2017 Felt FR 1 carbon race road bike

For 2017, Felt has completely reshaped their top two road bikes, making two incredibly well rounded yet distinct models for road racing and endurance riding. The new FR replaces the F race bike, and the VR expands the combined versatility of the outgoing Z and V endurance series.

Starting with the FR, this new bike was designed to be “The definitive road race bike”. It was developed using their FRD (Felt Racing Development) process, which starts with a clean sheet getting lines and ideas drawn from pro racer input, then moves through FEA and lab testing then real world testing. The first two FR prototypes were brought to show the team just before the 2016 Amgen Tour of California. Robin Carpenter (Holowesko-Citadel Hincapie development team) hopped on one in the parking lot, tooled around for a minute, then decided to race it the next day. So, it’s a top level race bike, but it’s also an everyman’s road bike.

“The F was always a nervous, pro race only bike,” said founder Jim Felt. “But with the geometry and layup tweaks our team made, it really made the bike more approachable.” In other words, the pros raced the same frame they sold in the store, but what the pros ride is not necessarily what everyone else should be riding. But, we consumers are a silly lot, wanting what the pros ride and all, so they decided to make the bike better for us without diminishing its racing pedigree…

2017 Felt FR 1 carbon race road bike

All of Felt’s carbon bikes are made with size specific layups to ensure the smallest frames ride the same as the largest based on the anticipated range of rider weights on each. This now also includes different lower headset bearing sizes, with smaller frames using a straight 1-1/8” steerer, medium range frames going with a 1-1/4” and the larger ones getting a full 1-1/2” taper. Different fork rakes provide size appropriate steering geometry, too.

TeXtreme allows them to use fewer layers of carbon compared to traditional woven carbon fiber sheets, so higher end models can be lighter without losing any strength or stiffness. That, plus previously unavailable materials and refined layup schedules, gave them their lightest ever road frame. Claimed weight is 685g for a size 56 FRD, which is 34g lighter than the outgoing F FRD bike. Fork weight is as light as 285g with uncut steerer and the expander glued into place. From the FRD’s premium carbon (TeXtreme + UHC Ultimate) to the next level down (TeXtreme + UHC Advanced), the frame gains about 80 grams (for size 56, claimed weight is 765g). The disc frame adds about 100g, and that fork will be a little heavier, too. More on the weights in a followup post.

2017 Felt FR 1 carbon race road bike

2017 Felt FR 1 carbon race road bike

BB386 comes from their cyclocross bikes to the road, giving them a wider BB shell so they could thicken the non-driveside chainstay to maintain overall stiffness as the driveside stay gets a little thinner to improve overall tire clearance. The result is increased tire capacity of up to 28mm tires and a stiffer drivetrain section.

2017-Felt-FR-race-road-bike-geometry

The geometry, particularly the stack and reach, was updated to put the rider “into” the bike instead of on top of it. The average stack increase on the new model was 19mm, which is divided between the headtube and fork. Even though this required adding material, the complete bike is lighter, and it improved front end stiffness. The added material was necessary to make the head tube taller, but mass was reduced overall by adjusting wall thickness, removing the seatstay bridge and other tweaks throughout the frame.

2017 Felt FR 1 carbon race road bike

The increased fork height let them design it with a less abrupt crown transition, which let them run more continuous fibers to reduce vibrations. Most of the frame is full carbon, but they do use a molded-in alloy bearing race in the headset because it requires less carbon build up to reinforce it than a full carbon race would, so it saves weight. It’s more labor intensive, but the goal on the FR was to make it as light as possible.

2017 Felt FR 1 carbon race road bike

2017 Felt FR 1 carbon race road bike

To keep the rear end up to speed with the rest of the bike, they also use specific carbon blends in each section of the bike to put the right performance (stiffness, flex, etc.) in the right place. Further “chassis tuning” yielded bridgeless seatstays that run outside the seat tube and blend more directly into the top tube. This design removed any rider input on the frame from potentially bending the stays slightly and “wagging” the rear end.

