Last fall, following my final triathlon of the year (Ironman Wisconsin) I made up my mind I’d be upgrading in the bike department. For all of 2010 and 2011 I raced a Cannondale Slice 5. The Slice was in fact my first tri bike, purchased in January 2010. While I was happy with it, I wanted to step up to a bit nicer bike and also give myself a bit more flexibility with the fit. This was mainly based on having more fitness and being approximately 15 lbs lighter than when I was fit for and purchased the Slice. My first call was to Brandon at Iron Cycles, to throw around a few ideas on bikes.
The last couple of years, lots of companies have introduced new triathlon “superbikes.” A few caught my eye, specifically the Trek Speed Concept and the Felt DA. While Trek decided to offer two primary models of the SC, the 7 and 9-series, each of which you can modify the specs on, Felt went a slightly different direction and one that was attractive to me. Felt’s top-of-the-line tri frame has been the DA for several years. Beginning in 2012, Felt offered multiple variations on same frame design, similar to how they’ve previously marketed the B-series (which shared the DA mold up until 2011).
For 2012, Felt now offers the DA1 and DA1 frameset, which are top dogs in the Felt lineup. However, with some changes in spec and a switch from 1KP weave carbon fiber (DA1) to 3KP weave (all other DA models), a consumer can see some pretty serious bang-for-the-buck with the DA2, DA3 and DA4.
After talking with Brandon and some deliberation on my own, I decided on the DA3. All the details are on Felt’s site so I’ll keep it brief, but the component mix is top of the range for mechanical shifting: SRAM Red derailleurs in front and back, Red TT chainrings, Zipp VukaShift R2C carbon shifters and Felt’s proprietary aero-optimized brakes. The front caliper has an anodized red fairing wrapped around it to help shield it from the wind, while the rear brake is hidden under the frame, just behind the bottom bracket – a standard on most tri superbike models these days, but pretty slick nonetheless. The stock cockpit setup on the DA3 is Felt’s bayonet alloy basebar, with carbon f-bend extensions. I opted to swap in a Bontrager Race X Lite handlebar, which replaced both the basebar and extensions, but the Bayonet and f-bends are highly regarded for their aerodynamics and usability. This was based on personal preference for a different extension style and feel, though I did try the Felt pieces first. I’d recommend the same to anyone switching to Felt from another manufacturer, as their bars and extensions really are good equipment.
One final change I made was adding a Quarq power meter, which necessitated a change in crankset to the SRAM S900 crank matched to the Quarq. While I’ve been training with power on the road since fall 2010, I wanted to upgrade to a crank-based option to have more flexibility in wheel choice for training and racing.
So enough of the details — let’s fast forward to how this thing feels out on the road. While I could contrast the DA3 with the Slice or my road bike, I don’t think it’d be a fair, apples-to-apples comparison. Thus, I’ll just share my observations from a 3 hour ride on the roads outside Madison, WI recently.
First off, the bike is light. Not feathery light, but Felt’s Inside Out molding process must does seem to have resulted in a nicely balanced frame – light yet stable. The true nature of the DA is revealed when you are in the aerobars, head tucked and pushing a big gear. One word will cover it here: FAST. Even riding into a headwind, being in the aero position on this bike feels almost like cheating — it really does feel like you’re knifing through the air. Having also spent time on an Orbea Ordu, which has a notoriously stiff ride, the DA3 is at least its equal. The frame is forgiving on the chipseal roads found in the farmland of the Midwest, yet it’s also very responsive when stomping the pedals to sprint on a flat or climb a steep grade. The Red TT chainrings definitely lend themselves well to power transfer too, given the solid construction of the big ring, which again becomes evident when really working a climb. Three hours in the saddle and I was very comfortable and excited — it’s a very good thing when a long outdoor ride on a new bike doesn’t leave you sore in all the wrong places.
Something else I noticed about the new DA is that it handles quite well for a triathlon bike. Obviously, handling on a tri frame has to be considered in relative terms, because it will never feel as nimble as a road bike nor should it. The DA is designed with its primary goal in mind: go fast in a straight line. However the DA felt very stable at speed, willing to dive into corners. At first I was tentative on the new bike, but after a short time I really started to lean into a few descents. With my outside foot planted, the DA just stuck to the road and zipped down the backside of each hill and toward the apex of every turn. The steering wasn’t twitchy at all, so I was comfortable starting to explore the limits of the bike (which certainly exceed my own bike handling skills). This isn’t breaking new ground, but the Zipp VukaShift shifters were new to me, but felt very natural in-hand. The SRAM Red drivetrain did just as I expected, which is to say the rear shifts were quick and crisp, while the front shifts were much the same and nary a dropped chain.
My day was complete with an easy spin the last few miles, with my time spent reflecting on my first long ride on the new DA3. I’m really happy so far and can’t wait to spend more time on the bike. I’ll be riding it in an upcoming time trial, not to mention my triathlon race season which kicks off in just over a month. The DA will have me ready to tear up some bike courses. I’d highly recommend checking out any of the models in the DA lineup to anyone considering a new triathlon bike, as Felt certainly has price points to fit most budgets. The guys over at Iron Cycles are one of the only Felt dealers in Chicago, not to mention some of the most knowledgeable and easy-to-work-with folks around.
Be sure to check out my review on the Iron Cycles blog, as well as other product reviews and news from the shop. A special thank you to Brandon, Steve, Ben and Chase at Iron Cycles for their help with the new whip!
Fit session on my new DA3 at Iron Cycles