Modern aero road bike that balances integration with serviceability and speed with comfort
Quick, snappy handling and a comfortable ride
The wheels are too deep for daily riding
With new third-party aerodynamic data to back it up, Felt says the AR is faster than its predecessor. More importantly, the AR feels more comfortable and rideable for everyday training. We like this as an everyday bike that combines the best of both aero bikes and all-around bikes.
The last time the Felt AR saw a major facelift was six years ago, but six years is ancient history when it comes to bike technology and innovation. After a lot of research and testing, Felt has finally given the people what they want—an all new AR. Felt claims the new AR is 1.4% faster than the previous version, has a stiffer pedaling interface, and offers a more comfortable ride quality. In addition to that, it now features disc brakes, thru-axles, and clearance for up to 30mm tires.
2020 Felt AR Advanced: what’s new
While at first glance it may look like Felt just threw some disc brakes on the old AR and called it an update, they’ve provided substantial research and third party testing results to demonstrate that this really is an all new —and more aero — AR.
Felt’s big aero emphasis is on defining low yaw as less than 10 degrees. There was a point in time where “low yaw” could mean up to 15 degrees, but the industry as a whole has moved toward this sub-10-degree definition. In fact, there’s substantial research suggesting that cyclists spend the vast amount of their time at close to 0 degrees of yaw. In that vein, Felt provided these results of unweighted comparisons conducted by independent contractors at the San Diego Low Speed Wind Tunnel, and which compare the 2020 AR to the previous model:
RESULTS – UNWEIGHTED YAW ANGLE RANGES
0 degrees = 9.4% Faster*
-2.5 to 2.5 degrees = 7.0% Faster
-5.0 to 5.0 degrees = 5.2% Faster
-7.5 to 7.5 degrees = 3.2% Faster
-10 to 10 degrees = 0.7% Faster
*“Faster” is defined as more aerodynamically efficient than the previous generation Felt AR.
In spite of the research suggesting that even +/-10-degrees may be conservative, Felt’s claim that the new AR is 1.4% more aerodynamically efficient in overall conditions than the previous iteration is based on an equally conservative industry standard of a 90/10 distribution to weight the time spent riding within that +/- 10-degree range.
Michael White, Felt’s senior marketing and communications manager, explains that Felt defines their use of the term “overall conditions” as a weighted calculation in which “90% of the cyclist’s time is spent riding between -10 and 10 degrees of yaw, and the remaining 10% of time is spent riding between both -20 to -10 degrees and 10 to 20 degrees of yaw.” Keep in mind, this is also assuming you’re riding alone; if you’re in a paceline or group, you’ll spend even more than 90% of your time between -10 and 10-degrees.
Much of that improved aerodynamic efficiency at low yaw angles can be attributed to the design of the truncated airfoil tubes. This includes a redesign of the seatpost. The previous AR featured a reversable seatpost that could be flipped around to place the rider in a more forward position ideal for TTs or triathlons. The new seatpost has the same truncated shape as the rest of the frame tubes, and has lost that functionality (but for an aerodynamic improvement, so maybe we’ll call that a wash).
The current seatpost does still utilize the same split design, however. The vertical split in the seatpost provides flex and compliance at the saddle. This time around, Felt also includes a plastic and rubber sleeve for the seatpost that sits just inside the seat tube. This sleeve should reduce quite a bit of the “noise” that travels through the seat tube to the rider, thus creating a smoother-feeling ride. Felt also revamped the seatpost clamp, using a proprietary system that prevents damage from over-tightening on the leading and trailing ends of the post.
Felt also redesigned the cockpit of the 2020 AR. Cables are routed under and through a semi-integrated stem to hide them from the wind. Stem and bars are separate pieces, and by routing the cables under the stem, Felt made it possible to swap the stem without having to cut cables. This makes packing and travel quick and straightforward. You can also run a standard stem on the AR if you choose. Having the option to run a standard stem has no aero benefits, but certainly allows more flexibility in determining stem length as well as how many spacers you may need. And as a final point to show that Felt sweats the details, the faceplate of the stem is designed to integrate aftermarket computer mounts.
The 2020 AR also features an entirely new carbon layup designed to emphasis improved pedaling efficiency and increased vertical compliance, particularly in the back. Felt claims this years-long ground-up redesign has resulted in the following improvements over the previous AR:
11% improvement in lateral headtube stiffness
21% improvement in lateral stiffness of the fork
15% improvement in torsional stiffness of the fork
14% improvement in BB pedaling stiffness
Although Felt changed, updated, or improved nearly everything about the AR, it didn’t touch the geometry. It’s the same long and low fit as the previous AR.
Outside of improved efficiency in aerodynamics and stiffness, Felt has made some other noteworthy changes to the AR, with disc brakes being at the top of that list. They also added flush-mount thru-axles, ensuring both aerodynamics and improved stiffness, as well as clearance for 30mm tires. In short, these features bring the AR back into the conversation of what we expect from a modern road bike.
The Ultegra Di2 build I tested is well-heeled, featuring a 53/46 mid-compact crank and 11-30T 11-speed cassette on a complete Ultegra drivetrain. The carbon Reynolds AR 58 wheels add to the stiff and aero package as well as being tubeless-ready and providing a 19mm internal rim width. Shimano hydraulic disc brakes, a Pro Vibe Aero carbon bar, and a Prologo Dimensions saddle round out the build.
Both the electronic and mechanical Ultegra options come in your choice of blue or white. The black model I tested showcases the paint for the yet-to-be-released AR FRD model (but was not an FRD frame).
First ride impressions
I spent two days in southern California with the Felt team riding the new AR. Our first ride was about 40 miles and started out with a couple of the Rally team men in Oxnard. They quickly (and politely) dropped us to continue their training camp, and we headed toward the coast before veering inland to climb over the hills and drop into Ojai, where we were staying. Total elevation gain was about 1,200 ft. The second day, I managed to squeeze in another 25 miles with a bit more elevation before catching my flight back to Colorado. We kept the pace pretty friendly on both rides but in spite of that, the bike’s quick response to changes in input, both in pedaling and steering, was clear. The overall fit is comfortable, and I was impressed with the bike’s acceleration uphill.
On both rides, I did get a surprising sideways jump as a truck passed, which was certainly due to the 60mm-deep Reynolds wheels. While they are certainly quality wheels, the profile is deep enough to enter sail territory in the right situation. I’m looking forward to testing the bike (and wheels) in the windier conditions, and I may test it with some lower-profile wheels as well.
2020 Felt AR Advanced initial verdict
I’m confident that in the very near future we’ll stop referring to this style of bike as an aero road bike, and simply call it what it is: a road bike. While Felt proudly touts the bike’s aerodynamic features, the company is just as quick to point out how comfortable the 2020 AR is. Add to that good handling, decent weight, and a super clean aesthetic, and that describes what most of us want most of the time. Wheel depth aside, the AR seems to hit all the marks for a do-it-all road bike. The Rally Cycling team is racing on the AR, and Chloe Hosking picked up a win on stage one of the recent Santos Women’s Tour Down Under, so the AR’s comfort certainly doesn’t detract from its aggressive, high-performance nature.