BRAND SPOTLIGHT: Felt - BikeBiz

BRAND SPOTLIGHT: Felt

Jonathon Harker investigates the history and the future of the brand that has audacious ambitions to produce the best bicycles in the world...
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Felt’s brand philosophy is simple, and bold – to design, develop and deliver the best bicycles in the world. Period.

Founder Jim Felt made his name in motocross working as a mechanic on the Honda, Kawasaki, Suzuki and Yamaha teams. It was through those perhaps unlikely motocross roots that he first stepped into cycling when he built his first frame for motocross star Johnny ‘O-Show’ O’Mara in the late 1980s. The time trial/triathlon frame was used by O’Mara for his unconventional method for staying fit for motocross – racing in triathlons.

In 1990 O’Mara won the California State Championship in the time trial, while Felt himself finished third at the Bud Light Triathlon in Barstow. O’Mara’s success on Felt’s frame did not go unnoticed and Easton Sports soon approached Felt. At Easton, Felt became product engineer for a new bike programme and designed a frame for triathlon legend Paula Newby Fraser. Newby Fraser went on to win her fourth Kona Ironman on Felt’s B2 in the same year.

With those successes under his belt, Felt continued to forge an increasingly impressive CV building frames for duathlon athlete Ken Souza, MTB legend John Tomas and Ironman strongman Wolfgang Dietrich. Felt went on to launch his own brand in 1994 with Answer Products – a relationship that led to sponsorship of the Nutra-Fig Team and successes in the the Tour DuPont, the Lancaster Classic and Athen Twilight Crit. After parting company with Answer, Felt relaunched the brand in 2001 with Bill Duehring and Michael Müllmann, who both helped forge a fresh vision for the brand that saw it encompass not only upper-end road and triathlon bicycles, but also a broader range of road and tri bikes, BMX, MTBs and even cruiser and commuter bikes.

Saddleback marketing assistant Richard Mardle tells BikeBiz how the firm first got involved with the Felt brand: “In 2005 Saddleback and Felt joined in partnership, beginning with BMX sales and later expanding to mountain, road and triathlon bikes with full exclusive UK distribution. In 2007, Saddleback was awarded the Felt Bicycles Distributor of the Year. For Saddleback, this was the turning point for Felt and the brand within the UK market.”

In an increasingly competitive market, Felt feels it has the edge over rivals: “Felt’s commitment grows from a small business of true bicycle engineers and designers with decades of industry experience with some of the leading brands. Felt continues to lead on from this passion and creativity seen in past classics with the addition of the latest technologies to improve build quality, performance and comfort.”

Despite the company’s relative youth it has assisted world-class athletes to gold medals in the Olympics, World Championship and International racing events in most disciplines. Concerns over how the current economic climate might affect demand have proved to be misplaced, according to Saddleback: “Felt sales to date have shown that the mid to high-end bicycles are selling.”

Felt, like the rest of the bicycle trade, seems to be riding out the current crisis: “It seems that the market place has remained lightly affected by the economic climate, showing that the public are still buying for competition, leisure and commuting. It seems that the profile of cycling is still increasing in the UK and our perception is changing for the better.”

THE LATEST KIT
The Felt AR (aero road) range and Six Carbon Mountain bike ranges are both new for 2009. The former is a concept creation based on input from the Garmin Slipstream professional cycling team. Created to save time and power on flatter stage races, the Felt DA takes ideas from the Fastest Aero bike and boasts aerodynamic efficiency that can make the difference between taking the win and a pack finish.

The Six Carbon MTB has been developed to take the already fast race breed RXC platform and make it lighter and faster. Used by the Felt International Mountain Bike Team, the New Felt Six Team weighs 20.8lbs out of the box and is equipped ready to race. The numerous demands for a race-quality 26-inch wheel mountain bike are packed into the bike, which is strong enough to be raced in punishing conditions, light enough to allow a climber to ascend effortlessly and performance-oriented enough to track flawlessly.

To become a stockist for the brand contact Saddleback on 01454 299965 or Sales@Saddleback.co.uk. The firm will then arrange for the local area sales manager to visit or get in contact.

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