Felt’s AR series was one of the first range of aero profiled road bikes available. They share many of the wind cheating tricks the company learned with their long development programme of solo speed triathlon/time trial bikes.
The cues are obvious in the frame, with front and rear ‘wheel hugger’ curves cut into it and internal cable routing plugging in vertically behind the head tube. The thin bladed fork is a constant 1 1/8in diameter rather than tapered, and the stays, seat tube and seat clamp are all aero profiled.
While 30mm deep wheels reduce overall aero advantage, the overall feel of the Felt is very ‘clean’ and easy at higher speeds. While they’re a heft to accelerate, the Shimano wheels also hold momentum well once you’ve got them spinning.
Despite the deep aero tubes, the MMC carbon fibre frame has a natural buoyancy and smoothness that resembles a sportive bike rather than a ruthless racer in the way it shrugs off scabby roads and potholes.
Add a naturally tall position from the ‘large for its size’ frame geometry and the AR4 is a great fatigue-reducing, mile-eating cruiser that naturally encourages you to spend a lot of time in the big ring.
The gearing itself is well suited to this role too, with an unusual but very effective 52/36 chainring combo that gives a high top end and reasonably friendly climbing. While the mainly Ultegra spec value is average rather than outstanding, little touches such as the red cable end caps and monogrammed bar tape add ownership pride. For £3,599, the same frame comes with Shimano Ultegra Di2 and Mavic wheels.
Unsurprisingly, the frame’s smoothness does mean a reduction in terms of handling and sharpness of response. While seated power is delivered perfectly well, there’s a bounce and flex when you’re sprinting or lunging for a summit out of the saddle.
Considering the skinny top tube and down tube, it’s no wonder you can feel a bit of snaking rather than direct shoulder to back wheel connection when you’re pulling on the bar. But it still holds its own surprisingly well against sharper feeling bikes when racing head to head.
The Felt’s handling also feels soft when you’re cornering, and it needs a firm hand to keep it apex bound rather than wandering wide. Consistent front to rear flex makes it perfectly predictable, though, so it never feels sketch, as many unbalanced aero bikes can, just a bit vague at higher velocities.
Felt ar4: Seb Rogers/Future Publishing
This article was originally published in Cycling Plus magazine, available on Apple Newsstand and Zinio.