures will note that the transmission is mostly SRAM’s superlight Red groupset, though the full-size solid disc TT chainrings run on a down-specced alloy chainset. The R2C (Return 2 Centre) shifters, with their permanently horizontal position, look aero, but the actual gear change operation is extremely stiff, which some testers struggled with.

We’re sure most riders will be pruning the super-long Devox own-brand extensions, but the rubber cow-horn covers on stiff base bars and integrated brake levers work really well. The Devox saddle polarised opinion. Some liked the broad, soft nose when down in a deep tuck, but others found there was too much between their thighs. If you don’t get on with it on a demo ride, most dealers will swap it to your preferred perch to close a £2,700 sale.

As well as the top-quality SRAM gear, Felt also provide an own-brand semi-aero wheelset. The 40mm-deep alloy rim gives a slight wind-cutting and momentum advantage on the flat without any obvious gusty weather downsides, but the heavy rim does need more muscle to accelerate or get it uphill.

This article was originally published in Triathlon Plus magazine.

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