While there were quite a few new mountain products at Felt’s 2014 launch, the biggest news was on the pavement. As one of the original aero road bikes, the Felt AR receives a serious update in addition to the introduction of the all new Triathlon specific IA. The two bikes take advantage of Felt’s partnership with Oxeon and their Textreme carbon fiber, as well as the incorporation of some seriously cool new aero technologies like the new seat post.
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.
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, the FRD F series has been raced in Paris Roubaix, and we covered the other recent addition of the FRD Edict 9.
FRD is a combination of advanced materials, aerodynamics, and component integration which leads us to the AR, and IA – Aerodynamic Road, and Integrated Aerodynamics. The new AR platform has been in the works for 2 years, with extensive wind tunnel development. Felt is happy to point out that they used the wind tunnel throughout the process for development, rather than just taking the finished prototype to the tunnel for validation. Using their 3D printer we saw in our Felt HQ Tour, Felt would bring multiple sections of prototyped frames like the IA pieces above to see how they reacted in the real world – not just relying on their Star CCM+ CFD program. The results speak for themselves with the second generation AR frame just over 900g and a whopping 40% stiffer and 35% faster according to Felt.
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. Since the post isn’t round, they typically don’t stand up to clamping very well so one of two things usually has to happen: the posts are way overbuilt to withstand the crushing and the ride quality suffers as a result, or, they slip.
Neither are good, so Felt engineered a way around those problems essentially turning the seat post clamp inside out. 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.
There are two models of seat post, one with a variable mount and a 3T elastomer mounted Diff Lock version. The Variable mount uses a clever design to clamp to saddle rails of any size thanks to a clamp with a single bolt that pulls a hook from the top down to the rail. The 3T version will have the Diff Lock mechanism mounted in an elastomer surrounding for even better road vibration deadening. The design of the post also allows for flipping the seat tube angle from 72.5 to 78.5 on the AR.
Built for not only aerodynamics, but comfort, speed, stiffness, and lightweight as well, the Spread tow carbon fabric allows for thinner carbon at the same strength and improved ride quality. Felt has also improved their molding process for an even better interior cavity with no filler material. While wind tunnel data hasn’t been made available yet, Felt claims that the tube shapes of both bikes actually create lift in certain yaws. This is where Jim Felt stepped in and told us that they are to the point with aerodynamics that they are almost to the point where the drag from the frame is cancelling itself out. Jim mentioned that the drag numbers from the AR or IA would basically be the same if just a set of wheels were tested with no frame at all.
Naturally, our next question was if we would ever see a bike with zero drag since it seems to be constantly improving. Jim’s answer was probably not, due to the fact that unless there is a major breakthrough in drivetrains you still have the gearing to worry about which creates a lot of drag depending on the angle of the wind.
While the AR uses a standard front brake, the rear is tucked under the chainstay. Up at the stem is an interesting Shimano quick release for the rear brake. Flip the metal buckle and it opens or closes the brake which is a nice touch though it is quite large.
Overall, Felt wanted to push the design of the AR not just to win in the aero category, but in every category and still be supremely comfortable. Time will tell, but at first glance the new AR looks really good. ARs will be available in 5 different models and two frameset options. FRD AR frames are electric drivetrain compatible only, so keep that in mind if buying an FRD framset.
- AR FRD Di2 – $12,499;
- AR2 – $6,199
- AR3 EPS – $5,149
- AR4 – $3,499
- AR5 – $2,499
- Frame kit AR FRD – $3,999
- Frame kit AR 1 – $2,499
Instead of trying to build a TT/Tri bike, the IA is specifically meant as a Tri bike. Engineered for optimal performance between 10 and 17.5° yaw angle, the frame profiles were designed to create lift and results in a frame that is claimed to be twice as fast as their DA frame. The frame is the same weight as the DA (which will still be offered along side of the IA), but is 10% stiffer.
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.
Like most tri bikes, the IA has horizontal dropouts that are adjustable for different tire/wheel combos.
For 2014, the IA will be offered in one complete build with an unapologetically high end Dura Ace Di2 build with Mavic CXR80 aero wheels for $14,000. The frameset will be available as well with pricing set at $5,999. Lower priced models are likely to roll out in the future, but for now you’ll have to settle for a DA or B series if you don’t want to take out a loan.