The Felt B12 triathlon bike tested, rated and reviewed.

feltbicycles.com; saddleback.co.uk

A long-term triathlon bike favourite with a shared flagship-frame past, Felt’s B12 gets an Ultegra upgrade to keep it right up in the cost-effective ratings for 2014.

Felt 2

Felt B12 – Frame and Fork

The Felt B12 follows the sound structural tale of a flagship frame mould finding re-use as an affordable sibling. In this case, the mainframe is essentially the same as that used for Felt’s DA series bikes. However, the front end has been modified to use a conventional aero fork rather than a leading edge bayonet-type set-up.

The down-tube is still profiled to wrap round the back of the fork and the front wheel though. You get an oversized BB30 bottom bracket in the deep-keeled belly of the frame and a broad wheel-hugger that holds the forward-kinked aero seatpost in a flush-fit clamp.

All cables heading rearwards from the cockpit dive into the frame just behind the stem too. There are conventional bottle cage mounts on both down and seat tubes, with a Torhans triangular aero bottle supplied for the latter as standard fit.

Integral screw adjusters hold the rear wheel secure in the horizontal slots and the frame is fully compatible with the latest electronic shifting set-ups.

Felt B12 – The Kit

The Felt is well equipped too. The own-brand Felt TTR3 wheelset gets a skinny front hub and 40mm-deep rims to provide a genuine aero effect. Ultegra 6800 11-speed gears operate through functional Microshift tip shifters.

Unfortunately for power delivery, the Felt is hamstrung with the good-looking but torque-sapping TriMax TT crank.

Centre pull front and chainstay-mounted scissor brakes trade convenience and clean feedback for improved aerodynamics. Felt’s base bar gets built in brake levers and custom rubber grips that are a godsend in wet weather and the ski pole-style extensions are easily adjustable.

The only thing you might want to change is the supportive but firm-nosed Prologo saddle, which was the first on test to cause us issues on our longer test rides. It’s a top quality seat though, so most bike shops should be happy to straight swap it for your fat-nosed favourite.

Felt B12 – The Ride

First impressions of the Felt aren’t indicative of the overall ride. The forward-pushed saddle and short stem put you right over the bars and the pads tuck you in tightly for a surprisingly secure and locked-in feeling.

At slow speeds, this forward weight bias and short-stem steering feel slightly twitchy and nervous, so it can feel a bit of a handful at first. Start the cranks turning though and the whole bike starts to straighten up and make a lot more sense. You’re still placed on the leading edge of the bike, but that works really well from a flat-backed aerodynamic point of view. It also keeps your pelvis and torso more open, which pays dividends when you jump off the bike and start out on the run.

Once the wheels are spinning there’s no sense of nerves in the steering either. The bike just feels intuitively responsive to any steering inputs. Despite the 40mm wheels, there are no stability issues even on gusty days or when we stuck properly deep wheels in.

The frame and skinny ‘boot cut’ forks suck a lot of chatter and buzz out of the road at both ends of the bike too, leaving you largely unbothered by anything but the biggest knocks, which will come through the saddle pretty forcefully.

Add the skinny tubed, wheel-syncing aerodynamics and wheels that helpfully massage momentum and it’s an easy bike to hold at your chosen pace for as long as your legs can manage.

Getting it up to that pace is a bit more protracted though as it’s not a light bike and the soft frame and crank take the edge off power delivery. The steering also starts to get tetchy if you get forward out of the saddle and start wrestling the bars to hurry things up. Frame and fork flex means steering is definitely on the approximate rather than accurate side when under power as well.

The brakes are very noticeably softer and harder to balance in feel front to rear than conventional Ultegra stoppers too.

This all points to a bike that’s purpose-designed for taking the patient, long-game approach to riding. That’s exactly the approach most of us are going to be taking to 112 miles of pedalling before wobbling onto a marathon run though, so as long as you don’t want something really punchy it’s spot on.

 

SPECS

FRAME AND FORK
Size tested 54cm
Sizes available 47, 51, 54, 56, 58, 61cm
Weight as tested 9.28 kg
Frame Felt UHC Performance carbon Fork Felt UHC Performance semi carbon

TRANSMISSION
Chainset Vision TriMax Pro TT BB30 52/38T
Bottom bracket FSA BB30
Cassette Shimano Ultegra 6800 11-speed, 11-25T
Chain FSA Derailleurs Shimano Ultegra 6800 11-speed
Shifters Microshift 11

WHEELS
Front Felt TTR3
Rear Felt TTR3
Tyres Felt TTR2 700x23c
Wheel weight Front 1.34kg, Rear 1.74kg

OTHER COMPONENTS
Stem Felt Superlight
Bars Felt Bayonet 3 base bar and extensions
Headset FSA IS integrated
Saddle Prologo Nago Evo Tri40 Seatpost Felt UHC carbon aero
Brakes Dual pivot centre pull front, Felt/Tektro aero rear

Overview

  • Overall: 3 out of 5

Pros: Aggressively aero position underlined smooth comfort

Cons: Soft braking and power delivery plus heavier weight dull responsiveness

  • Price: £1,999
  • Contact: feltbicycles.com; saddleback.co.uk
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