"Whether you’re looking for an aero advantage on the road or your next Ironman leg, you gotta check out the new bikes from Felt." - Bikerumor.com
Last year, Felt introduced its top-end, brand new IA bike. The bike came in only one version, designated FRD. FRD of course stands for Felt Racing Devlolpment, and it is reserved for the highest level of technology that has been in development for the past 5-6 years. Labeled as a no holds barred approach to bicycle design, the first FRD product was the 9 hardtail which also was the fist use of Oxeon’s spread tow carbon fiber. Team Argos Shimano has been riding an F Series FRD, Sarah Hammer has been winning on her TK1 track bike, and the FRD F series has been raced in Paris Roubaix.
This year, Felt is releasing no fewer than three new builds, which use lower-grade carbon, but feature all of the same integration and features as the original. These are styled the IA2 (Di2 and Novatec carbon clinchers), IA3 (SRAM RED 22 and carbon clinchers), and IA4 (Shimano Ultegra and alloy clinchers). Finally, the frame that makes up those less-expensive builds will also be available separately, and is called the IA1. Personally, that one is my favorite, featuring an incredibly-slick black-and-nude paint scheme.
The "lower-grade" carbon in the new frames isn't exactly a pedestrian material. Felt is still using industry-standard materials, including medium and high-modulus unidirectional fabrics on interior layers, and a beautiful 3k weave on the surface layer. Personally, I actually prefer the look of the 3k surface layer of the new frames versus the very large weave pattern of the TeXtreme on the FRD frame. But what does the high-end FRD frame buy you? Basically, it saves a few grams. Felt tuned the layup of the new frames to match the performance of the FRD, but the spread-tow characteristics of TeXtreme allow that frame to use fewer layers of carbon to achieve them.
Possibly one of the most interesting features of the AR and IA is their newly patented seat post design. Aerodynamic seatposts can be big improvement in the performance of a frame, but they have a serious drawback – clamping.
Instead of clamping around the post, both the AR and the IA have a slit that runs up the middle of the post. Inside the seat post there are two plates that are threaded, and tightening the two seat clamp bolts pulls each clamp from the inside to expand the post against the inside of the frame. This accomplishes two things, it clamps the post effectively so it doesn’t slip, and it allows for the post to be constructed so that it actually improves the ride over a round seat post. To give you an idea of just how much different the construction of the post differs, you can actually squeeze the post with your hands and get to two sides to compress slightly. According to Felt, the previous seatpost design was 470 times stiffer! Each post has a silicone strip that is used to keep gunk out of the inside of the post, and there is also an adapter for securing a Shimano Di2 internal battery to the bottom of the clamp pieces.
The IA is a born-and-bred tri bike. It comes stock with 52-36t chainrings, slightly lower gearing than the average time trialist might use. Every version of the bike is smartly-equipped with an Adamo Attack, the most popular aftermarket saddle there is. The bike has slightly higher "effective" head tube height compared to the older DA and B2 frames, by which I mean that the minimum stack height to the pads is just slightly higher. It can still get very low, but not quite as low as the DA with the 0-rise stem. The higher stacks are trending throughout the industry, with Cervelo, Specialized, and others all increasing their tri-specific head tubes and minimum stack heights in general.
Another tri-specific feature on the IA is its integrated top tube storage. The rubber cover has been revised this year to make it a little easier to install, and also improves cable routing, introducing a cable port that is available with or without the cover installed. Check out our followup article from inside Felt HQ (in "Related Articles" below) for more on the evolution of the IA storage unit.
To improve the aerodynamics on the AR, a new proprietary brake was designed which felt claims offers the same performance and feel as a Dura Ace brake. The stopper is hidden under a two piece cover, which is removable to easily work on the brake unlike integrated units. The brake will also be offered on the Bayonet 4 equipped DA which uses a one piece cover instead. The brake is a simple roller cam design, with a cable the pulls from the center to actuate the two arms which are equipped with TRP pads and pad holders.
The rear brake is also covered in a shroud, though there are cut outs to adjust the pads without taking off the cover.
Designed primarily for electronic drivetrains, the IA hides the battery in a compartment just in front of the rear wheel in the seat tube.
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