The striking looking Felt AR2 has the narrow profile and deep, wing-like tubes that historically suggest a compromise between weight and stiffness. This 2014 model is 40 percent stiffer than last year's and has a frame weight of around 900g.
- HIGHS: Category-redefining performance, well-matched wheels and new Ultegra Di2
- LOWS: The AR2’s all-round ability might make a couple of your other bikes redundant
- BUY IF… You want a bike with plenty of show and a whole lot of go
Convention dictates that a road bike will be either fast or comfortable, with the two attributes usually being mutually exclusive. Aero road bikes are characterised by their ability to reduce drag, therefore passing through the air faster. They typically have a narrow frontal profile and tube shapes that offer minimal resistance to airflow. Unfortunately, maintaining lateral stiffness in such frames generally produces a firmer ride than their conventional brethren.
The AR2’s performance completely confounded our expectations, with handling and comfort levels that exceed every aero bike that has gone before. Bucking the trend towards Kamm tail or truncated aerofoil tube shapes, Felt use an ovalised shape, equally rounded at each end, throughout the frame.
The are two exceptions to this shaping. The seat tube's lower section is cut away to envelop the rear wheel, and the chainstays are widened for extra rigidity. Felt claim this shape can create thrust, with it acting like a sail. It's impossible to verify on the road, but our AR2 was surprisingly docile in strong crosswinds.
The Felt AR2 features an aero head tube and internal cable routing
Aerodynamics aside, the AR2 has all the response you'd expect from a top all-round road frame. It revels in every input and reacts instantly to the deft flicks and corrections. While this may not sound particularly groundbreaking, an aero road bike that feels so alive and compliant is unusual.
Tearing across the roughest roads in our local area revealed the AR2’s inherent comfort, which is nothing short of a revelation. The most effective aero road bikes have always been compromised in this area. Felt’s clever carbon lay-up means the AR2 just soaks up cracked and broken roads better than many conventional or endurance bikes.
It feels totally unflappable, never fazed by big hits. It just brings precise, smooth tracking all day long. Even though the Prologo Zero II saddle isn't a plush, cushioning perch, this is a bike that looks after you.
The innovative Varimount (VM) seatpost is internally fixed from each side through vertical slots by independently tightened clamps. This allows it to be built lighter, further promoting comfort-inducing flex. If racing the clock is your thing, the seatpost is designed to be turned around, transforming it from 72.5 to 78.5 degrees for a better position with your clip-on bars.
The wide, rounded profile of 3T’s Accelero 40 Team wheels gives an increased tyre contact patch and unerringly stable handling. The rims have an aluminium braking track for reliable stops and a non-structural carbon faired profile for speed.
The 3T wheels have a wide, rounded aero profile and offer stable handling
Providing the drive is Shimano’s new Ultegra Di2 11-speed groupset. It takes ergonomic and styling cues from Dura-Ace with a four-arm chainset and direct-mount rear brake hidden beneath the chainstays. The slimmed brake hoods and refined levers improve comfort, and every component looks classy and works faultlessly. It operates so efficiently that you’d be hard pressed to separate its functionality from that of its big brother.
The AR2 comes with satellite sprint shifters as standard. These are individual buttons protruding through the tape in the drops for on the rivet sprocket shifting. The right button gives a higher gear and the left side a lower one. You have to concentrate when switching from hoods to drops, as the left hand can alternately change the front or rear mech.
With hands and legs harmonised, the AR2 has speed to burn. The frame’s forgiving nature makes its raw acceleration incredibly accessible. It's at home riding a criterium, climbing for an hour, riding a century or being put to the test in a club time trial. It is possibly the most versatile fast road bike we’ve had the pleasure of testing.