Time for a new bike
Really my decision came down to usage, in training for Ironman Zurich, my main event for the season, I would be doing a real mix of cycling including a number of Sportives such as Wiggle Dragon Ride and Human Race Chiltern 100 as well as triathlons and road riding. Sometimes Sportive events do not permit TT bars for safety reasons and I didn’t really want to constantly switch between two bikes (or have the space for anymore bikes in our flat!) wanting instead to get all the training miles in on the same steed. Really when you look at the frame geometry, the Felt AR5 is not far off the TT frames, slightly less aggressive but still boasting key features needed for enhanced aerodynamics: tube shape, internal cable routing, aero seat post, tapered forks and an aerodynamically curved seat tube, so that the rear wheel can sit incredibly close to the tube, which is supposed to improve air flow from the frame over the rear wheel.
After reading lots of reviews, people seemed to rave about how great the Felt AR bikes were, specifically focusing on the top end speed achievable as well as the sheer enjoyment of riding the bike. So this made my decision fairly simple, I could still ride the sportives and “hilly” routes (groan!) without having to change much, except removing my clip on tri bars. The only slightly awkward thing is that my boyfriend has the Felt AR3, so I had to go for the Felt AR 5 2015 to avoid being too matchy matchy, although we still do get a lot of jokes about his and hers! People are just jealous right?!
On first impressions of my new bike out of the box, I have to say vanity kicked in and I couldn’t help but appreciate what a seriously great looking piece of kit it is. Not only is this thing supposed to be an absolute weapon of speed to ride, but it’s a real head turner at the same time…bring it on!
My first ride was pretty exciting, having previously owned an alloy frame / carbon forked / tiagra groupset road bike, to step up to this machine - the two bikes felt absolutely worlds apart. Where I would have to slog away in the wind and on any kind of decent gradient with my old bike, I found myself accelerating quickly, cutting through the air able to reach much higher top speeds and flying (well that’s a total exaggeration but…) up the hills with ease like never before. It brought a whole new level of enjoyment to going out for a ride!
To say the Felt AR5 is speedy is an understatement, you can tell this bad-boy was developed and tested over and over and over in a wind tunnel because it is incredibly fast, hugely responsive and eager for speed. Felt are renowned for being at the forefront of aerodynamics and this bike unquestionably demonstrates that.
Lightweight carbon fibre construction
The Felt AR5 is a lot lighter than what I had been used to - with the frame, forks and drop-outs constructed entirely from UHC Performance Carbon fibre, the whole bike weighs in at just over 8kg (of course it will be lighter if I upgrade the wheels!) Therefore, it makes absolute sense that the AR5 requires much less effort climbing bigger hills that I might have struggled on previously (did I mention I was a bit hill shy!) and means that my energy levels and leg strength seem to last longer as a result. My riding pals have certainly noticed the difference in fewer profanities half way up a climb!
Another major upgrade is the Shimano 105 – 11 speed groupset which offers a drastically different riding experience than Tiagra, with clean, smooth and dependable shifting in every condition I have so far ridden it in (all conditions, thanks to the great British weather!)
Felt & 3T’s seatpost solution
One very nifty feature of this bike, which makes it the perfect hybrid for road and triathlon, is the ‘flippable’ aero seatpost. The clever design of the post and the 3T clamp allows the saddle to be placed in a traditional relaxed position for road riding, or if you remove the post and flip it so that the clamp and saddle are fixed further forward, this allows you to be in a more aggressive TT position for triathlons. This feature has proved useful as I have changed to a triathlon specific saddle ahead of the Ironman, to allow me to sit more comfortably on the tri-bars over long distances.
The Felt & 3T’s seatpost solution – this is in the ‘relaxed’ position for road cycling, flip it around and forward to achieve a more aggressive TT / Triathlon position.
Rear brake positioning
The Felt AR5 is specced with a Prologo Zero saddle which is better suited to men and meant for short – medium road cycling distances, where you are in a more upright position – this just wasn’t working for me at all unfortunately! Changing the saddle and it’s position has allowed me to sit further forward, comfortably, and has adjusted the angle of my hips, moving me into a stronger, more efficient time-trial body shape. I definitely feel more powerful riding in this position now!
Interestingly, the rear brake on the AR5, is positioned under the bottom bracket. Moving the rear brake from the seat stays means some weight loss, as there is no need for a brake bridge as well as improved aesthetics as the brakes are almost hidden by what Felt coin ‘the Gap Shield Rear Triangle’ – in layman’s terms this means the curved aspect to the seat tube which allows the rear wheel to sit almost touching the tube, which apparently increases stiffness to the bottom bracket. However, the one negative I have found with the bike is when riding out of the saddle there is a bit too much flex in the back wheel which causes friction with the brakes - a bit disconcerting when trying to climb a big hill! This is something that is picked up in quite a few reviews though so I less worried after reading those! The issue could be resolved with a change of wheelset (I’m saving up!) and some playing about with the brakes, however, the brake adjustment is not that easy due to the hidden positioning under the bottom bracket. I’ll save that one for a mechanic I think!
An absolute speed machine
All in all the Felt AR5 is an absolute speed machine that I am loving getting to grips with – it is the perfect bike for my Ironman adventure. For long solo efforts, i.e. non-drafting races, which all Ironman events are, this bike really comes into its own and you can very clearly feel the aerodynamic advantage versus a standard road bike frame. Add a couple of tri-bars on the front and you are away, ready to fly! In addition to the very welcome aerodynamic gains, the other key feature that make this bike a winner for triathlon is the flippable, shock absorbing seat post, which allows you to alter your riding position based on whether you are tackling a hilly sportive versus a super flat bike leg in a tri race. Finally...it looks super stealth! I have had a lot of comments from people whilst out riding about what a great looking bike it is and I have to say I totally agree!
The Felt AR5 punches well above its weight and price, in terms of features and ride-ability, if you are someone that switches between road riding and triathlon and don’t have the budget to buy a separate TT bike (not many of us do!) or if you are looking for a bike that can be flexible depending on the type of riding you are doing, it’s the perfect choice. I can’t wait to start racing to really get the most out of it! Bring on the triathlon season!