In 2011, Felt made it to the big time with their top-of-the-line DA. It was everything a superbike should be – aero, fast, well appointed, and drop-dead sexy. For ’12, Felt went one further, and extended the range all the way down to $4000, the “beginner’s timetrialist” budget (Cervelo’s ludicrous end-of-year sales notwithstanding). The only thing is… I’m not so sure this is really a “budget” bike. I prefer to think of it as the cheapest superbike money can buy.
Let’s start off with the facts: The 2012 58cm DA4 comes with an adjustable, splined crown that accepts three different length stems (included), Dura Ace derailleurs, Vision TriMax cranks, Vision Metron shifters, 38mm TTR3 aluminum aero wheels, Felt’s Devox aluminum aerobar and s-bend extensions, an aero frame bottle and the exact same frame all the way up to the DA2, a nine thousand dollar bike. This is not bottom barrel kit; this is serious speed weaponry, and though it certainly has some room for improvement, there is nothing here that won’t serve you well on the course.
So let’s get into the salient features, first up, the bayonet crown and cockpit. I use the medium-length stem (90mm effective, if memory serves), and have a relatively steep stem angle to get the pads where I want them to be for my position. I’m a tall rider (6’3”), and a 58 is still a little cramped, but any bike in this category is going to be that way, so you accept the compromises and move on. What I don’t accept, however, is the fully-integrated bar, as it does not give me a pursuit position I like. It forces my body to be more upright than I would be on my road bike in pursuit, but not quite low enough in the aero tuck. I’ve been looking seriously at the TriRig Alpha. But as it isn’t UCI legal, and I am a timetrialist first and a triathlete second (Mike Edit – I think you have to finish your first triathlon before your considered a triathlete), I suspect that won’t end up on the DA.
The rest of my cockpit, however, is absolutely perfect. My extensions of choice—s-bends—give my hands a pistol-like grip, which I prefer to the skis Mike runs, and I cant them inward relatively sharply to let my elbows be farther out than my wrists – a position I find a lot more comfortable than the “straight-on-til-morning” that he prefers. I do run aluminum extensions, which will likely change when I swap out the bar. But after using them last weekend as impromptu skid plates, I’m not certain the weight savings is worth the durability sacrifice.
The Profile Design bottle mount with a Blackburn cage (I don’t remember which one, but the claimed weight is 23g, so you can likely find it by that) holds a Speedfil A2. While canted upwards with the help of a few washer nuts, it doesn’t quite sit snugly in the cage, so I’ve made excellent use of one of my previous sponsor’s swag, Mix1, to both insulate the bottle and give it a little extra width for the cage to grab. MacGuyver, eat your heart out.
My tape of choice is SRAM’s cork offering, pliant, comfortable, and gives some much-needed width to the extensions, but the real crowning achievement for the DA is the Vision Metron shifters. Yes, Mike went on about them for his CD0.1 and I don’t care – I’m going to do it, too. I love these shifters. Yes, they’re Shimano-only. Yes, they aren’t exactly cheap. Sure, they’re a little weird when you first look at them. But when you use them…when you actually get on a bike and are in your tuck and discover that shifting—on either derailleur—does not mean you have you do anything more than squeeze a button? And you can’t screw it up, like friction shifters? Heaven. These shifters are 9/10ths as good as electric. They are that fantastic. Don’t believe me? Go try them. See if you don’t fall in love with them, too. No more missed shifts. No more moving your hands and having to re-settle. Sure, R2C shifters are available, but they are also more expensive and still require hand changes. These don’t. End of story.
There are people who like frame mounted bottles on their TT/Tri bikes. I am not one of them. I find it easier to reach behind me than down, but I’m strange and lots of you like them, so here is the bottle my DA came with. The TorHans VR. The bottle is fine, the bite valve works wonderfully. Holds 20oz with ease, comes out just fine. I just don’t like storing liquid in it. So I cut the bottom and use it as a parts kit. Tube, CO2, levers, etc. all go in there and I still get the aerodynamic benefit without all the spares in a jersey pocket (or like Mike’s heresy, in a rear-mount), so everybody’s happy.
On the choice of saddles, I want to be clear – we here at Aerogeeks are not paid by any company to promote their products, but there are a few all three of us agree on. One of them is Vision Metrons. Another is Camelbak bottles. But the one that is unequivocal and full-throated would be Adamo saddles. There isn’t even a discussion about what goes on my bikes: Adamo Road, in black. Mike likes the Podium, but he’s weird and we’ve all come to accept that. The Road is a short-nose saddle (thank you, UCI morphological exception skirting wonderfulness), lightly gel padded, and I’ve got it slammed as far forward as the UCI will let me have it. I was plagued with perineal pain for a long time as a road rider and my fitter suggested Adamo, so I put one on and haven’t had so much as a twinge since. If you have problems with numbness in the important area, demo these saddles. Find the one that fits you, and never look back. Adamos really are just that good.
The single cage off the back is an Xlab Delta Wing 225, and is a conscious choice to have just a single bottle in the rear. All the aero data says that the single bottle is the least offensive (and in some studies, drag-neutral) to the wind. And on-course you get aid stations, so there really is no good argument for the massive configurations some people seem possessed to run—at least from a drag argument. Convenience? Maybe. At any rate, the rear bottle is the refill bottle for the Speedfil, and I go through about a bottle an hour, so I should only be out of liquid at around mile 45-50. I can live with that.
The rest of the bike is as Felt shipped it, and is fantastic. Sure, I could swap for a 404/808 setup, or a 3T carbon aerobar. But until I find exactly what I’m looking for, the bike will stay as-is. And let’s be honest – the bikes are faster than we are, at this point. Especially this one.