Under a tent at Felt’s southern California office, the cream of the cycling press core gathered for the parade of what’s new for 2013 from Felt.
Things started off dirty with mountain bikes and the new carbon fiber Nine FRD frame. At first glance, it’s just another carbon hardtail 29er, but the FRD is made with a truly new carbon fiber material called TeXtreme. Hit the link for material tech info. Basically it allows Felt to create a frame that is 900g that’s stiff, strong and without the fragility normally associated with such weights. There will eventually be other companies making bikes with TeXtreme; Felt is the first to market making the FRD frame a truly beautiful and unique snowflake.
As is often the case, the words beautiful and unique do not equal cheap. The FRD frame will set you back $2,899. Beyond the material, extensive analysis went into getting the geometry correct for each size. Seatstays extend into the top tube by approximately 80mm and keep the larger 29er rear wheel laterally stiff. They also developed clever new cable guides that hold cable tight without the use of zip ties or secondary clips. All Nine frames will also be touting Inforce protection, a layer of carbon that protects against impact at the top tube, down tube and chainstays without the need for external protectors.
Felt’s new DRD direct mount rear derailleur dropout and integrated cable clips make their debut on the Nine.
Can’t afford the FRD? Good news, there is another Skywalker and it brings us to the word of the day…”Trickledown”. The Nine 3 yields a SRAM X7/9 mix with Rockshox Recon Gold TK fork for a $2,799 complete bike. While the 3 does utilize the entry-level UHC Performance carbon, it benefits from the same design efforts as the FRD..
Trickling further down are the alloy Nines. Designed more for the trail with slightly taller head tubes and longer stays, they are giving the same care and attention. Each size is pieced together with tubes that are designed to work best for the rider that will likely be in the saddle. Bigger tubes for the XL that may have a 6’3” 200lb rider and smaller tubes for the bike that will likely have a 5’3” 110lb rider. It’s why Goldilocks wound up in baby bear’s bed. While some bikes are a mama bear frame that is smashed or stretched to fit the ends of the spectrum, Felt takes the time to address each size individually. A feature that can be invisible on the showroom floor and only becomes visible once ridden. Taking the Goldilocks theme even further, Felt has added a 14” and a 22” to the size range as well. This and a starting price of $619 for the entry-level alloy means everybody should be able to find a Nine that’s just right.
Now if you’ll direct your attention to the other end of the trail spectrum you’ll notice the new Virtue and Compulsion. Both sport a flippity-flop chip that allows for 10mm of travel adjustment in the rear and from there they start to diverge.
The Virtue is the all-rounder of the group. Travel front and rear is 120-130mm with the rear being dictated by the position of the chip at the shocks top mounting position and the front by the fork on the model. The carbon rear triangle uses a modified version of Felt’s pivotless FAST design at the rear dropout to maximizes use of the longer travel range. Introduced on the Edict XC bikes, the FAST design typically puts a bit of pre-load into the carbon rear (around 27% of travel). With the longer travel of the Virtue, the rear dropout is more of a neutral hinge. While some may argue you can’t put a price on Virtue, Felt thinks otherwise: The 3-model range starts at $2,899 for the 50 and tops out at $6,199 for the 1.
The Compulsion touts the longest travel of Felt’s mountain bikes. The top 2 models use a UHC Performance carbon front triangle, but all Compulsion’s use an aluminum rear for two reasons: One is that the 150-160mm of travel is simply too much for the FAST carbon leaf spring to handle without breaking. The second is durability. Felt knows this is the bike most likely to go flying through the air sans rider. Carbon’s getting stronger and stronger, but it can still break and when it does, the chance of you picking up the machine and riding home are very slim due to a catastrophic failure in the material. With aluminum, you are likely to have a gnarly dent, but you’ll still be able to ride out of the woods.
A nice touch on the Compulsion is the array of cable routing options. You’ve got bottom of the top tube, while the down tube has every option known to man. Top, bottom, internal you choose. While this may seem like overkill, those running the usual gear plus a height adjustable post and *gasp* Hammer Schmidt will appreciate the zip tie savings.
