IA Trickles Down
Last year, Felt introduced its top-end, brand new IA bike. The bike came in only one version, designated FRD, for a cool $14,000. 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 ($10k, Di2 and Novatec carbon clinchers), IA3 ($7k, SRAM RED 22 and carbon clinchers), and IA4 ($5,500, 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 ($4,500). 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.
All versions of the IA get the exact same FRD aerobar, integrated stem, integrated brakes, and seatpost. The only difference in the lower-range frames is the carbon in the frame itself.
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.
Updates to DA and B-series
The DA is getting the top-end TeXtreme carbon.
As usual, Felt hasn't rested on its laurels with regard to its existing bikes. The DA was updated in 2013 with the new Bayonet 4 fork (which contains the same integrated brake as the IA), and incremental updates continue this year on several fronts. First, the DA line has been stripped down to just one model. It's called the DA1, and at $4,999, it's a very compelling entry in the lineup. It's UCI legal, keeps the very slick Devox carbon aerobar and Bayonet 4 fork from last year, and gains two more things. The first is the TeXtreme fabric also seen on the IA FRD, designed to improve or maintain stiffness, while simultaneously dropping weight. Second, and this is a change affecting all of Felt's tri bikes for 2015 (except the lowest-end B14 and S32), Felt has adopted a new vibration-reducing technology is its seatposts made and patented by 3T. The posts basically have an elastomeric material between the clamping hardware and the circular cavity in the seatpost that accepts that hardware. The idea is that this material helps to isolate vibrations from one to the other, basically insulating your bum from some road chatter. Again, the new seatposts will be stock going forward on all IA models, the DA1, and all B-series models except the lowest-end B14.
The DA1's price of $5k is very interesting. On the one hand, it's much less expensive than, say, an entry level Cervelo P5 or a mid-range Trek Speed Concept. But on the other hand, it's only $500 less than the entry-level IA. Triathletes will probably want to spend the extra $500 to get the faster frame, but if you do UCI events, the DA1 is a very interesting choice.
The B-series is virtually unchanged, except that the highest-end B2 returns to the centerpull version of the Tektro 726 brake, rather than the sidepull it was released with two years ago. Price points for the B-series bikes are excellent, bottoming out at just $1,999 for a complete B14. I personally love the B-series, and I'm still riding the B2, which remains a strong favorite of mine, despite the considerable stable of bikes I have access to.
TTR (Novatec) Wheels
Even the lowest-end bike, the AR4, comes with Felt's own TTR3 wheels, very similar to the TTR2's we reviewed with the B2. But new for 2015, Felt is bundling the IA2 and IA3 with some carbon clinchers from an open mold company called Novatec. The wheels are branded by Felt as the TTR0 R9, and the TTR1 R5. These are variants of Novatec's R9 and R5, respectively, with different graphics and Felt-specific hubs. The R5 is a 50mm deep rim at 24mm wide, and the R9 is 90mm deep at 25mm wide. The rims feature the same sort of design language we've come to see all across the industry: wide, nearly flat-walled rims and a large-radius inner edge, resulting in better high-yaw performance and mating better with modern frame designs. Felt will be shipping these with its own branded tire, and the whole package is designed to deliver modern aero performance at a more affordable price tag than some bigger brand names.
See the gallery below for more details on the updates, and check back tomorrow for a gallery of several very cool custom IA builds we saw at Felt HQ.