Felt AR3 review£2,499.00

Mature aero pioneer let down slightly by wheels

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As one of the aero road bike pioneers, Felt has heaps of experience, and with one of the world’s fastest time trial bikes in its ranks, the company knows a thing or two about cheating drag. The AR3 sits in the middle of Felt’s reasonably priced AR range.

The frame’s forward-facing tubes have a fairly even ovalised wing shape. The seatstays are bridgeless, thanks to the direct-mount rear brake fitted below incredibly large chainstays that meet at very generous dropouts.

Cabling frustrations

An extensive seat-tube cutout brings the rear wheel in tight, and the seatpost’s wing profile incorporates Felt’s clever clamping system. Slots each side of the post slide up and down on independent clamps which can each be tightened to a hefty 8Nm. Felt says the split design reduces road buzz too, and it does feel more comfortable than its girth would have you expect.

The gear cables are routed through each side of the down tube, leaving extra exposed cable between the bar and frame. With restricted access to the rear direct-mount caliper, Felt has included an in-line cable quick release and adjuster, which is fitted between the bar and the top-tube entry port just behind the headset.

It’s a practical solution, but on our example it sticks out in the wind, and into our knee, causing annoyance when out of the saddle. You could shorten the cable a little and position the metal adjuster nearer to the bar, though that could scuff the bar and stem. As it is, it’s a poor solution both aesthetically and aerodynamically.

Super stiff cockpit

The cockpit, and handlebar in particular, is incredibly stiff to the point of being harsh, which to some extent works against the AR’s otherwise smooth ride. But when you’re hustling the bike out of corners, the bar’s solidity is invaluable – so long as the shape suits: generous flat tops are brilliant when riding on the hoods, and the curve of the drops is great, but at times we found our wrists impeded by the tight upper bend.

We’ve always enjoyed the ride and handling of the current AR range, and here the AR3 still delights. Choosing an aero road bike shouldn’t mean compromising on handling, and the Felt feels well planted and nimble through the twisty stuff. The ride quality is still decent, although with recent carbon frame advances, what felt smooth two years ago is now less so alongside the latest cosseting creations.

That bulbous bottom bracket area equates to excellent power transfer through the beefy stays, into the rear wheel and onto the tarmac. But even though the response is good, the RS31 wheels seem to dampen the frame’s enthusiasm and acceleration. When climbing, it’s clear that something is restricting progress; in part it’s simply gravity, but the wheels in particular feel sluggish. Even though the brakes weren’t set close to the rim, we also suffered some rear wheel rubbing from a combination of an untrue rim and some deflection.

The AR3 is a bit of an aero road bargain with its well-proven frameset, all-Ultegra drivetrain and decent finishing kit. But while the RS31s are reasonable wheels, they’re the one upgrade we’d recommend.

This article was originally published in Cycling Plus magazine, available on Apple Newsstand and Zinio.

Robin Wilmott

Tech Writer, Tech Hub, UK,
Robin began road cycling in 1988, and with mountain bikes in their infancy, mixed experimental off-road adventures with club time trials and road races. Cyclocross soon became a winter staple, and has remained his favourite form of competition. Robin has always loved the technical aspect of building and maintaining bikes, and several years working in a good bike shop only amplified that. Ten years as a Forensic Photographer followed, honing his eye for detail in pictures and words. He has shot at the biggest pro events since the '90s, and now he's here, drawing on all those experiences to figure out what makes a bike or component tick.
  • Age: 45
  • Height: 178cm / 5'10"
  • Weight: 75kg / 165lb
  • Discipline: Road, cyclocross, time trials
  • Beer of Choice: Sierra Nevada Pale Ale

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