2017 Felt FR 1 carbon race road bike

Think of it as a wider bracing angle for the seatstays. More importantly, though, it allowed the seat tube and seatstays to flex slightly, helping keep the rear tire in better contact with the ground and letting it flex vertically a bit to improve ride comfort. Eliminating the seatstay bridge also gave them more freedom in the stay’s design to accomplish those goals, and it saved a bit of weight.

2017 Felt FR 1 carbon race road bike

So, with no bridge, the brakes moved under the chainstays. There’s also a disc brake version coming, which will use the low flat mount standard and thru axles, leaving the new seatstay design unaltered so the ride characteristics should carry over virtually identical.

Cable management allows for all drivetrain types – wired, wireless and mechanical. For carbon frames, the mechanical shift cables are run externally so they didn’t have to punch holes in the downtube and then reinforce that area. They say the typical entry point on the downtube is a high stress area, so the best solution was to run mechanical shift lines outside the bike. The rear brake, however, does run internally and enters on the front/side of the headtube. This keeps limits its chances of getting contamination in the line and minimizes the size of the hole they need to make in the headtube versus running all the drivetrain cables into the frame there, too. Electronic shift systems will send the wire into that same headtube port.

As a package, the FR is lighter by 5%, yet improves headtube stiffness by 4%, bumps stack height by 4% and makes the “Rear Tire Contact Patch” stiffness a whopping 30% better. What is RTCP? It’s that lack of “wag” that can result in the rear tire torquing out of plane with the rest of the bike and make it feel sloppy. The result is a bike that should feel much snappier, but also more comfortable. We’ll have our first impressions posted shortly.

2017 Felt FR 2 carbon race road bike

We’ll also have a full post on actual weights, specs and pricing, but wanted to call out a few features on the FR2 that make it a standout. It comes equipped with a single-leg Pioneer power meter on the left crank and a coupon for discounted upgrades to dual leg if you want.

2017 Felt FR 2 carbon race road bike

It also gets the Shimano Di2 Sprinter’s shifters pre-installed.

2017 Felt FR 2 carbon race road bike

All FR and VR models also get reflective handlebar tape and reflective paint/graphic hits on the rear end of the frame to boost visibility and safety without you having to add anything. Brilliant.

2017 Felt FR alloy race road bike

The FR will also come in alloy with hydroformed tubes designed to mimic the performance and ride quality of the carbon bikes – as much as possible anyway.

2017 Felt FR alloy race road bike

2017 Felt FR alloy race road bike

2017 Felt FR alloy race road bike

The 30 and 40 versions keep the full carbon fork, but the entry level FR50 and FR60 get a carbon-legged fork with alloy steerer and crown and a standard threaded BSA bottom bracket shell.

2017 Felt FR alloy race road bike

2017 Felt FR alloy race road bike 2017 Felt FR alloy race road bike

2017 Felt FR alloy race road bike

The rear end has a similar transition from seat stay to top tube…

2017 Felt FR alloy race road bike

…but the brake is in its usual spot.

Women’s versions use the same frames and forks, but get different touch points (saddles, bars, stems) and alternate (and arguably better) paint and graphics. More on that below.

2017 FELT VR

2017 Felt VR endurance gravel road bike

The VR took a lot of what they learned from the Z and V endurance road bike series and expanded their capability. The Z was upgraded in 2014 with disc brakes and has been their best selling model for years thanks to its more upright geometry. The VR picks up where it stopped and should appeal to the burgeoning gravel and adventure road bike market without forgetting its long-distance, gran fondo fans. Felt says it’ll even work as a fast pavement pounder for local club rides, except if you want to see what’s down that dirt road you always blow past, now you can.

2017-Felt-VR-gravel-endurance-road-bike-geometry

Compared to the Z, goals were to increase the rear end compliance, so the seatstays, seat tube and top tube shapes were all completely redesigned.

2017 Felt VR endurance gravel road bike

It’s design looks very similar to the FR in that there’s no seatstay bridge and the stays meet the top tube outside and in front of the seat tube, but the layup and purpose of each is geared more toward comfort.

