Felt Bicycle’s design DNA includes influences from their European management and their California base. That unique mix of insight, engineering and design inspired the Felt York. The York combines design themes that include English Gentlemen’s bike, urban fixed gear, and practical commuter bike. It lives under the “Fixie” tab on the Felt USA website even though it’s much more than a fixie.
The Felt York uses a unique Sturmey Archer “Kickback” 2-speed rear hub that freewheels for coasting and has two different gear ratios. You shift between the two gears by momentarily back pedaling as if you were applying a coaster brake. For rear braking, sustained rearward pedal pressure actuates the rear coaster brake. The front brake is a standard caliper. This unique hub was designed for commuting in areas where bad weather is common. The hub/gear unit is completely sealed making water intrusion difficult. There are no bare cables at the rear of the bike to corrode or clutter the appearance of the bike. It’s an elegant spec for an elegant bike.
Perhaps the most visually striking feature of the Felt York is the nicely crafted front cargo basket. The bottom of the cargo basket is natural wood, beautifully finished. It’s a functional material since it’s strong and lightweight. The cargo basket is 3.75 inches (9.5 cm.) deep and 14″ (35.5 cm.) wide, 11.75″ (30 cm.) front to back. The total volume is about 616 cubic inches. A stretch cargo net or bungees can be used to hold taller items securely in the basket while riding. The cargo basket itself is TIG welded aluminum. It uses a three-point mounting system to the front brake bolt and to either side of the front hub via a pair of sturdy struts. Since the cargo basket is oriented low on the front of the bike, lower than a traditional Wald-style wire basket that mounts directly to the handlebars, it feels more stable and influences the steering less.
The handlebars emphasize the English country motif with their moustache curve and beautiful, real leather grips with stitching to improve grip and fix the grips to the bars. Stem design is a conventional threadless arrangement that mimics the appearance of a quill style stem from the ’70’s. The stem clamps the moustache handlebars with a four-bolt front plate and uses a coordinated top cap as practical finishing trim. The single brake lever is about as simple as it could be, with no cover or adornment. Purely function. The lever does have a return spring in it even though the cable run to the front brake is short and direct so your front brake always feels great and has plenty of stopping power.
The main frame is 4130 cro-moly with butted seat stays for comfort and straight gauge main tubes to maintain long term durability even in an urban environment. The dropouts are horizontal track style dropouts that empty to the rear. This makes wheel clearance tight between the fender and tire when pulling the wheel out. Tubing joints are TIG welded. The seat post binder collar is a classic design with a pass-through binder bolt that will even accept the old Campagnolo seat post binder bolts if you have some in the bottom of your toolbox. The fork is another well executed frame detail with its double, flat top crown that allows longer blades for better ride comfort. Threaded bosses built into the fork near the dropouts support the basket and fender hardware. There are five frame sizes in the York; 51 cm., 54 cm., 56 cm., 58 cm., 61 cm.
The crank is rife with details including the skip-tooth design that hearkens back to the 1940’s. References for the design of the crank are from 1961 and extend to the stamping that actually reads, “Italy Inspired” in a typeface that will be familiar to many cycling aficionados. Mechanically the crank and bottom bracket are simple, durable and serviceable. Uniquely styled pedals feature retro traction teeth and match the finish of the rest of the drive train, completing the look.
A detail worth noticing is the vintage “skip-tooth” chain ring. The skip-tooth or “inch pitch” chain ring preceded the modern chain ring pattern that engages every link in the chain. The vintage skip-tooth only engages every other link. There isn’t a technical benefit to this. It is entirely an authentic ode to classic bike design.
The head badge is a new design from Felt Designer Cody Alderson. It will be used across the Felt Lifestyle bike line and calls out the company’s birth in 1991. Alderson collaborated with Felt designers on the look of the badge from extensive “inspiration boards” then took the lead on final design. His interpretation includes a heavy emphasis on traditional head badge design but incorporates symmetrical curves that invoke modern corporate logos. It is an eloquent melding of traditional design with suggestions of modern typography.
The saddle shares inspiration from the San Marco Regal and the Brooks B17 with its brown color and six rivet trim. It’s a wide, flat saddle designed for use with street clothes. The sides of the saddle wrap fully over the rails to prevent trousers from bunching between skin and the saddle. It’s wide enough that a cyclist will be comfortable without padded shorts even for longer rides.
The fork continues the theme of melding traditional design with modern specifications by using a 1&1/8″ diameter head tube but a beautifully shaped retro fork crown with intricate looking lug design. The crown actually has a hollow, pass through double fork crown design. The legs taper to dropouts with rack and fender mounting threaded eyelets. This fork design improves ride quality and pays homage to pre-war and vintage bike styling.
Pedals are alloy toothed-cage design with pass-through holes for bolting on toe clips. This bike begs for a pair of silver, vintage styled Christophe or Campagnolo style toe clips with leather straps to complete the look of the drive train. The teeth on the pedals’ outer frame provide great grip with most shoes.
Hubs combine vintage engineering with practical features such as bolt-on mounting as a theft deterrent. They use a traditional silver finish with prominent Sturmey-Archer logos including one that calls out their heritage “since 1903” on the rear hub. The hubs use modern sealed cartridge bearings, a nod to practicality, and have 32 holes front and rear. They are laced in a robust cross-three pattern with 32 stainless steel, straight-gauge spokes with brass spoke nipples. The tire spec is a proprietary Felt brand 700 X 25c All Weather town & country tire.
Another stylistic and functional highlight on the Felt York are the hammer-formed aluminum alloy fenders. This is a full-coverage fender set with clean, adjustable mounting struts that bolt to the frame eyelets. The silver, textured finish provides a “shop” like appearance to the bike that, along with the color of the saddle and handlebar furniture, the tires and the workman-like blue color give the entire bike an authentic look.
The York combines the southern California lifestyle utility with Felt’s European influence for a bike that seems to have not aged and will likely remain timeless in looks and utility. It’s a unique and different take on the commuter and recreational bike that will ride and look great for a lifetime.