2013 FELT ROAD BIKES
Let’s clean things up with a look at the new road goodies. Both the AR (above) and F-Series bikes move forward seemingly unchanged on the outside, but the lack of clear gelatinous inserts or snake-like stays conceals real improvements. Both see continued refinements to the Insideout carbon process to improve weight, stiffness and ride quality. The AR is focused on aerodynamics and the F on stiffness-to-weight and remain separate models, but Felt made it clear that their dream is to achieve both with one frame. Meanwhile, the alloy F’s seem poised once again to offer big bang for the buck. The F75 offers 105 shifting performance, carbon fork and BB30 crank all for $1,449.
The carbon Z-Series is completely new and has been tuned for the best balance between the age-old opposites of sporty steering and snap and all-day comfort. Downtube, chainstays and seat tube are similar to the F and Nine carbon frames, and the headtube has a vertical ridge on its backside. These are the bits most responsible for the snap and rail-like handling.
The intersection of the seat stays is considerably lower than usual, which allows some flex in the seat tube that can be felt in the saddle, with a wide one-piece section above the brake arch. The design is claimed to offer a full 3cm of vertical compliance while helping prevent unwanted effects like independent seat stay flex.
Another nice touch on the Z is the frames ability to run clean routing of cable or wires. This allows a rider to go with mechanical and make the move to an electrical system after they’ve had time to recharge the bank account. The process can easily be reversed as well if for some strange reason you start missing your old cables.
The ladies version goes all the way down to a 43cm while keeping 700c wheels. The slide rule was spewing smoke to pull this one off, but Felt claims to have it sorted. Here again is a good example of that Goldilocks approach to frame design. While a tapered head tube with 1.125” tapering out to a 1.5” at the bottom is the new benchmark for performance, Felt has gone with a straight 1.125” steerer on bikes like the 43cm Z. Putting a 1.5” bottom bearing on a frame this size would make it too stiff.
TRIATHLON / TT
Finally, Felt looks poised to still have some of the most invisible bikes in the world as far as the wind is concerned. Both the DA and B series bikes return for 2013. The DA spares no expense in its quest to slice the wind with Samurai-like efficiency.
An aero bottle from TorHans comes standard on all DA’s from the $10,329 DA1 through the $3,729 DA4.
The B series (above), while not an all-out rocket like the DA, is another shining example of the trickledown highlighted at the beginning of the day. This bike is strikingly similar to the DA, and Felt claims the B bikes are only around 4.5% slower than the comparable DA. An impressive feat when you start looking at the price tag. Topping off at $6,199 for a B2, the threshold of entry is a vey reasonable $2,069 for the B16.
Still worried about having money left over for a wetsuit and running shoes? You can forego the carbon fiber and run the new S32 for $1449.
Both DA and B series bikes were sporting the new Bayonet 3 aero bar. Combined with the F-Bend Extensions, there are more positions than a Yoga book. The base bar can be run with a 15mm drop or rise with the extension mounts in 5mm increments spanning 75mm of rise to a negative drop of the same (-10-15mm more likely). All this without having to change the stem; making fitting easier and keeping things more aero by getting rise while keeping the frontal area of the stem minimal. It also allows the bar to grow with the rider. Typically someone just starting out will run more upright and will beginning to crave a lower position as time goes on.
Still trying to straighten-out what you’re next ‘cross bike will be? Here’s more for you to chew on. The disc brake offerings from Felt have increased greatly with the top F 1x being a SRAM Red/Avid disc offering at $7,249. From there line oscillates between cantilever to disc and back again all the way down to $1,499 for the F 75x. Our pick this year would be the F 3x. It offers some of the finest from SRAM, its $3,420 less than the 1 and its trimmed in green that’s sure to make others envious.
Mud clearance has been increased on the seat stays as well. Be it bad conditions or opening up the brakes to clear a wider rim, the extra room is a boon.