2017 Felt VR endurance gravel road bike

For example, the seatstay profile has a wildly varied profile from top to bottom. The middle section is flattened to enhance flex without getting noodly side to side, and the bottom is wider and flared to boost stiffness and clear the disc brake caliper.

2017 Felt VR endurance gravel road bike

The headtube-to-top tube transition went through a lot of profile iterations to find the right mix of stiffness and comfort, but their gravel/cyclocross bike engineer Bryan Norvell says it is on the stiff side for a bike in this category. The VR does use a full carbon headtube, including the bearing races. It’s a little heavier, but it’s less costly to produce and yields a more consistent construction.

2017 Felt VR endurance gravel road bike

Note the ridge running down the side of the top tube to enhance rigidity.

2017 Felt VR endurance gravel road bike

Moving back, the top tube tapers to become flatter and thinner as it meets the seat tube in the middle. Norvell said they wanted to go thinner, which would have created a better pivot point at the top/seat tube junction and allowed for a little better fore/aft seat tube flex to mute bumps, but they needed to keep room for a bladder to be inserted in the molding process. Even so, there’s designed-in flex for the seat tube.

2017 Felt VR endurance gravel road bike

2017 Felt VR endurance gravel road bike 2017 Felt VR endurance gravel road bike

It, too, uses BB386 to spread the chainstays. And it uses the thicker non-drive, thinner drive side chainstay them as the FR to give it a max recommended tire size of 30mm (based on ISO safety standards), but…

2017-Felt-VR-gravel-endurance-road-bike-tire-clearance

…this graph shows that wider tires will fit.

2017 Felt VR endurance gravel road bike

All models get disc brakes, and they get “sub compact” gearing that allows for all day climbing. How many times have you said “Gee, I really wish I had harder gearing?” Almost never, right? But having a couple easier gears when climbing or hitting those gnarly traverses that just sap your energy are always welcome.

2017-Felt-VR-gravel-endurance-road-bike-gearing

So, they gave it a 46/30 double on most models, which put a 1:1 or lower gear ratio on the easiest combo. Yes, they admit this reduces your top end slightly, but it gives you a much easier time up the hills even with the added diameter of bigger tires.

2017 Felt VR endurance gravel road bike

Whereas the FR had light weight as a premium consideration, the VR could get away with a little extra material, so they made the head tube port large enough to accommodate both electronic and mechanical drivetrains inside the frame. This keeps everything running smooth regardless of where you take it.

2017 Felt VR endurance gravel road bike

Not a great flash photo, but you can see how the logos and graphics are reflective.

2017 Felt VR endurance gravel road bike with fenders and frame bag

On the carbon frames, they molded the steel fender mount inserts directly into the frame during construction, as opposed to bonding them in/on afterward, which yields a stronger, more durable piece. Since the mid-mount design won’t work with standard fenders, they created their own fender kit with a clamp-on seatpost mount.

2017 Felt VR endurance gravel road bike with fenders and frame bag

Look for that to retail for about $50 for the set, and they won’t reduce the recommended max tire size either. They ship the bikes with custom fender attachments to work with the design, which looks fantastic and covers a massive portion of your tire.

2017 Felt VR endurance gravel road bike with fenders and frame bag

They also added an additional water bottle mount on the top tube for a Bento Box storage bag

2017 Felt VR endurance gravel road bike

Save for a couple details, the alloy VR looks remarkably similar to the carbon one.

2017 Felt VR endurance gravel road bike

2017 Felt VR endurance gravel road bike

The shaped, ridged top tube is present…

2017 Felt VR endurance gravel road bike

2017 Felt VR endurance gravel road bike

…as is the indented top tube junction to encourage seat tube flex.

2017 Felt VR endurance gravel road bike

2017 Felt VR endurance gravel road bike

Higher end alloy VRs will get the BB386 shell, lower end models will use BSA threaded.

