Felt's new 2009 B12 uses the high end
B2 frameset, an innovative high end one piece aerobar, aerodynamic
race-ready wheels and a pure Shimano Ultegra SL drivetrain making
it the best buy in a tri bike in 2009.
Every year one bike shines above the others: Best
value, best frame, best component spec, best color scheme. It
may be any combination of factors that make the bike special.
But every year, one bike nails it.
This year it is the new 2009 Felt B12.
The optimal combination of an upgraded frame with
proven design combined with improved manufacturing and materials,
a healthy up spec in components, an elegant new aero cockpit,
versatile wheels and a pleasing color story make the new Felt
B12 the thinking man’s value priced triathlon bike in
There is no such thing as the perfect bike though,
and the B12 has two problems: One major, one minor. The major
problem with the B12 is the name. It is downright misleading.
In 2008 Felt built a bike called the B12. The 2008 B12 used
a low end, heavier carbon fiber frameset that was OK…
but not great. That combined with a ho-hum component spec prevented
‘08 B12 from shining. The all new 2009
B12 has almost nothing in common with the 2008 B12-
it does not even use the same frame.
For 2009 the frame of the B12 has been upgraded
to the same frame used in Felt’s high end B2 bikes. You
read that right: The new B12 actually uses a B2 frame. This
means the bike is lighter, rides more comfortably and is stiffer
than the previous version. To put that upgrade in perspective
we are talking about the same frame used on Felt’s $7499
B2 Pro, but on a bike with an excellent component spec for an
MSRP of about $3K complete.
the 2009 B12 has been upgraded to the same frame as the high
end B2 bikes. The new B12 actually uses a B2 frame.”
The new B12 uses the high end Felt B2 frameset: Lighter, stiffer,
A higher end frame is the most significant upgrade
for the B12 in 2009 and makes it an entirely new bike from the
previous B12. Felt made a mistake by not re-naming the model
to avoid confusion with the previous B12 from 2008. Consumers
can’t see the difference in the framesets by looking at
the bikes. They could tell the difference if they rode both
of them enough. Over the duration of owning a bike the differences
are significant. The new B12 frameset (the B2 frame) soaks up
bumps better, goes up hills more responsively, weighs less and
is more durable. Following Felt’s nomenclature of better
bikes using smaller model number designations this new 2009
B12 should really be named the “B8”. What’s
in a name? Both consumers and retailers are going to be confused
and make the obvious association with the previous year’s
bike. It will take an informed buyer to truly understand the
difference (and advantages) of the new 2009 B12 over the previous
one, and to recognize the value in the bike. The new B12 is
the thinking man’s bike.
If you become an owner of the 2009 Felt B12, it
won’t take you long to realize you just got a bike so
nice it feels like theft.
The author at the turnaround during
the U.S. Navy SuperSEAL Triathlon in Coronado, California. This
is the same frameset used in the B12 for 2009.
The B12’s new frameset is not only new to
the B12 but also the most refined version of the B2 frameset
Felt has ever produced. There were a few teething pains with
the original B2 frames from years ago including some fragile
(but easily replaced) seatpost binder collars and finicky bayonet
forks. Those things are gone from the new 2009 Felt B12. The
new B12 uses the most refined mold of any B2 bike built to date
by Felt. “As the molds get older they get better, we make
improvements all the time” said Felt’s Triathlon
Bike Product Manager Dave Koesel. The new version of the B2
(B12) frameset is now lighter and stiffer, more durable and
rides more comfortably than previous versions. Additionally
the old binder collars have been replaced with a robust, dependable
version and the B12 uses a conventional, proven fork design.
A well designed frameset strikes a balance between aerodynamics,
frame stiffness (climbing and cornering), weight, ride comfort
and even aesthetics.
The B12 frame is likely not as aerodynamic as
the previous category owner, Cervelo’s outstanding P2C.
Depending on whose wind tunnel tests you believe, the B12 has
comparable aerodynamics at low yaw angles, but the Cervelo P2
becomes slipperier as the cross winds increase. Cervelo is the
de-facto aerodynamic leader and nothing within a thousand dollars
can beat the P2 in the wind tunnel. However, your ownership
experience requires more than just good aerodynamics. The ideal
bike needs to perform across a broad range of frame sizes for
athletes ranging in size from 5’0” and 100 pounds
to 6’4” and 250 pounds. That means it has to work
well grinding up a hill at 12 M.P.H. where aerodynamics don’t
mean as much as good frame stiffness and design. The tapered
downtube of the B12 and beefy, aerodynamic seat tube mean this
frame climbs and handles better than most aerodynamic carbon
fiber framesets. If there is one shining feature of the new
2009 Felt B12 it is the frameset- the thing is, there isn’t
just one feature- they got nearly everything right.
A conventional fork design with an all carbon fiber steer
tube and fork crown.
