We'll have a lot more to write about these bikes as we compared bike to bike, brand to brand, in each price category. But it's worth noting what Felt will sell for 2015 because while some companies are retreating from tri, Felt is all in, and it's going to defend its position, teeth bared, as a leading tri bike seller. Certainly that's apparent with the unveiling of its 2015 lineup.
There are two kinds of tri bikes today, broadly speaking. Superbikes are either not as adjustable as standard bikes or they're harder to adjust, that is, getting the front ends of these bikes lower, higher, further forward or rearward, after they're built, is typically more of a chore. They also tend to have brake calipers that are shy and hidden away, and are less straightforward to tighten, loosen or center than standard brakes.
But, superbikes are faster, so Trek's Speed Concept, Cervelo's P5-6, Felt's IA and others are the more desired bikes at the high end.
I have the tri bike that I use if I'm driving to a race and the bike I use if I'm flying to a race, because my "local" bike is too "super" to want to be assembled and disassembled for air travel. That's life as a triathlete these days. Felt makes very compelling superbikes and equally compelling mortal bikes. I'll talk about a few of each below.
The Felt IA is Felt's go-to superbike. The IA2, new for 2015, shipping now or in stock by September, is Felt's most affordable electronically shifted IA at $9,999, and is pictured just below. There was some drool on this bike when I looked it over yesterday. It might have been mine. This is a $4000 discount from the IA FRD, and mostly that's due to the difference between Novatec and Zipp wheels and some ceramic bearings. I would think you could get the wheels you want (which may well be Zipps), and some Ceramic Speed bearings, and still have some change coming to you. And you'd have a second set of race wheels.
Felt also has the DA, it's also a superbike, but there's only one complete DA in the 2015 line. Why? Why not give it a more representative place in the line-up? Because the IA is a faster bike. Wy not just ditch the DA completely? Because the IA is not UCI-legal, and the DA is. So the DA hangs around because of its UCI legality, and if you want a bike that is both UCI legal and still fast, that's the DA. (The DA is, by the way, my "travel" bike I spoke of above — while it's a superbike, it's more shippable and adjustable than my other superbike.)
Five figures for a price tag is not where the fat of the market is, and Felt downstreamed the IA to a price you could conceivably consider paying. At $5,499 you have a very fast and modern frame coupled with an 11-speed shift package. This is the IA4, and it's pictured below.
As with all Felt TT and tri bikes, the aerobars are Felt's own design and I've long admired the job Felt has done. Really, it's getting hard to keep up with what some of the bike companies are doing, if you're an aftermarket bar maker. Felt and Bontrager just make great aerobars. Profile Design and 3T are probably the most relevant aerobar makers, but Felt's bars are not a downspec.
Let's talk for a moment about mortal bikes and the B2 is pictured below. According to memory, it was only in 2012 that you would have to spend $5000 to get a Felt DA with electronic shifting, and then it was 10sp. Who says bikes keep getting more expensive? Now you get a frame that has the same basic aero attributes as that 2012 DA frame, just without the Bayonet fork and this is not all bad if you want a bike that's easy to adjust and travel with. And it's got 11sp electronic (Ultegra) shifting. You don't have these shift buttons on the pursuits — but to me that's not the reason electronic is so valuable for timed race. It's the auto-trim of the front derailleur as well as the crisp, precise shifting all the time.
This bike has a Vision TriMax crank, a really nice cold forged crank that also appeared on that first 2012 electronic DA. This bike sells for $3600 and change, which makes it an extremely affordable price for a higher-end, electronically-shifted tri bike.
I'm very bullish on this bike. Felt had done very, very well in the past executing the basic functions of its tri bikes, but has stumbled occasionally by not paying enough attention to the smaller elements. Like the DA frame — terrific — but not enough available 1-piece stems to allow that bike to fit correctly. Or, Bayonet forks in the past that creaked. The company sometimes got a little over its skis in design and theory and sometimes did not execute up to its capacity. This B2 represents a fulfillment of everything Felt has built and has done well, in a bike that has a great price tag, and all the moving parts have been around long enough so that they're road and race proven. Assuming this bike fits you well it's tough to justify paying much more for an electronically shifted bike, when this one is available.
What Felt does probably better than any other company is offer you a great spec for a price that you suspect is a misprint. The B14 is a good case in point, with an Ultegra 11sp shift system in the newer, upgraded B-Series frameset that's only a year out of the mold. Felt has in the past gotten into a little trouble by downspecing consumables to make that price threshold (KMC chain on a Di2 bike a couple of years ago?), but it has sharpened its skill at making sure the entire bike performs adequately (besides, I put Lee Chi brakes on a Dura Ace bike one year, so I'm not one to talk). This is a $1999 bike. I don't know quite how Felt does this.
To me, the conundrum is deciding what it is you value, what it is you can afford, and finding intersection there. The IA frame was a home run when it was introduced last year. It was probably under-produced, it was valued and coveted beyond anything Felt could risk manufacturing. This was the only frame or bike mentioned by Slowtwitchers when I asked you all to choose the 5 most important new products during 2013. The IA was downstreamed for 2015, with 4 price points from $5,499 to $13,999. This makes the IA very competitive, very obtainable.
But the first electronically shifted IA is a $9,999 bike. There's a wide gulf between this and the $3,699 B2, also an electronic bike. I could imagine an Ultegra electronic IA, spec'd much like the B2, and I wonder what that bike might have cost. $6000? $7000?
Maybe I'm just being picky and grumpy. You can't manufacture everything. At $6,999 the IA3 has a SRAM Red 11sp groupkit and in my garage is a Felt DA with that groupkit, which I own, and I love that bike.
My problem is that I just can't decide what the sweet spot in this lineup is. I think it's either the Felt IA4, or it's the B2. I suppose that's evidence of a job well done by Felt's road product manager Dave Koesel: Finding an obvious winner in the lineup is not supposed to be easy.