The Felt B16 triathlon/TT bike tested, rated and reviewed
When the Felt B16 arrived, and we had to check the price several times to confirm we hadn’t accidentally too expensive a tri bike, you know you’re dealing with a serious value-for-money vehicle. Felt’s bargain B16 rides as well as it looks, too.
Felt B16 – Frame and Fork
Felt have one of the longest tri-frame making histories in the business, which is a massive advantage in this case because despite the low price, the Felt B16 gets to use the moulds for what used to be one of Felt’s flagship carbon-fibre bikes.
Obviously they’ve had to use a cheaper ‘performance’ rather than ‘advanced’ carbon fibre and resin mix to hit such an aggressively low price point. That means, despite being carbon, the B16 isn’t the lightest entry-level tri bike out there.
From an aerodynamic perspective, its old-school, slim-as-possible design still works really well though, especially for less powerful novice athletes. All the neat ex-flagship features – such as vertical entry behind the stem internal cable routing, hidden (but still conventional style) rear brake, horizontal dropout slots with internal adjusters to sync with the wheel hugger seat-tube cutout and neat twin bolt seatpost clamp – are all still present and correct.
The B16 comes in a huge range of sizes too, right down to 48 and 50cm sizes built around smaller 650c wheels, so you can get near-as-damn-it, custom-sizing off the peg. Little details, such as the red anodised cable ends and a metal guide pipe for the front mech, make the Felt look twice the price it is.
Felt B16 – The Kit
Even more remarkably, this premium level of detailing extends into the Felt own-brand kit too. The base bar is a relatively simply shaped teardrop-to-round piece, but you also get Felt’s trademark rubber hoods over the brake levers for excellent wet-hand grip.
The extensions are not only fully adjustable with a multiple hand position ski-bend shape, but the clamps that hold them together are nicely shaped and you even get the kind of gel pads that are an expensive aftermarket upgrade. Even the tape is logo’d and the Felt branded saddle is a properly soft-nosed unit mounted on a sliding clamp for positional fine tuning.
Bars, stem and cranks are sized specifically according to the frame for optimum fit too.
The Felt B16 also comes with smooth and reliable gearing, courtesy of Shimano’s 105. The Sunrace chain and block are less sophisticated than most though, which does occasionally result in a clunky or dragging shifts, especially in the smaller cogs. The skinny-armed FSA Vero cranks flex if you try and lever the heavy Felt wheels up to speed in a hurry too. But the Vittoria tyres roll well, as long as you’re wary in the wet.
Felt B16 – The Ride
Judging a book by its cover is always dangerous in bike terms and over the years we’ve ridden a lot of great-looking bikes that turned out to be crap on the road. Happily though, the B16 feels as good on the road as it looks in the showroom.
The Felt geometry has been evolved over years and years of working with top athletes and even straight from the box our B16 felt like it had been custom-sized for us. The arm rests are exactly where they should be in relation to the saddle height and hands drop easily onto the shaped extensions for totally relaxed control. Add the couch-snout saddle and this bike delivers hour after hour of comfort, even when you’re deep in the aero tuck it lets you hold so easily.
The frame and fork are naturally well damped and the full-carbon fork legs and dropouts mean there’s very little chatter and vibration coming through from either end to sap your strength. The handling is very well balanced and similarly friendly too, with only the slippery-when-wet Vittoria tyres causing concern on damper days. The performance-grade frame isn’t stiff or incisively accurate, but it drops easily into corners and handles crosswinds without putting the wind up you itself.
Because it’s such an upgradeable chassis, we even checked it with deeper section wheels and it still stayed calm and manageable even on breezy days.
As you might guess, the soft frame, skinny cranks and heavy wheels mean the Felt isn’t a dragster when it comes to picking up speed and powerful riders might find it too soft to showcase their strength. Stay tucked in an efficient spin though and it’ll cruise smoothly. Once you’ve got it going, the speed sustain is excellent whatever the distance or wind angle.
+ Good price for a really well shaped, comfortable carbon frame
+ Excellent cockpit kit and saddle for fatigue-free long-haul fit
– The flexible crank undermines the power delivery
– Wheels are heavy and tyres are quick but slippery