2017 Felt VR endurance gravel road bike

The small differences come in the accessory mounts. On the alloy frames, the rear fender mount is in the usual lower spot near the axle. Felt says on both this and the carbon bike, they’re only for fenders and not designed to carry a rack or load.

2017 Felt VR endurance gravel road bike

The higher end alloy bikes share the carbon fork, which means the same fender mounts and 12mm thru axles.

2017 Felt VR endurance gravel road bike

In addition to the Bento Box mount, there’s a second downtube water bottle mount near the bottom bracket, giving you room for three bottles inside the front triangle on most frames.

Across most of range of both bikes, you’ll find sizes 43 to 61 so almost any size rider can find something that fits correctly, men or women, and thanks to the size specific layups and forks, they should all ride well, too. Look for a followup post later today with specs, pricing, models and weights… plus first ride impressions.

Take a closer look at our first ride impressions of the racier FR and endurance VR, plus specs, pricing, and weights on both bikes…

FeltBicycles.com

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28 Comments
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Heffe
Heffe
5 years ago

Those all look pretty nice. Anything new on the CX front?

typevertigo
typevertigo
5 years ago

Nice bikes, but I’m not sure what the point or benefit is of using size-specific headset bearings. That seems like differentiation or complication just for the sake of it.

Also a missed opportunity on not enabling light rack loading for the aluminum VR models.

Joseph Maki
Joseph Maki
5 years ago

typevertigo, there is no such thing as light rack loading. If you are going to allow rack mounting you need to be able to support the racks max load, which is usually 50-60 lb. With the current trend in adventure cycling moving to “bike packing” rather than rack and pannier I think they made an intelligent decision.

typevertigo
typevertigo
5 years ago
Reply to  Joseph Maki

Aluminum is perfectly up to the job. Like I said, it’s a missed opportunity on Felt’s part not to offer this on the aluminum VRs.

Mass-produced carbon fiber bikes are rarely ever meant to accept a rack. That would be more acceptable. Oh well. No sale from this guy.

Richard Elsdon
5 years ago

The mudguards on the VR…

“Look for that to retail for about $50 for the set, and they won’t reduce the recommended max tire size either. They ship the bikes with custom fender attachments to work with the design, which looks fantastic and covers a massive portion of your tire.”

I would seriously beg to differ, they hardly cover the tyre at all, woe be anyone who tries to draft a Felt rider.

typevertigo
typevertigo
5 years ago
Reply to  Tyler Benedict

And even then, they fail at it. The front fender may as well be decorative – it has nowhere near the span required to keep the rider’s feet dry. Oh well.

Matt
Matt
5 years ago
Reply to  Tyler Benedict

Maybe the rear one will help, but the front one has woeful coverage.

Alden
Alden
5 years ago

Looks beautiful. Will be interesting to see if their design philosophy on the FR turns off the pro-racers a bit (“A racing by thats for the common masses? No thanks, I’d rather have one just for racing…”) but it will certainly pick up their potential sales to the consumers.

I’ve used an F series for every day riding for years, and I just love the twitchiness and responsiveness, even though I know its not the “right” bike for longer tours and non-crit type riding… but I like them (Older F60 and newer F2).

Still have the hunch I’ll have a hard time finding a local shop to carry the FRs and I’ll be seeing just the VRs in stores.

Great lineup. Wish the FR2 would have dura-ace for shifters/derailers instead of keeping that for the FR1… but other than that, looks awesome!

Haromania
5 years ago

Felt does a great job. Nice parts spec, at a fair price, always have been.

Heffe
Heffe
5 years ago

With 35mm as a tire size limit, it seems that that VR, like the Focus Paralane, sits in its own category between endurance and gravel – which is not necessarily a bad thing. I usually use 35mm tires on my gravel bike so these are still appealing in that regard, but my bike does have the capacity to go larger should I want to get out on more challenging terrain.

Derek
Derek
5 years ago

Nice, I’m hoping for an updated AR soon. With rim brakes.

drosser
drosser
5 years ago

Wow, I can’t believe a manufacturer finally realized “compact” cranksets aren’t low enough for some people and situations. My savings account is now living in fear.

