Sunday, April 20, 2008
Bike Review 2008 Felt S22
"You can win Ironman on this bike," Jack over at Jack and Adam's said as he fitted me on the Felt S22. Trust me, I was a little skeptical. I knew Paula Newby-Fraser raced Felts back in the day. But that was ancient history. The bikes now are like rockets or time machines, they are made of the newest and lightest materials then shaped so that when you stare at them from front or back you do not see them. Jack went on to say what I already knew. He basically said that to win races you need to train smart and pick your tools wisely. Good, sound advice.
Then I went right out and road the bike. HOLY SMOKES! Let it be said right up front the Felt S22 is one F. A. S. T. machine! I should know better than to doubt Jack. If he says someone could win Kona on this bike, then someone could win Kona on this bike.
So what I noticed first about the Felt S22, aside from the immediate sense of speed, was the ride. It was silky smooth. A lot smoother than I expected from an aluminum frame. But I'm sure you can attribute that to having some nice carbon components in all the right places. The Felt S22 comes with an aero carbon seat post, carbon fork, and carbon seat stays.
As usual I put the bike through my normal tests which includes climbs, cornering, braking, acceleration, and some heart rate and gear controlled time trialing. The S22 climbed really well, the rear triangle proving to be both stiff and responsive going uphill without being abusive when the road got a little bumpy. This is good news. As I've said before, while tri bikes aren't really designed for climbing, they shouldn't leave you feeling like you'd be better off walking your bike up an incline than riding it. But what was really impressive was how tight you could take corners and how fast the S22 accelerated coming out of them. I literally felt as if I was shot out of a cannon on the back side of the turns. I can see some major time gains for you on this bike on more technical courses with lots of turns and short steep climbs.
I tend to like bikes that give you the confidence to ride aggressively. The S22 certainly meets this criteria given its snappy and responsive handling. Combined with the smooth ride, I don't think it will beat you up even at the Ironman distance. This is also a bike I think will appeal to both larger and smaller riders because it does offer both stiffness and a comfortable ride. This is a rare combination in the tri bikes I've tested which seem to serve one type of rider better than another. Given my tests I feel comfortable recommending the S22 for both large and small riders equally.
There were only two things I didn't like about the Felt S22. One was the seat. I've never had seat issues and have always just ridden whatever seat came on the bike I was buying at the time. When these wore out, I usually went for firmer, stiffer seats with minimal cushioning. The seat on the S22 felt like riding on a sofa and caused some pain because I could never get quite balanced on it. I know I lost some power as a result. The other thing was the S22 is a little on the heavy side. Looking on the Felt web site the bike weighs in at a shade under 19 pounds. Personally, given the speed in and out of the corners and the acceleration over the tops of climbs, the weight probably won't be that big a deal. If I were looking at bikes in this price range, neither of these two minor issues would stop me from strongly considering it.
The S22 is very competitively priced at $1999.00 making it a bike which can go a long way with the athlete that chooses it either for a first bike or an upgrade from a road bike. The components are actually quite good primarily being Shimano Ultegra except for the FSA Crankset. The S22 is also very aero and quite stylish looking. You won't be ashamed to rack the bike in any transition area in the world. And who knows, like Jack says, if you buy one of these a podium spot in Kona could be in your future. However that prediction ultimately plays out, this bike won't be the reason keeping you from making it come true....