Felt downstreams its IA

Felt moves every year toward a replacement of its DA with iterations of its IA, and in so doing further abandons any attachment to UCI legality in its offerings to triathletes. The DA becomes like Cannondale's Slice RS: it's there for those encumbered by cycling's stricter rules.

The new Felt IA frame style differs from the old mostly in its front end, and in its price. The new IA silhouette is mostly like the old except for the IA's fork with integrated front brake. (It's not just the silhouette you should mind, but the innards: follow the link at the bottom of this article to "Beauty on the inside."). This new IA follows the recent introduction of Quintana Roo's PRfive, and we're seeing a theme in both these intros: superbike frames made somewhat mortal via a mortal front-end. Affordable. Easier to adjust, to travel with, and it avails a broader audience of consumers of the time and investment Felt spent on this technology.

This new frameset is the IA 10, and it comes as a bare frame or built with three groupkits.

Felt has a thing for making a first-rate tri bike with electronic shifting that has an MSRP where the first number is a 4, as in, $4,999. That's the IA 10. It's Ultegra Di2, with 2-button shifting on both the extension ends and on the pursuit brake levers.

If you like the idea of groupkit integrity you're going to take a little bit of a spec haircut once you look beyond the Ultegra shift system. The brake calipers are direct-mount FSA under the chain stay and a Vision TriMax in front. The aerobars and wheels are Felt's own, and Felt has done well with its aerobars for years now. But these are all-aluminum, both pursuit bars and extensions. The stem is also Felt's, and it's a 90mm-long stem with a pitch equivalent to –7° (slightly angled up).

As far as I can tell this is THE stem for this bike – no other sizes or pitches (yet). This is a good choice if you're just going to make one stem. Plus, you can stick any standard stem on here you want, though it might not be the cosmetic match that Felt's Tri155 stem gives you. Plus, some stems of this sort are beveled underneath, acting like a headset top cap. I don't know if this is the case with this stem but, if it is, that might make any replacement stem look a little funky if there's a space between the head parts and the bottom of the stem. (When Felt answers my question about its stem I'll add an addendum at the bottom of this article.)

A little bit of me wants to see this bike with a TriRig Sigma stem and an Omega center pull brake. Here's a thought. If I'm Felt I drill a hole with a ferrule stop right in my Tri155 stem, just as TriRig does with its Sigma stem. Then if a customer wants to buy a center pull brake for this bike – TriRig, Magura, whatever – I only have to buy the front brake caliper and not a new stem.

I see no reason why I'd want to change the rear brake caliper. It works fine. The front caliper works fine too, just, a bike this nice kind of wants a center pull front caliper.

A lot of thinking went into this new frame. See that little vertical FELT logo on the leading edge of head tube? See the little rubber cap just above it, under the stem? That's where you put the Di2 junction box.

How does this bike fit, compared to the existing IA? Same frame length but as you can see the new one is a leeetle bit lower in front. This, plus the ability to stick whatever stem you want to on this bike gives you the freedom to smash it down pretty low compared to the existing IA frame. I think the new IA 10 frameset is therefore slightly more optimized for certain athletes who found it hard to get low enough (oddly similar to the changes QR made between its PRsix and newer, more-affordable PRfive).

There is a discrete "bottom" to aerobar elevations absent a lot of horsing around and that bottom is determined by the wheel size and the how small you can make the head tube. All these IA bikes have 700c wheels throughout the size run, and the head tube on this new IA at its smallest size is mighty small, as in 60-something millimeters. A 467mm stack is unheard-of-low on a bike with 700c wheels.

This is going to work for the ladies, and shorter men, pretty well. I'd have to check but I'm willing to bet this XS is the frame with the lowest stack anywhere, and I mean tri, road, what have you. This will be a fave for those who need a very small, very low bike, but who won't ride 650c wheels.

The IA 10, as described above, $5,000 or a tad under with Ultegra Di2, shows up in December. If you like to trick your bikes out this bike wants a center pull front brake, and a nice wrist relief carbon extension that your retailer probably has sitting around somewhere. A new stem that has a center pull ferrule stop. And some race wheels (the tires on this bike are good), and the saddle of your choice. Hit your LBS over the head with a crow bar until he agrees to a price for the whole purchase that isn't that much more than the price of the bike without all these upgrades, and then you have a very, very nice race bike for a reasonable price.

Want to spend less still? Who doesn't? Let's talk about the IA 14 and 16 at $4,000 and $3,000 respectively. These bikes use that same IA 10 frame, just with downspec'd kits. The difference between the 14 and 16 is Ultegra to 105 derailleurs and a little down-spec'ing of FSA and Vision crank and brake calipers. In my opinion, people are either going to go IA 16 at $2,9xx or they're going to go up to the IA 10 at $4,9xx.

One more thing about the relative difference between these two IA frame motifs (IA 1 versus the new IA 10). If you were to look at these forks head-on you'll see the IA 1 has its blades spaced wider from each other, and from the front wheel. This is tricky business. The IA 1 needs to have that, because its brake calipers are buried into the fork blades. But when you do this (so the aerodynamicists tell me) you're best off making that gap between wheel and fork blade as wide as possible.

You either make a river through which the air can flow between the wheel and the fork blade, or you skinny up the blade so close to the wheel the air goes entirely around what the wind thinks is a discrete complex. If you take the river route, you make that river wider yet by narrowing up the flanges on the front wheel hub. Or, move to something really narrow, like a HED3.

See the "river" narrative on the new Orbea Ordu. This has been around for decades. I mention this just because you'll want to identify which narrative your bike maker ascribes to, and select your wheels accordingly.

I also hear that a center pull cable can act as a trip, helping the air get around the head tube. All this is to say that I don't really know which Felt IA front end is faster, the existing or the new, and I think wheel choice and brake style choice might influence this.

How do you put pressure on Cervelo's P2, a 105 bike at $2,800? Felt's new IA 16 will cause consumers to pause, rather than breeze right to the cash register with their P2 in tow. Felt and Quintana Roo, at least, have downstreamed their superbike technologies, offering super bikes at mortal (circa-$3000) complete bike pricing. You'll have to wait until January to pick up a new IA 16.