Felt B16 First Impressions
Today I took my Felt B16 out on her maiden voyage on a 3hr tempo ride around north San Diego County. After the ride, I sat down and made some notes about the bike and the ride.
2009 was a year for time trailing. I built up a budget TT bike almost exactly one year ago around a Leader 720TT frame with a menagerie of components. My foray into time trailing was fairly successful, with 5 wins in 12 starts. A year later, a year wiser, and slightly more serious, I spent many hours researching time trial bikes for an upgrade. In my search, I found quite a lot of information on the aerodynamic characteristics of some of the major players in the TT bike scene: Cervelo, Trek, Specialized, and Felt.
Most of the Felt TT bike line comes from the same mold as the Felt DA, which is ridden by arguably the most TT-inclined team in professional cycling: Garmin-Transitions. The heart of the "entry level" Felt B16 is the same frame as their flagship DA. The streamlined top tube, rear wheel cutout and shielded rear brake make the Felt line very fast on paper, with a nice price point as well. I was drawn to the Felt line for these reasons, and chose the Felt B16.
Comparing the Leader 720TT to the Felt B16:
The Frame: The carbon frame of the B16 was quite a nice upgrade. After 3hrs of decent-paced riding, I was noticeably less worn out. On paper, the Felt is much faster. In practice, it felt noticeably faster. My whole ride felt as if I had slapped on an deep section aerodynamic front wheel. (A follow-up entry will come after my next TT in mid-January with some numbers to boot). The frame flexes a little, especially near the top tube-seat tube junction. Though I should note that I was riding a 60cm, and I am a big guy. I did not feel any less powerful, and the bottom bracket area (i.e. what counts) is stiff, though not quite as stiff as the 720TT.
The components: Before the ride, I was a little concerned about the rear brake behind the bottom bracket. It's a little hard to adjust; the drive side brake pad is hard to get to. If you swap out braking pads for races you might need to remove the cranks. But, at the end of the day the braking power is still great.
The saddle: I was quite pleasantly surprised with the TT saddle from Felt. It's a little wide in front, but it works really well in an aggressive position. It's not quite as wide as the ISM Adamo. It's a legitimate TT or Tri-specific saddle.
Handling: I took a few sharp turns, both in the aero extensions, pedaling, and fully banking the bike. It handles much better than the Leader 720TT, though not quite as well as a road bike.
The aerobars: I replaced Felt's standard bullhorn bars and ski-bend extensions with VisionTech integrated aerobars. An obvious upgrade for anyone concerned about speed is a more aerodynamic basebar in lieu of the standard bullhorns.
Overall, I was very pleased with my first ride on the new Felt B16. I'll be racing the Tom's Farm TT on January, and you can expect a follow-up after the race.