Bicycle goes lifestyle

It is the bicycle that children would have ridden on their morning newspaper delivery route or hippies would have cruised on to peace rallies and Beatles concerts. In fact, this bicycle does retro so well that you might just believe it was parked at the Lincoln Memorial when Martin Luther King Jr shared his dream.

Felt bicycles were born in the late Eighties when California-based motocross mechanic Jim Felt built a new, aerodynamically advanced bicycle for triathlon motocross star Johnny O’Mara. O’Mara’s success on the bike began the shaping of a new brand in the industry and, 20 years later, there is now a full range of Felt bicycles.

Its South African distributors, WorldsView Sports, historically focused on importing triathlon equipment. However, its directors noticed a gap in the market for “lifestyle” bicycles. “This bike is designed for a cruise down the beach front at Sea Point,” says Mark O’Brien, brand manager for WorldsView Sports. The company recently imported its first batch of about 60 Felt cruisers, which sold out in five weeks.

Pedalling on the ladies’ Felt Vivi with the wind in my face, I can see why. The upright cantilever frame, wide handlebars and broad, padded seat make riding a comfortable, easy experience. A twist handle changes the internal gears and although there are only three of those, they include one easy enough for the steepest pavement climb. The backpedal drum system means you brake with your feet — an old-school touch that takes some getting used to, but it ups the fun level and helps you to balance around corners. Plus, as Felt technician Riaan Young explains, the brake design is built to avoid getting brake-rubber gunk on the bike’s shiny red wheel rims.

The cruisers are available in a choice of styles — from the quintessentially retro Vivi and Beaumont to the more aggressively modern Red Baron and Squealer. But, at R6 000 to R8 000 each, the prices are anything but retro.

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