At the heart of Felt is a genuine love of speed. The man behind the name, Jim Felt, made a name for himself in motocross as one of the ace mechanics for Honda, Kawasaki, Suzuki and Yamaha. It was in supporting one of the stars of motocross, Johnny O’Mara—“The O-Show”—that Felt built his first frame, a time trial/triathlon frame for O’Mara. Felt’s first successes in cycling came before he had a name for his company.
O’Mara was racing in triathlons to stay fit for motocross. Today the training makes great sense, but back in 1989 the idea seemed crazy. That year Felt built a frame for O’Mara who, in 1990, won the California State Championship in the time trial. Felt was a pretty decent age grouper and finished third at Bud Light Triathlon in Barstow.
Word of O’Mara’s success aboard the Felt-designed and built frame spread, which led to a call from Easton Sports. Easton was relatively new to the bicycle industry and needed a product engineer for its fledgling bike program. Felt brought his cycling know-how and Easton provided a crash course in metallurgy. One of Felt’s first projects was to design a frame for Easton-sponsored triathlon legend Paula Newby Fraser. Newby Fraser had already won three Ironman competitions and Easton needed to provide her with a bike guaranteed to be fast. Felt delivered the B2, so named for its stealthy, matte black finish. The rest, as they say, is history. Newby Fraser took her fourth Kona Ironman that year.
Felt’s reputation as a guy who understands how to go fast was sealed. Working with Easton, Felt would go on to build bikes for duathlon’s winningest athlete, Ken Souza, mountain bike legend John Tomac, and Ironman strongman Wolfgang Dietrich. Any bike builder on the planet would kill to have such a collection of athletes on their resume.
Felt left Easton to launch his brand in conjunction with Answer Products in 1994. The relationship led to the sponsorship of the Nutra-Fig Team, which gained entry to the Tour DuPont in 1996. Nutra-Fig rider Chris Horner took a stage win in a two-man sprint against US Postal’s Nate Reiss following a long breakaway. Horner also won the Lancaster Classic and the Athens Twilight Crit that year. In 2000 Felt parted ways with Answer after a 7-year relationship.
In 2001 Bill Duehring and Michael Müllmann partnered with Jim Felt to re-launch the Felt brand. Duehring and Müllmann had a fresh vision for the brand. Rather than confining itself to upper-end road and triathlon bicycles, Duehring and Müllmann saw the opportunity to expand the prestigious name into a broader offering of road and tri bikes, BMX, mountain bikes, even cruisers and commuter bikes.
In addition to Duehring and Müllmann’s expansion of the product line, they had plans to take the brand international. Felt Racing, LLC, is a fairly unusual company in the bike industry in that it truly has two presidents: one in the U.S. and one in Europe. Felt is truly a global brand. The expertise Duehring and Müllmann brought gave the Felt brand access to resources it previously lacked.
Felt President Bill Duehring is a bike industry lifer. He is his family’s third generation to work in cycling. Both his grandfather and father ran bike shops in the Washington, D.C., area; his dad later opened a shop in Florida. Duehring started working in his dad’s shop while in high school, first as a wrench, later on the sales floor. It wasn’t long before he got interested in the distribution side of the business. He left his father’s shop to join a national distributor known for selling the biggest brands in BMX. Duehring spent time in nearly every aspect of the operation, from the warehouse to customer service, purchasing and sales. Later, he got involved in product management when the distributor launched its own line of bicycles, and was making trips to Asia while in his early 20s. He would move on to another large bike manufacturer as a Vice President of product development.
Those in the industry who know Duehring are quick to acknowledge his ability to partner with Asian companies to produce exceptional bicycles at competitive prices. And while he understands parts spec unusually well, colleagues say his real talent is in understanding how Asian companies do business, that he understands the give-and-take involved in the relationship and how building and preserving that relationship goes deeper than just a contract.
Felt’s European President, Michael Müllmann, is the owner of Sport Import, a powerful importer and distributor in Europe. Müllmann studied management and economics while in college, and in the years since has developed expertise in international business, organization and financing. In 1980, while in school, he started a bike shop to help finance his education. That’s right, instead of working at a bike shop to make money, he started one. Dissatisfied with the lines he carried in his shop and looking for strong BMX lines, he started his own import and distribution company two years later and began bringing some of the first production mountain bikes into Germany in 1984.
It was only natural that Duehring and Müllmann would come into contact through their work in both BMX and mountain bikes. Their association goes back more than 20 years, so when the opportunity to join forces and relaunch the Felt brand with one of cycling’s true innovators, they couldn’t pass up the opportunity.
With Duehring’s hand-picked team of product managers and engineers, Felt expanded into a full line of product offerings, including also cyclocross, track, fixed-gear, city and comfort bicycles; the line totals 140 models distributed in 27 countries.
Despite our broad offering of product, our mission is quite simple: To design, develop, and deliver the best bicycles in the world. Period.