Making Speed Accessible: 2012 Felt Bicycles Preview
Jay Prasuhn takes a first look at the brand's new line-upJuly 26, 2011
Photos by Jay Prasuhn
Browse a gallery of the photos included in this review here.
It’s remarkable to know that come 2012, Felt Bicycles will have 10 years of production bikes manufacturing under its belt (beyond the many years of custom fabrication that Jim Felt underwent in making bikes for the likes of Paula Newby-Fraser and Craig Walton). The company has grown to ProTour sponsorship the last few year, and is behind some of the top names in triathlon like reigning Ironman champ Mirinda Carfrae, Terenzo Bozzone, Emma Snowsill.
Much of that is built on faith in their product. Faith in delivering a solid product with its own engineering fully vested. And faith on the part of consumers that hell yeah, their tri bikes—namely the flagship DA—have proven in the tunnel to be among the fastest on the planet.
Of course, when the ever-approachable Michellie Jones (above) shows up to a race, it’s gotta be a question that in the past few years has made her cringe: “how much is your bike, because I want one of those.” For Jones to tell her fans her bike was nearly $13,000 was a bitter pill to swallow.
No more. Now, when fans come up to her, she can proudly say that the same DA she rides, with the same design and fit, can be had for as little as $3,999.
“Now, price-point wise, triathletes have an option,” Jones told LAVA at Felt Bicycles’ 2012 presentation at their headquarters in Irvine, Calif. “If you want the top of the line or something more affordable, you can get it. Sometimes we’re limited by price, but we shouldn’t be limited by quality.”
For the most part, much of the Felt road line stands pat, with the wildly-popular AR aero road bike platform going down to as low as $2,499 with the AR set up with a Shimano 105/FSA.
But the story for us was in the triathlon bike line, highlighted by the DA. After a bit of confusion from the UCI about what constituted an approved time trial bike design, Felt was the very first brand to gain approval on a bike design … and the DA was that bike. As such, it’s the first to wear the UCI-approved decal, located at the back of the top tube.
In the past, the DA always represented the apex bike. And if you wanted it, you had to get it with top-shelf specs. And last year, with a price of over $13,000 and set up with Zipp 808s and Shimano’s Di2 electronic groupset, it was lust-worthy, but for many, absolutely unattainable.
2012 will be the first time the DA is offered in a hierarchical line with five models. Now you can get the bike Bozzone, Carfrae and Jones ride—at an affordable price.
“It’s not dumbed-down, and there’s no cost-saving measure,” Felt road product manager Dave Koesel said. “At every price point, we’re convinced we have the fastest bike possible.” Indeed, the five bikes—the DA1, DA2, DA3, DA4 and DA4W—share the exact frame mold, the same BB30 bottom bracket, and the same Bayonette3 fork with carbon fiber dropouts. The only differences will come in carbon layup from model to model, and component specification.
The top offering will be the Felt DA1. As last year, it will be race-ready out of the box with Felt’s own Devox carbon aerobar (with a flippable basebar for fit adjust) Shimano Dura-Ace Di2 groupset, an Enduro ceramic bottom bracket and Zipp Firecrest 808 tubulars. And as last year, it will command a premium at $12,999. But again, there is zero needed to upgrade; your spend is done.
The DA2 takes the cost edge down a bit at $8,999, and brings the spec down as well. It still comes with Shimano Dura-Ace Di2, but the wheelset is the TTR1 AWS carbon clincher, co-developed by Felt with Reynolds Composites and featuring a super-narrow 55mm hub flange. That narrowed flange means for a wheel with decreased frontal spoke exposure. A Dura-Ace crankset on the DA1 is subbed by a Vision TriMax Carbon aero crankset, and the frame moves from a lightweight 1k weave on the DA1 to a 3k weave on the DA2.
It’s below this point where the decision for Felt to go with a hierarchical spec and price range is really going to pay off for consumers.
The DA3 is gonna make waves. The price drops off the ledge to $4,999. It has the same 3k weave frame as the DA2, but goes with SRAM Red components, a alloy SRAM S300 crankset with SRAM Red TT chainrings, SRAM R2C shifters, and a great TTR2 AWS mid-depth race wheel on aluminum rims. Given the solid spec and amazing price, this model is gonna kill in the stores, guaranteed.
