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Felt FR2 review

25 Jan 2017
Verdict:

Quick, agile and comfortable, the FR2 is a well balanced bike with broad appeal

Price: 
£3,999

Road bikes are going through a bit of an identity crisis at the moment. Manufacturers are keen to emphasise their bikes’ race credentials, while simultaneously aiming to make them accessible to a broad range of customers.

So even while busily fine-tuning aspects such as aerodynamics and frame weight they’re also ensuring that they cater for comfort and versatility.

The result is a sector full of bikes that claim to be both sporty and comfortable, and sitting squarely in the middle of this sector is Felt’s new FR2.

The question is whether it has created a bike that can shine on both the race circuit and on a leisurely day out in the saddle, or if it is trying to please too many people and will end up suiting no one.

Winning pedigree

Felt’s FR range is the successor to the Felt F series, the top of which was the F1 bike ridden by the Argos-Shimano WorldTour team, and which took Marcel Kittel to victory in four stages of the Tour de France in 2013.

‘The F-series was around for a while and was known as being a really versatile, durable race performance bike.

‘It was a pure racer with a big saddle-to-handlebar drop,’ says Heiko Böhle, head of marketing at Felt and former product manager.

The first noticeable difference with this FR range, then, is a slackening of the general geometry and a taller head tube to allow a more relaxed position on the bike.

It’s something that will aid comfort on a long ride, but won’t do anything for sprinters looking for stage wins at the Tour de France. 

Despite this drift towards greater comfort, the FR2 comes with a most unusual add-on for a bike of this price – a power meter.

The FR2 is specced with a Pioneer Single Leg power meter, which functions in much the same way as a Stages crank, offering an off-the-peg power-measuring device for the bike.

Experiment

‘It’s quite an interesting experiment,’ says Böhle. ‘For triathlon it seems to have taken really well.

‘We had huge fears about adding cost to the bike and whether that would be taken on positively – people seem to like it.’

I, for one, find this an encouraging step for the industry, as manufacturers should be able to pass on OEM pricing savings to the consumer for power meters, which are becoming increasingly commonplace.

Anyone who already owns a power meter, however, may consider it unwanted extra expense.

The other striking element of the FR2 on first inspection is the rear brake, which is mounted at the bottom bracket.

This is not unusual on aerodynamic frames, where concealing the brake from the wind will preserve vital watts, but it’s less obvious on the FR2, which has few other aero pretensions.

‘It really comes down to the position of the seatstays,’ Böhle says. ‘Formerly we had a brake bridge there, which stiffens the rear end.

‘But removing it also means we can connect the seatstays straight to the top tube, increasing the room for flex while not sacrificing any rigidity through the pedals.’

Buy the Felt FR2 from Merlin Cycles now

Light and loose

From the outset the FR2 appealed to me.

Amid the mass of new disc brake bikes, it was strangely refreshing to see a new endurance racer with rim brakes.

At the very least it pays dividends in terms of the overall weight and the final price, even if disc brakes thoroughly outclass the traditional rim brake.

Having ridden disc bikes a lot recently, I found myself grabbing frantically at the brakes on my first use of the FR2, as the initial bite felt so much weaker that for a moment I suspected a brake failure.

It didn’t take long to readjust back to the rim brakes, but there’s no denying that wet-weather riding and any sort of descending is a heap more fun when riding discs.

That said, the slight sacrifice in braking felt amply compensated by the considerable comparative weight saving that the FR2 makes over disc-equipped endurance rides of the same tier.

Weight saving

The aggregate effect of heavier hydraulic systems, stronger chainstays and forks and potentially bulkier (often overbuilt) wheelsets means I’ve found disc-equivalent bikes nearly 1kg heavier for the same spec.

Coming in at 7.3kg with a power meter and electronic gearing, the FR is far more sympathetic to going uphill.

I never like to say that a bike climbs well – after all, it’s the rider that has to do the climbing – but the FR2 is definitely well suited to those fond of inclines.

It has that optimum mixture of rigidity where it counts, at the rear end, and impressively low weight.

I climbed the Puerto de Velefique in Spain (14km at 7.5%) on the FR2 and found the entire ascent a pleasure – the snappy responsiveness of the frame seemed to spur me on.

Better still, I was surprised that even when grinding up slopes of 20%, I didn’t hear the depressing squeak of the rear rim against the brake, a common bugbear of bottom-bracket-mounted rear brakes.

That suggested to me that the rear end was not only stiff but that the wheel and frame were well matched in stiffness terms.

The Mavic Ksyrium Elite has proven to be an extremely popular wheel, and its no-nonsense performance here makes clear why it has been met with such success.

The thud

Just as the F1 did, the FR2 handles accurately and delivers power effectively, yet it also offers a level of comfort that ensures the road buzz never distracts the rider from focusing on the ride.

Much like the Specialized Tarmac or Giant TCR, or indeed any top-tier WorldTour racer, the Felt absorbs big impacts with an insulated ‘thud’ rather than a sharp ‘ping’.

Sprinting comes surprisingly naturally to the FR2 as well, and I was often leaping out of the saddle to dash for signposts.

It seems to couple front and rear stiffness in a balanced way that rewards big efforts.

Felt could be accused of failing to stand out from the crowd over the past few years, when the innovation of the bike industry has seemed to jump forward decades at a time.

Simple pleasures

Yet, much like the brand, the FR2 is a bike that does the simple things very well indeed.

Perhaps it’s not as suitable for die-hard speed junkies as the F1, but then those people can look to Felt’s AR aero range.

The FR2 provides ample speed and agility for most racers, and plenty of comfort for those who would rather just enjoy a long day on the bike.

Buy the Felt FR2 from Merlin Cycles now

Spec

Felt FR2
Frame Felt UHC Advanced + TeXtreme carbon fibre
Groupset Shimano Ultegra Di2
Brakes Tektro T851 direct mount rear calliper
Chainset Shimano Ultegra Di2 with Pioneer Single Leg power meter
Cassette Shimano Ultegra Di2
Bars 3T Ergosum Team Stealth
Stem 2T ARX II Team Stealth
Seatpost 3T Stylus 25
Wheels Mavic Ksyrium Elite
Saddle Prologo Scratch
Weight 7.30kg
Contact feltbicycles.com

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