Felt used a proven fork and headset design
on the new B12. The carbon fiber fork with alloy steer
tube is resonably light, mechanically dependable and rides
well. It provides good aerodynamics and solid ride quality.
The models of the B2 above the B12 use the Bayonet front
end which integrates the fork into the frame. This is
stiffer, steers well and is slightly more aerodynamic
but has had its share of teething pains. The use of the
B2 frame on the B12 but without the Bayonet fork is an
elegant sidestep to the technical problems that haunted
the early Bayonet forks while still providing the excellent
frame quality of the B2.
Felt improved ride quality and durability with this carbon
fiber fork and managed to do something some tri bike companies
have failed at: Maintain stable handling in the aerobars
but also have good cornering. On other bikes you seem
to give up good cornering for straight line stability.
Dive most tri bikes into a corner and you are a passenger
hanging on for dear life. The B12 steers well. It is responsive
enough for negotiating tight turns throughout the speed
envelope. going into and out of the transition area at
low speeds the bike behaves well. At top speed on the
aerobars the thing feels solid and straight. It isn't
tentative, and this confident handling makes riding the
B12 easier and likely contributes to a better bike split.
he new Felt "F" bend aerobar extension
enables the rider to customize the fit of the aerobar extension
through a wide range of angles and grips making it versatile
The second and most conspicuous selling point
on the new B12 is the cockpit, and this is where the new B12
pulls well ahead of all comers. Felt developed a new aerodynamic
cockpit that rivals one piece aerobars pushing $1000 for just
the handlebars. The cockpit: aerobars, base bars, brake levers
and elbow rests, are a critical part of the component spec since
you are always looking at it, you rest on it and it encounters
the boundary layer of air early on making it critical in lowering
drag. A good cockpit is light, stiff, aerodynamic and adjustable.
Felt’s Bayonet integrated aero cockpit is all those things.
It is elegantly simple to adjust and uses a new adjustable “F”
bend that accommodates ski bend and “S” bend aerobar
users by cutting the bar and sizing it at the correct location
along the bend. The bar is sized for length simply by telescoping
it to the right length for your forearm and cutting off the
excess. Cut the bar from the front and move the shifters back
to get the right bend at the grip. The solution is a fully adjustable
aerobar- for length and bend, with minimal adjustment hardware
and no wasted material. The new Bayonet cockpit defines efficiency
of design. There are only 4 bolts on the entire Bayonet aerobar
but significant width, length and bend adjustment. Additionally
the integrated brake levers feature a luxurious knurled rubber
grip that feels oh-so-good on cold, wet hands leaving the transition
area after a chilly swim. Considering the value of the Felt
Bayonet cockpit it would be (and is…) at home on bikes
costing twice as much. The Bayonet one piece aerobar adds enormous
value to the new B12 and is something missing on every other
bike in this price category.
new Bayonet cockpit defines efficiency of design.”
The new Shimano Ultegra
SL crankset improves shifting and completes the nice look
of the component kit.
Felt went safe and smart on the component
group with the B12. Shimano Ultegra SL is a slightly lighter
version of the value leading Ultegra group with a darker
finish and small hardware differences to shave grams and
The gem of the component package is the genuine Shimano
Ultegra SL crankset. Felt avoided the common practice
of going to a third party for the crankset and used a
pure Shimano spec on the B12 drivetrain. This is not only
a cosmetic upgrade but a mechanical one as well. The front
shifting in particular on B12 is excellent. Rear shift
quality with a genuine Shimano chain, new Ultegra SL rear
derailleur controlled by Shimano Dura-Ace bar end shifters
and a Shimano cogset is perfect- it is impossible to find
Some tri bike manufacturers rely on the strength of their
frame designs to sell bikes. This is a fair strategy given
the athlete's propensity to upgrade. You do save money
with the B12 parts kit since you don't have to swap out
parts to improve performance of get a cosmetically matching
component kit. Felt also matched the front and rear derailleur
to complete the look of the transmission. Overall the
component spec on the B12 is very good.
Felt's superb Bayonet integrated aerobar uses grips that are
ideally suited to the multisport athlete exiting a cold swim
with wet hands.
Brakes on the B12 are not Shimano spec but an
aftermarket version of Shimano’s dual pivot that is so
similar they can accommodate Shimano brake shoes. The brake
caliper is all alloy with an easy to use barrel adjuster and
quick release. They hold their center dependably and are basically
Brake placement on the rear is above the chainstays,
improving brake response noticeably in the back. A quick technical
note here: The brake quick release on the rear brake must be
closed while riding or the crank arm will hit it when pedaling.
The brakes center easily and hold their center well.
Brakes on the B12 are functional, easily adjustable and hold
their center well.
