Review: 2013 Felt B2
Sep 4, 2013
article & images by Nick Salazar
Bayonet 3 Aerobar
Simultaneous to the launch of the B2, Felt unveiled a new generation of their excellent aerobars. I really liked the previous version, and was very keen to see what they'd do with the new design.
The short story is this: the high-zoot carbon version of the Bayonet 3 is probably the best UCI-legal bar on the market, but comes at a very high price. The less-expensive alloy version adds some weight, and gives up a little in terms of aerodynamics and aesthetic appeal, but represents an absolutely AWESOME combination of adjustability, aerodynamics, and affordability. I'd say Felt has done a really good job of challenging Zipp's latest offering for the title of best budget bar.
The base bar is fairly minimal, and the clip-on hardware is similarly sleek, keeping frontal area very low for clip-ons. My biggest complaint about the bar is how much fastening hardware there is. It takes a whopping EIGHTEEN BOLTS to secure all the hardware, and a large number of very small washers which are used to lock the spacers and other pieces of hardware into one another. That's a bit of an annoying way to do things, rather than just making the pieces interlock into one another directly, as many other bar manufacturers do. Besides the rather large hassle of actually making the adjustments (and the correspondingly high weight associated with so many fasteners), the bar gets things right. The geometry is good, the adjustability is there, and the pads are comfortable.
Again, to be perfectly fair, I should recognize TriRig's bias. We have a competitive product in the Alpha. But we're talking about slightly different product categories, since the Alpha is UCI-illegal, where the Bayonet is a legal 3-to-1 bar. But I do love what Felt has done here. Their creative engineering and commitment to functional minimalism is something I think is to be commended. There's no denying the Felt's latest bar is also something pretty special. If you race events that require adherence to UCI rules for bicycle construction, there's basically nothing better on the market today than the carbon version of the bar. Unfortunately, you can't buy the carbon version separately – it only comes with the highest-end DA. Felt doesn't sell it separately because standard stems don't work with the narrow clamping area of the Bayonet 3 Carbon bar. However, if you can manage to get your hands on one, the Bayonet Carbon works perfectly with our own Sigma stem. On the other hand, Felt DOES sell the slightly-less-cool Bayonet 3 Alloy, which is compatible with any 31.8mm OS road stem.
Because I wanted to set this bike up my way, I took off the Bayonet 3 in favor of the Alpha. But I have some images of both bars in the gallery below. You can make your own judgments about the bars, but know that if you buy this bike with the Bayonet 3's equipped, you'll have a great start which, at the very least, will probably let you get into your desired position.
In addition to aerobars, Felt also makes their own wheelset which is included with all but their highest-end tri bikes. The B2 that I'm reviewing came complete with their TTR2 wheelset. Felt's TTR2 is based on toroidal rim shapes that were previously covered by patents owned by Zipp and HED, which recently expired. The resulting wheels represent a great way to get a lot of speed for a small price. That is, there are faster options available today, but they come at a great premium compared to Felt's budget offering. These rims have proven technology, and the work well. They aren't winning any low-weight awards: the whole rim is structural aluminum, with spoke beds at the internal diameter of the rim. That is, there aren't any weight-saving fairings like you'd see on FLO Cycling wheels. What these hoops offer is value; they have a well-engineered aero design that's offered at a low-budget price. And they have another nice surprise up their sleeve, in their radical hub design.
The TTR2 front hub has a very low bracing angle, meaning the spokes don't come out as far laterally as most wheels you're used to seeing. This trades some wheel stiffness and handling stability for a significant boost to aerodynamic performance at the front of the bike. The rear wheel uses a more conventional bracing angle to keep things handling nicely in the back. For most athletes, the bracing angle won't cause an issue for solo riding and many races. But any ride or race that will involve riding in a group, riding a technical course, or any other scenario in which precision handling is paramount, it might be better to swap the TTR2 for a more conventional front wheel. In general, that won't be necessary, and the narrow hubs are an awesome touch. So why don't we see more of these in the industry? Because invariably, someone would notice that you can't put in a 1000 W sprint as effectively on these wheels, and they'd pan them on a public forum. But the truth is that you don't need high-Watt sprinting stiffness on a set of triathlon wheels. What you need is good aero design, and these narrow hubs deliver. Personally, I'd love to see more wheels sold with this kind of hub design.
So, because of their bold design, and Felt's courage to introduce narrow hubs onto the market, I left the TTR2 wheels on the bike rather than swap them for some high-zoot all-carbon hoops. I think these deserve some real attention, and I hope more people realize that it'd be really cool to see some more products built with this kind of thinking. All right, after all that, let's hit the jump and talk about the rest of the parts hung on this lovely frame.