2012 Superbike Shootout
Dec 24, 2011
article & images by Nick Salazar
(For more on Felt and the DA, click here.)
It may sound uninspiring to say that the new Felt DA is an evolution, and not a revolution. But really, that's quite a compliment to the bicycle maker responsible for one of triathlon's most beloved models. Felt was among the first tri bike manufacturers to use a so-called bayonet fork. They helped pioneer that technology, which now appears quite widely across the board (in this review, only the Specialized doesn't use one).
The concept behind the bayonet fork is deceivingly simple: the steering axis of your fork doesn't support the full load of the rider. Instead, load is shared by an elongated external portion of the fork that sits out in front of the bike's head tube. A special stem will both grip the round tube, and screw into the frontal portion, to provide a structural bridge. The benefit here is threefold. First, by using a longer effective shape, the front-end stiffness increases dramatically. And second, because stiffness has increased, you can get away with thinner and thinner diameters for that steerer tube. That means better and better front-end aerodynamics. And finally, the elongated external portion of the stem acts as a fairing for the head tube, again improving aerodynamics.
The new DA represents the third-generation of Felt's Bayonet fork system, and it's easily their best yet. Where previous versions of their fork were already using a thin 1" tube (25mm), the new DA has gotten even thinner, down to 19mm. Felt had to have custom bearings constructed. And the result is a very narrow front end indeed. Perhaps the only bike narrower here is the Speed Concept, which also uses a bayonet fork and custom bearings.
What Felt does that's unique in the land of bayonet-style forks is that they've integrated a custom fork-topper that will accept a standard bar, while providing both angle and length adjustment. And new for 2012, they've added a series of six fixed-position toppers that sheds weight and add stiffness, if you don't mind giving up the flexibility of the adjustable version.
Continuing the evolutionary story of the bike, Felt has ramped up its carbon construction methodology. By using polyurethane inserts inside the frame molds instead of inflatable bladder bags, the inside of the frame is as clean and smooth as the outside. This process eliminates excess matarial and therefore weight, but it also keeps the inside of the frame as beautiful as the outside. Although this doesn't offer
Everywhere else on the bike, Felt's mantra was to keep things as simple as possible within the limitations of aerodynamic bicycle design. A BB30 bottom bracket opens up a huge world of crank options. The seatpost clamp is perhaps the easiest to use of any bike in this test - it's just a single bolt, permanently attached to the bike. Both the front and rear brakes are exposed for easy access and adjustment (although as Specialized did with the Shiv, Felt went with a side-pull front brake, instead of a center-pull that would clean up the cable routing). Even the paint scheme is beautifully minimal, keeping a lot of Felt's gorgeous carbon construction visible. The bike is an improvement over Felt's previous flagship in every way.