The saddle on the B12 is a Felt OEM branded tri
specific saddle that I have raced on up to ½ Ironman
distance with no complaints. It has a broad, well padded nose
and is the standard 27 cm in length making it an unremarkable
fit. This saddle design is based on Selle Italia's SLR T1 and
is a proven design that has inspired original equipment saddles
for many good tri bike manufacturers. Most people who try this
saddle have good luck with it, even when spending time on the
nose during hard efforts.
A dependable and comfortable tri saddle inspired by Selle Italia
designs along with a new binder collar makes sitting on the
B12 a joy.
A pleasant surprise on the new B12 is the Felt
TTR3 aero wheelset. This is a 40mm deep, “V” section
aero race wheel with 20 bladed aerodynamic spokes laced radially
in the front and 24 spokes laced cross two drive side, radial
non-drive on the rear wheel. There is a lot of value in this
wheel spec. To do better on wheel spec you would have to spend
two-thirds of the price of the entire bike on wheels alone,
upgrading to Zipp or Hed race specific wheels without this level
of durability. The TTR3 aero wheels on the B12 do double duty
as every day training wheels but have aerodynamic features like
bladed spokes and deep section aero rims to save time on race
day. These wheels are faster than the race specific wheelset
I used to race my first Ironman. These wheels are not as light
as purpose built race wheels, but the added weight is spent
well to provide everyday, all road durability.
although wheel spec on the B12 is superb
with Felt's excellent TTR3 aero wheels using bladed spokes we
are tired of the ho-hum tire spec of Vittoria Rubino Pro Slicks.
The second place the B12 makes a minor faux paux
(in addition to the name) is tire spec. The Vittoria Rubino
Pro Slick is the tire that simply won’t go away. Vittoria
must pay bike companies to use these since almost everyone has
this tire on their bike between $2000 and $5000. It isn’t
a bad tire; in fact it has excellent ride quality. It just isn’t
a particularly durable tire. This may put the B12 owner in a
bit of a quandary: The wheels are so good they warrant a fancy
tire for race day such as the Continental Attack/Force combination
or the better high thread count Vittorias. However, since these
are your everyday wheels also the temptation is to go with a
heavier tire spec that is more flat resistant such as the Continental
Gatorskin. What to do? I would ride the Vittorias into the ground
(which won’t take long) and then switch to a more robust
Continental with a nylon Aramid sidewall. These tires will do
what you need in training and also be dependable on race day.
Felt scored another victory on the new 2009 B12
with an elegant and appealing color scheme. There were some
truly garish color stories on the drawing board for the B12
that got vetoed in the 11th hour. What emerged was a departure
from Felt’s normally black and neon livery to something
that is just racy enough to pop but not garish enough to offend.
This color scheme will likely speak to everyone, and generally
in low, dignified tones. By missing the edges of the primary
color wheel Felt threaded the needle with aesthetics and simply
nailed the look of the B12. It is a race car but a race car
for the lady or gentleman.
ice color scheme and clean looking rear end
complete the overall pleasant appearance of the B12. This is
a look at the rear wheel fairing.
I always look at a bike's cable routing since this is important
in traveling with the bike and in maintenance. Felt scores more
high marks here. The internal cable routing on the frame is
absolutely superb; fully guided through the inside of the frame
with the appropriate holes labeled on the head tube for assembly
and cable replacement. When you consider that sooner or later
every tri bike finds its way into a flight case this is a nice
feature. It also facilitates quick cable changes when installing
new brake and drivetrain cables. Lastly, the internal cables
use housing the entire length, keeping the cable clean and free
of water intrusion from mounting the bike when soaking wet.
Clean cable routing that uses housing throughout
its length and is fully internally guided: The best in the industry
from any manufacturer.
The B12 is a down-the-middle fitting bike like
its nemesis the Cervelo P2 but with a slightly lower head tube
height. Stack and reach on the two bikes are similar but the
B12 is available in 7 sizes (48cm/650c, 50cm/650c, 52cm, 54cm,
56cm, 58cm and 60cm) while the P2 is available in six. From
a fit standpoint there simply isn’t anything missing in
the B12 geometry chart. With an adjustable cockpit that can
be custom sized to the rider and uses standard stems the fit-ability
of the bike is superb.
Form follows function: more beautiful aerodynamic features
on the B12 frameset.
One issue with the B12 will be availability. Felt
is a full line bike company and as such they allocate production
and inventory resources across several bike categories. That
means there will never be enough B12’s. By the time the
value of the bike becomes apparent the supply is likely to be
under pressure. Last year (2008) Felt ran out of popular models
of their tri bikes by the beginning of the race season and spent
an uncomfortable eight weeks without adequate inventory to fill
orders. With the improvement in the B12 over previous models
demand will be strong. This will result in frustration in the
early months so check with your Felt dealer early if you are
considering the B12 for 2009. Supplies in January in February
may be adequate for bikes bought then, but the flow of bikes
from Felt will ebb after those key delivery months and the hot
bikes always go first.
2009 Felt B12: Key Advantages.