Felt S32 Review – Aluminum Budget Tri Bike

While Felt makes some of the fastest, most exotic triathlon bicycles available anywhere, such as the Felt IA and DA series of bikes, not everyone is willing to make the investment necessary for one of these speed machines. This being said, Felt has an answer for those seeking a high performance, entry-level tri bike that still shares some of the DNA of its top of the line siblings: introducing the Felt S32 triathlon bike.

Felt S32Felt S32 7005 Aluminum Aero Frame

The frame of the Felt S32 is constructed of 7005 aero-shaped butted aluminum tubing.  This is somewhat reminiscent of the discontinued Cervelo P1, but with some updated twists to the design for improved aerodynamics. No, the frame does not have the exotic shapes found in Felt’s IA or DA framesets. Such shapes would be very difficult, and too costly, to form out of aluminum. However, you do still get tubing on the Felt S32 that is wind tunnel tested and aerodynamically shaped to slip through the air efficiently. Like the venerable Felt IA, the cables on the Felt S32 (except for the front brake) are routed internally for improved air flow.

Some other features of the Felt S32 frame are a threaded bottom bracket shell and horizontal, adjustable rear wheel dropouts.  The fork is of Felt’s own design and construction, using Felt’s middle grade UHC Performance carbon fiber.  The alloy steerer tube of the fork is 1.125″ in diameter and the bike comes in 5 sizes: 51, 54, 56, 58, and 61cm.

The front brake on the Felt S32 is in the traditional position, mounted in front of the fork.  This may not be in keeping with some of the more radically aero bikes on the market, but many of the most accomplished tri bikes on the planet (all Cervelo models, Felt S32 Aerobarsfor example) mount the brake in this position, for ease of maintenance and adjustment by the owner.  While the rear brake would be easier to work on if it was mounted on the stays, it is of a direct mount design that is mounted behind the bottom bracket to shield it from the wind.

Rather than following the current tri bike trend of proprietary and complicated cockpit components, Felt has mercifully opted for a traditional stem and aerobar arrangement that is one of the most adjustable on the market. Assuming that a the Felt S32 frame geometry fits you well (a Fit Werx Rider First Bike Fitting is the way to find out), the range of adjustment in the aerobars makes it easy to get the rider into their ideal position, something that can be a chore on many other modern tri bikes.

Felt S32 Drivetrain from Shimano, MicroSHIFT, and FSA

The drivetrain components on the S32 are solid and reflect strong value in a sub $1500 triathlon bike. The front and rear derailleurs are Shimano 105, so they should perform admirably, while the 11 speed, 11-28 cassette and chain are from Shimano as well. On a related note, it is nice to see a broader range 11-28 cassette coming on an entry level tri bike. This just makes sense and we wish more companies would think about the likely end user when specing their bikes. The shifters are microSHIFT TT/Tri 11 speed, the same shifters fouFelt S32 Drivetrainnd on many tri bikes in the $2,000 to $3,000 price range, while the crankset and bottom bracket are the FSA Vero, a square taper design, with 50/34 tooth compact chainrings. Of course a lighter and stiffer crankset would be nice, but replacing the Vero with, say, a Shimano 105 crankset would likely add $150 or more dollars to the price of the bike and the FSA Vero is a solid crank that gets the job done without driving up the price.

Felt S32 Wheels

The wheel hubs and rims on the Felt S32 are of Felt’s own design and construction.  The alloy rims are 24mm deep and, following current market trends, the rim is wide, at 22mm. The Felt Road RSL3 wheels are equipped with Vittoria Zaffiro Slick 700c x 23mm tires. Mounted to the wide Felt rims, the tires actually measure just shy of 25mm wide and this combination will improve ride quality, and theoretically is faster, with less rolling resistance, than if the width were actually 23mm. The rims are also tubeless ready if you choose to use tubeless tires.  The front hub and wheel are assembled with 28 straight pull spokes, while the rear has 32 spokes, laced in a 3-cross pattern.  Front and rear hubs are Felt R3, a hub Felt uses on the wheels of many of its bicycles. The hub features adjustable, sealed cartridge bearings. The wheels are not light and they are also not as stiff as bigger or more powerful riders would prefer, but they are solid and get the job done without driving the price up.

Felt S32 Rider Matched To Our Client’s Needs

Before buying the Felt S32, we used the data from our client’s Existing Bike Fitting from a few years ago to provide Rider Matched bike options in his price range that we knew would fit him well. The Felt S32 frame geometry fit him well, but as is the case with almost any bike, I had to change a few components to tailor the bike to match his needs and riding position. The seatpost that came with the bike did not provide the setback our client needed, so I swapped out the seatpost for another Felt post that provided a greater setback. I also needed to swap out the stem and we had another Felt stem on hand that we were able to just trade for him. As I have said before, changing components such as this is a regular occurrence here at Fit Werx, as production bikes almost always require modifications to fit a specific rider’s needs and position properly and it never makes sense to compromise on something as important to comfort and performance as fit.

Felt S32: A Quality Entry-Level Tri Bike

With a bike such as the S32, you must remember that everything is relative. The S32 probably will not be as fast, nor deliver the same ride quality, as a Cervelo P2, probably the most popular tri bike of all time.  But then, at $2,800, the P2 is twice the price of the S32.  A better crank, or stiffer and lighter wheels, would be great, but such changes would turn a $1,399 bicycle into a $2,000+ bicycle. At a price of $1,399, the S32 upholds Felt’s modus operandi of offering a lot of bicycle for the money. All of Felt’s tri bicycles offer a high level of performance and components for the price, and the Felt S32 is no exception.

Many fledgling triathletes end up riding a road bike with a set of clip-on aero extensions so they can somewhat replicate the true triathlon riding position. This is usually a compromise at best both in terms of fit, handling and aerodynamics as you are trying to make the road bike into something it was not designed to be. The Felt S32 offers a very affordable alternative and brings the concept of a dedicated triathlon bike to more riders due to its low price; for $1400 many riders can get the benefit of a dedicated triathlon position, handling and aerodynamic tubing – all of which equal greater speed and confidence in the aerobars. For the money the Felt S32 is hard to beat  in design, construction, components, and overall performance.

If you are thinking of competing or participating in triathlons with any regularity, but are perhaps hesitant to fork over the price of admission, don’t just mount a pair of aero bars on your road bike. Do it right. The Felt S32 may very well be the bike you are looking for, and makes a great first triathlon bike without a large price tag. Stop in or contact us for more information.

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