Brandon
Brandon
5 years ago

Is that a Sram Red direct mount break on the rear of the FR? Not sure that’s been released yet.

Chris Saunders
Chris Saunders
5 years ago

Any update to the IA or DA for 2017?

Ackers
Ackers
5 years ago

utter drivel

durianrider
5 years ago

Ive raced div 1 crits with pro riders with my 50/34 crankset and in hundreds of fast bunch rides Ive NEVER been dropped on the flat due to ‘running out of gears’ lol. Good on felt for finally putting on proper gearing for gravel adventure bikes. 46/30 looks like the ticket for sure.

Gary
Gary
5 years ago

The VR carbon looks like a wonderful bike, but if you can’t attach a rear rack to carry at least your lunch, a camera and a jacket, its utility is much diminished (for me at least).

typevertigo
typevertigo
5 years ago
Reply to  Gary

To be honest, there aren’t a lot of mass-produced carbon bikes that are meant to accept a rack. Only Jamis’ Renegade comes to mind.

That even the aluminum VRs don’t offer the capability is the real shame, I think. I would much rather recommend a cyclocross bike instead if loading a rear rack is part of your use case.

Velour
Velour
5 years ago
Reply to  typevertigo

What about the new Diamondback adventure bikes?

Andrew
Andrew
5 years ago

I was super Pumped on that FR until I saw the brakes under the BB. Other than that it looks great.

fnardone
fnardone
5 years ago

Yeah, I really hope subcompact becomes the new standard

Don
Don
5 years ago

Front fender length stops far too short to keep your feet dry in wet weather. Rear could use a bit more length too. This looks like what happens when someone that does not understand the real need designs the accessory.
I agree that since MANY distance riders still love to use a rack (front or rear) this is a big mistake if they want to market this as an endurance bike.
They also need to make a decent provision for lights, especially front. We all hate it when the only alternative is to mount them on the bars. Give us a decent fork mount! And a place for a front bag.
Felt needs advice from distance riders for how to make a real distance bike instead of just marketing a distance bike.
Nice job breaking the mold and offering lower gearing, though I’d still prefer the range and flexibility of a 28-38-48 triple.

Don
Don
5 years ago

Oh and nice paint jobs and thank you very much for the through axles!

TimBrownSenorCafe
5 years ago

Hey, just bought some Felt bike because my Schwinn LeTour Luxe went to pot just because i T-Boned some car running a stop sign ( about 15mph only ) it has gel seat, carbon fork, gravel ok tires , a buncha’ speeds, gray mostly and really shiny cassette. It is last years model and so it was ‘discounted’ to only $750 .
Hope it’s a good’n. They are putting on my speedometer, pedals with the toe straps from the 80’s and of course the KICK STAND ! Bike shop owner said I’ll be the only fellow in the uSA with such a kickstand on a Felt.
Can’t wait to see if i can up my 18.5 mph average on the local flat rail trail ( on a good day ).
Yee haw.

Joseph Park
Joseph Park
2 years ago

Just picked up a 2018 VR3 and while Felt sort of blurs the line between endurance, adventure, and gravel with this bike I purely see this as a versatile endurance road bike. Sure the theoretical 35mm tire clearance, 50/34 sub crank, triple cage mounts and fender mounts has a lot of people thinking this is a faux gravel bike but I personally just see it as a really versatile road bike that is very light, fast enough, climbs very well, comfortable, and allows me to swap to thick tires in the winter or if I am trying to tackle anything besides smooth pavement. Sure you can use it on variable roads like the name applies but truth be told it’s just one hell of an endurance bike. For 2018 Felt went to 28mm stock tires and changed to DT Swiss 1800 Spline wheels and for 2020 the more notable change was a raising the MSRP $300 but providing Reynolds AR29 DB Custom carbon wheels. A lot of cyclists might not be able to justify $4K on just an endurance bike but as is the 2020 VR Advanced is a heck of a deal.