The DA4 will also be of keen interest, particularly in that it actually splits into two versions: the DA4 and DA4W. Pricing at $3,999, the spec comes down a bit with a Vision TriMax Pro alloy aero crankset, Shimano Dura-Ace derailleur and TTR3 wheelset. But now we have a bike in the DA4 and DA4W with the first spec we’ve seen of Vison’s Metron shifters, the clever little brake lever-looking shifters that shift in on direction by pulling the levers and shift in the opposite by depressing the unit’s housing cover. We’re keen to see how these little guys are received.
But the big shift is the new DA4W, a DA especially for women. Apart from having the sweetest stock paintjob we’ve seen on a bike in awhile (a blend of pixilated pinks, purples and blues on gloss black, including minute details like the water bottle bolts) it also has women’s-targeted specs, including narrower bars (38mm c/c), a shorter cranklength (in proportion to frame size), a fi’zi:k Vitesse saddle and compact gearing. Further, Felt specs the wheels with 15-gauge spokes instead of the standard 14-gauge spokes for a more vertical compliance and comfort.
Throughout the DA line, frame size options range include 51cm, 54cm, 56cm and 58cm on 700c wheels, with one 47cm frame option on 650c wheels.
Of note is Felt’s debut of its own branded tire, the Felt TTR1 clincher developed in the tunnel by Felt for optimized use on the wheel configuration on Felt’s TTR1 AWS carbon clincher and TTR2 wheelsets. It will feature as a stock piece on the DA2 and DA3. Felt said it is, to this point, very lightly considering it as an aftermarket item. We tend to agree it may be worth putting out in more than just a spec offering, if only in limited batches, since a consumer will ideally want this as their race-day tire (and may want more than just the one pair that comes with the bike).
We will say it’s a first; a bike brand that develops a tire that works in concept with a wheel they developed, which in turn works in concert with a bike they’ve developed. We’ve seen brands like Cervelo work with companies like Vittoria to a lesser degree, but Felt stands as the first to go full-on on the brand development of tires and wheels to work as optimized units with a bike. Very impressive.
Smaller details on the DA are the stem, offered in nine variations, and the integrated brake (again, developed by Felt) that has a new, very svelte barrel adjuster for easier on-the-fly width adjust.
The B2 uses the old DA frame platform (which has seen its share of success under guys like Bozzone and the then-Garmin-Transitions team a couple years ago), loads it with a Shimano Dura-Ace Di2 groupset and Felt’s TTR3 wheelset and Vision TriMax Pro alloy cranks, and sends it off with a very reasonable $6,699 price point.
Down the line, the B12 and the B16 (and B16W women’s-specific platform) also use the same frame design as the B2 down to the 3K weave, but save with lowered components packages. The $3,099 B12 uses Vision’s Metron shifters and Shimano Dura-Ace derailleurs and a TTR3 wheelset, while the B16 and B16w which prices at $2,199, will come with a shallower—but still aero—alloy TTR4 wheelset, Shimano Ultegra derailleurs and a new Micro.shift bar end shifter (which is a replacement for a standard Shimano Dura-Ace bar end shifter).
The final bike in the Felt line is, ironically, the bike that won a ton of races not long ago and stood for years as Felt’s DA. Yes, the S22 is the same butted, hydro-formed aluminum platform that Craig Walton took to titles at classics like the Noosa, Chicago and Los Angeles Triathlons. This one comes with an aero alloy Felt TTR4 wheelset, a SRAM Apex derailleurs, all set on a BB30 bottom bracket. It’ll price at $1,699. Not bad at all.
We would like to bring up frame size options with y’all again, in case it was glossed over. Considering two of the brand’s top sponsored pros are true powerhouse pixies (Carfrae and Snowsill), the company smartly offers bike sizes in 650c throughout the tri line. That includes every single one of the DA iterations (in 47cm frame sizes), the B12, the B16/B16W and S22. Very few brands out there investing an entire range in a full compliment of 650c frame options. It’s a reflection of the company’s focus on fit, and having a full 650c range means zero compromises for the smaller athlete. Chapeau.
When can we get these new 2012 bikes? Felt said your local retailer will have ‘em at the beginning of September. For more on the new line (once it’s updated at the website) visit feltbicycles.com.
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