Felt introduced its 2011 line of bicycles yesterday at its headquarters in Irvine. Frankly, it’s hard to imagine how a company of just 58 employees can do so much in a year. They have a new full-suspension mountain bike called the Edict. There’s a full-carbon version of the company’s ground-breaking Virtue. There’s a redesigned DA (and I’m glad I’m not a time trialist because it would make me a covetous letch).
They’ve got as many new bikes and products as you’d expect from a company the size of, say, Trek. Perhaps even more.
However, it was the company’s redesigned F1 that most intrigued me.
It’s rare that a company dumps their top-of-the-line bike and designs a replacement from the ground up. For the record, I rode the 2010 F1 and found it to be one of the most impressive road bikes on the market this year. It made the short list among the sport’s most elite bicycles, such as the Specialized SL3.
Gone is the 68mm bottom bracket. Gone are the ribs. Gone is the one-size-fits-all rear triangle. Gone is the 1 1/8″ headset. Gone is the 900 gram weight.
The new F1 is BB30. It uses a blend of carbon fiber that results in extraordinary stiffness and strength, but more on that in a minute. New, proprietary removable polyurethane bladders used inside the layup allow the frame to be constructed without fillers that traditionally smooth transitions around sharp corners. Every one of the eight elements used in each of the six sizes is specific to that size. Why eight? Well, they’ve molded hollow carbon fiber dropouts for the frame. And because each of the three polyurethane bladders used inside the frame is size specific, that means that there are some 66 different molds used to make the full size run. That’s a fortune in tooling cost.
Oh, and that offhand comment about the bikes not weighing 900g anymore? The new F1 weighs just 800g in a 56cm frame. It’s important to note that most frames in this weight territory—sub 950g—feature unidirectional carbon on the outer layer. While unidirectional carbon is structurally sound, it’s not so good at impact resistance for things like dropped water bottles or worse—wrenches. Felt went with a 1k weave to give the bike some amount of impact resistance. They say it’s more than you’ll find in bikes of comparable weight.
The fork features a tapered steerer with an epoxied-on crown race. The upper part of the fork that you see is the aluminum race on which the bearing turns.
I noticed immediately that the tube shapes had changed a fair amount. The top and down tubes were fairly square in shape at the head tube. Head of engineering Jeff Soucek says that’s to keep the bike stiff in torsion. The top tube is round where it joins the seat tube because FEA analysis showed that the top tube was twisting rather than suffering torsional loads. The down tube is round in its midsection but returns to its squarish profile at the BB.
My ride on the bike was short, shorter than I wanted. It was, however, extraordinary. I’ve never experienced a bike that was so stiff and lively at this weight. The key to the bike’s extraordinary character is its exceptionally thin walls throughout the frame. Tap a tube and it resonates the way a great steel tube does. That sound reflects high density and thin walls. There is no substitute.
I’ll review this bike as soon as I’m humanly able.