by Caley Fretz
The AR got a taste of glory early, when a determined Will Frischkorn attacked from the gun on stage 3 of the 2008 Tour de France on a prototype frame. He made it all 208 kilometers to the finish with a small group and missed the win by less than a wheel. That heritage of the long breakaway lives on in the AR’s engineering. It was the most comfortable all-day ride in the test, perhaps at the expense of a little snap here and there. I’d pick the AR1 over any other on a day I plan to pull a Frischkorn.
Scientific Testing: 18 of 30 points
Overall, the AR1 was slightly less stiff than the Cervélo S3 in Microbac’s torsional stiffness test, putting it last in our group of four. However, deflection measured at the center of the bottom bracket was lower than the Cervélo and nearly on par with the ultra stiff Ridley. The AR1’s most remarkable feature in the wind tunnel was the stability of its drag numbers across various yaw angles. It wasn’t the fastest at any single yaw angle, but also didn’t have the wild swings between 0- and 10-degrees of yaw that the other three bikes did. There’s something to be said for consistency in crosswinds. A2’s Mike Giraud thinks the cause of this consistency may come down to the details. The bars and tape on the AR were a bit thicker than others, for example, which would increase drag at zero yaw but have less effect as the yaw angle increased.
Subjective Ride Quality: 22 of 30 points
While I might turn to the Ridley or Blue in a crit, due to their stiffness, I’d pick the Felt over both for a day-long breakaway. I found the AR1 to be the most comfortable bike in this test, particularly for long rides, earning a 9 of 10 for comfort.
Acceleration was a bit sluggish. The AR1 seemed to prefer keeping speed rather than gaining it, though that may have more to do with the somewhat hefty-but-aerodynamic Mavic Cosmic Carbone wheelset.
Handling was better in swooping corners than in tight ones. At 41.5cm, the AR’s chainstays are longest in the test by one centimeter, lengthening the wheelbase and slowing the handling.
User Friendliness: 12 of 15 points
It’s clear that Felt’s engineers did their homework, as the AR is as easy to wrench on as anything else out there. The component spec is solid, without any stinkers like on the Blue and Ridley. The only thing keeping the AR from a perfect score is its Dura-Ace Di2 drivetrain, which most consumers don’t have much experience installing or maintaining. Plus you have to plug it in, however infrequently.
Value: 15 of 20 points
As the most expensive bike in our test, without the best test scores, it would have been easy to knock plenty of points off here. However, much of that cost comes from the pricey Di2 electric group and Mavic’s Cosmic Carbone wheelset. You get what you pay for. In this particular case, that cost premium is coming from a top-of-the-line component spec, not exorbitant frame price. Nonetheless, the $9,000 price tag is staggering.
Weight: 3 of 5 points
Felt’s claimed weight of 15.4 pounds must be for a tiny frame with helium in the tires, because our 56cm weighed 16.6 pounds, making it the second heaviest bike in our test.