Felt IA Disc – Review

While Cervelo may own the Kona bike count, the past couple of years its actually been two other bikes that have been the undisputed champions of the Queen K. Under the men it’s been the Canyon Speedmax (which we reviewed back in 2017), and under the women it’s been the Felt IA. First with rim brakes (under both Rinny and Ryf) and last year the IA Disc (launched only days before) was ridden by Ryf to an incredible win. So earlier this year we thought it was time we got a chance to see what made the Felt IA Disc so dominant. And here we are the day before Kona ready to share our verdict.

The Felt IA Disc

Felt shipped us an IA 2 with SRAM ETAP (though they have changed up there naming convention a little but so now its essentially an IA Advanced Force ETap AXS – but more on that later). The IA Disc starts with the success of the IA rim brake. The fork is disc specific to handle the added stopping force of disc brakes, and also features a refined level of compliance to maximize ride quality, stability, and steering response. The IA Disc also features a simplified and better-fitting single headtube cover for easier maintenance and adjustability compared to its predecessor.

The IA Disc also gets a unique rear triangle that is built around the bike’s disc-brake and thruaxle system. Not only does this design provide the stiffness needed to handle the stopping power of disc brakes, but it also ensures crisper shifting with a properly dialed-in drivetrain, and maximizes pedal efficiency by transferring all of the rider’s power to the rear wheel so no watt is ever wasted.

To accommodate the added stopping forces provided by disc brakes, the IA Disc features thru-axles on both the front (12mm x 100mm) and rear (12mm x 142mm) dropouts, rather than traditional quick-release skewers.  The IA Disc also includes a proprietary convenience feature in the form of a custom, flush-integrated, and removable thru-axle.

The IA Disc features more clearance than any previous Felt triathlon bike, meaning that it can accommodate tires up to size 28mm on select rims, per ISO standards. Felt Bicycles designs its bicycles in compliance with standards set by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO). Those standards are set, in part, for safety reasons. In the case of the IA Disc and similar bikes, ISO standards call for 4mm of clearance on either side of the tire. For the IA Disc, this results in a frame that can accommodate a tire specification of 28mm width or narrower

The IA Disc comes equipped with Felt’s latest top tube storage solution, the integrated CALpac 2.0. This storage unit features ample space for all of the riding essentials to which a rider needs quick and easy access.

Also included is the BTSpac storage device, located behind the seat tube. This unit is ideal for a flat tire repair kit and/or on-the-go tool kit, or any other items that a rider doesn’t require while pedaling on the bike. It’s shape has been aerodynamically optimized for the IA Disc, meaning that it creates no penalty in terms of aerodynamic drag. It can also be easily removed, should the rider wish, via two hidden bolts (though in practice they are not the easiest to do and undo so we wouldn’t recommend removing and adding it a habit).

Geometry

We usually only add this in the First Look articles. But being the most important factor in choosing a new bike is fit – we think we need to include this in our reviews as well!

New Naming Convention

We did want to cover Felts new naming convention – which honestly is probably one of the best and simplest out there at the moment. Gone is the numeric based nomenclature (IA2, IA3, IA FRD). Instead the new naming system is simply “Model | Carbon Level | Build Kit”. Model  is the platform specific name of the model, i.e. the VR, FR, AR, etc. Carbon Level is the one of three levels of carbon fiber frames, Ultimate, Advanced, and Performance. The  benefits of moving upwards from Performance come in terms of weight and stiffness numbers primarily. Lastly the build kit is the principle component parts of the bikes drivetrain, shifting, and braking.

For 2020 there are 5 IA options available. All share the Advanced Carbon. Three are disc – the IA Advanced Force ETAP AXS, the IA Advanced Ultegra Di2, and the IA Advanced IA. The fourth is rim brake – the IA Advanced, Rim brake 105 (one of the few bikes available new with rim brakes in 2020). And lastly is the IA Advanced, System Frame (disc brakes).

Our Thoughts

The first thing we noticed while riding the IA is fairly effortless acceleration. You look at it and see all that carbon fiber and think it’s going to accelerate like a school bus. And while it’s not quite the dancing on the pedals acceleration that TT bikes like the P5 are striving to attain – it’s beyond what we used to think of when it came to triathlon bikes. Once you get it up to speed it’s a very comfortable cruiser. We were putting on the miles with no fuss.

Speaking of all that carbon – the next thing you think is cross wind stability. And on that we have a mixed answer. Our personal time testing we didn’t find it to be an issue. South Florida tends to give us some nasty wind days, but we didn’t find the IA to be any better or worse that the plethora of tri bikes we have tested. We have been riding it with the included 30mm wheels so that was a factor in this as well. Deeper wheels could and would accentuate any effects. We did want to share two other pieces of information on this as well to help paint as complete a picture as we can. From an anecdotal perspective we do know that this bike has won the past 5 years on the Queen K which is notorious for nasty cross winds so to us that says our testing is consistent with others experiences. But a close friend of the AeroGeeks who owns an IA rim brake tells us that his bike can be quite twitchy in high winds – especially when using a front BTA that increases the side area.

We were big fans of the storage. The bento box, CALpac held everything we needed. And the rear draft box is easy to get to when needed. As we mentioned up top though, removing and reattaching it from the frame can be a challenge. You need to reach into the draft box itself and tighten the bolts. Your allen wrench doesn’t have a lot to work with.  So you either want it on or off. One thing that surprised us is that while there are bottle mounts for a seat tube bottle, there are none for the down tube. Limiting you to a single bottle in the frame. Our assumption is that this is for aero needs and really – you should have a single bottle behind your seat and another between your arms, nothing in the triangle if you can avoid it. So to us not a major issue but one we wanted to call out.

One of our sayings around AeroGeeks HQ is that “you can’t fault a winning strategy” and while it’s not the truest saying (because no matter who wins there is always opportunity for improvement), it does bely that it can be a little challenging to find fault with a bike that continually sits atop the most important podium in our sport. But there was one area that we were the least impressed with and that is the cockpit. The included Devox 3 bar is just not up to the same level of adjustability we have now gotten used to seeing with cockpits such as with the TriRig Alpha One. Additionally, the arm cups have very limited lateral support – in fact we would tell you to just purchase a different set when you are picking up your bike. While the IA itself is an older frame, being that the IA Disc is a new bike we would have liked to have seen an updated cockpit to go with it.

Wrapping Up

Vegas is saying that Ryf (and thus the Felt IA Disc) is the clear favorite to sit on top of the podium yet again tomorrow.

And our time with the IA Disc shows us that it’s a strong tool in her arsenal. Our biggest issue with it is the cockpit – both its adjustability and the pads, and that is something that when purchasing you should ensure you can get the correct cockpit fit you need (really something you should do with EVERY bike purchase). And when it comes to the pads there is a plethora of aftermarket options out there. Definitely not show stoppers – just something to consider. And with that we not only wrap our review but we wrap up our week and start to settle in for this year’s Ironman World Championship – have a great weekend, ride safe, and we will be back next week with thoughts on the winning bikes!

[Updated 10/15/19: We incorrectly listed this was an Ultegra Di2 bike – This was a SRAM ETAP]

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