Wednesday at Interbike was the first public viewing of the IA FRD, a bike that a triathlon-focused brand in Felt says was four years in the making. The IA follows the trend of brands making an unabashed, UCI-irreverent weapon, and it’s certainly a scythe on its face. It found its first success just a week ago with Mirinda Carfrae winning Ironman 70.3 Calgary aboard it, and with Australian Josh Amberger giving it a good crack during the Ironman 70.3 World Championships on the same day. Rinny has it locked and loaded for Kona as well.
It’s easy to see it’s a triathlon-specific ride; deep, deep tubes, storage solutions (hence the name IA, an acronym for Integrated Aero) are a dead giveaway. While some bikes can carry at higher speeds, this one has its tubes idealized for triathletes racing in high yaw angles, at lower speed.
LAVA had a chance to chat with lead engineer Anton Petrov, who gave us all the details. The highlights? Yes, it’s built without regard for a single UCI rule. Tubesets are well outside the 3:1 depth-to-width ratio, with some tubesets going upwards of 6:1. But depth isn’t for shock value. In fact, Petrov is clear to state that all tubesets differ from one another; the downtube has different shapes than the stays, which has different shapes from the fork blades. All tubes are designed independently to ultimately work as a construct.
And of course, aerodynamics is the key; Felt delivered some significant data to Carfrae as the frame relates to Kona winds; at yaws from 10 to 17.5 degrees (i.e., the wind angles all competitors will face along the Queen K in Kona next month) he rear stays are severely dropped in the interest of frontal area reduction while adding stiffness.
Some of that aerodynamics is enhanced by clean integration, like a Dagger fork and proprietary integrated aero brake hidden within the fork’s front cowling on a 1 1/8’ steerer, and the seatpost mounted BatPac, a Di2 or new Campagnolo battery storage location in the seat tube. And instead of using a “bento box” that mounts atop the top tube, Felt built the CalPac, locating nutrition storage in the same spot at the front of the top tube, but actually uses space within the recess of the top tube itself as a place to place gels. A rubber cover allows easy access.
There’s good flexibility as well; while it’s certainly not optimal aerodynamically, the Dagger aerobar can be removed, allowing use of a stock stem and bar setup. Again given the level of aerodynamic advantage the Dagger provides, it would have to be a sponsor obligation that would make them cut the best bar for the bike off said bike.
The carbon itself is special as well. Felt is the only brand in the bike industry using the UHC Ultimate TeXtreme carbon fiber cloth. Apart from wearing a distinct checkerboard look, the material, used in the Formula I racing industry, has less room for resin and greater use of fibers, making for a material with less weight and greater strength. Add sourcing complexities that see the material pass from Sweden through to the United States before being shipped to Asia for production, mix in a ton of design and engineering expertise and the IA makes for a rightfully pricey bike.
Regarding fit: the bike is truly dedicated to tri; it’s got the idealized mid-range geometry distance triathletes need: not terribly low, and not terribly long. Seat angle is set a 78 degrees on a 56cm frame, with top tube length, as well as stack and reach that is slightly taller and shorter than the bike it now preceeds, the DA. Not in the line is a 650c bike (as such Carfrae will be running a well-balanced 700c bike). The range of bikes includes: 48, 51, 5456 and 58cm.
Other unique cues include the Vibration Reduction Seatpost, a unique internal expansion forces the post against the frame, eliminating the chance for post or frame damage. The post also retains a vertical slit up its midline, allowing for a bit of play and vertical load comfort. The frame is finished with horizontal dropouts.
Speaking of price, the IA FRD LTD, the most apex setup, featuring Shimano Dura-Ace Di2 componentry, a Mavic Cosmic CXR80 wheelset will price at $14,000. The IA FRD (the same bike spec’d with a Vision TriMax crankset and Felt’s TTR1 wheelset) prices at $9999, while the IA FRD frameset, which includes fork, Dagger aerobar and brakeset prices at $6,000.