After a one-year absence on the world’s grandest stage, Felt Bikes will once again find their way into the upper echelon of the sport after signing on as equipment sponsor for the Dutch Pro-Continental team Project 1T4i (formerly Skil-Shimano). The team will be on DA time trial bikes and F1 road bikes to start the season. AR models will also be available for the rouleurs on the team looking for an aero advantage in road races.
RBA met up with Felt and 1T4i at the San Diego Slow Speed Wind Tunnel where they were undergoing equipment and rider position testing in the iconic 65-year old wind tunnel. Vuelta a Espana stage winner Marcel Kittel, and prologue winner at the U.S. Pro Cycling Challenge, Patrick Gretsch were at the tunnel looking to gain every equipment and positioning advantage they could find-knowing it will be critical in landing a Tour de France invite. Unfortunately, due to team contractual obligations, we can’t show either rider during the wind tunnel testing until after January 1.
Since the UCI rules dictate that professional teams race on equipment that is currently available to the public (or will be shortly, as is the case with Team Movistar’s Campy EPS group), 1T4i’s Felt bikes, Pro and Shimano components is all equipment that can be purchased at your local dealer. Although, if you want the frame with custom team colors you might have to know someone pretty high up. A stock Felt DA Di2 will set you back a mere $12,999, hopefully Santa has some deep pockets this Christmas?
Felt’s Bayonet fork has been a staple of the DA’s design, a design that was developed with the help from Felt’s previous Pro Tour team, Garmin. The UCI rules on aerodyamics are being pushed to the limit with the design of the Bayonet fork and the DA’s headtube; but if you’re not pushing the boundaries, you’re giving up precious seconds against the clock.
1T4i continues their strong relationship with Shimano, which owns Pro and Pearl Izumi-all three are sponsors of the team. Pro aerobars are some of the most aerodynamic on the market; but more importantly, they offer a large range of adjustability for elbow height and width, in addition to multiple extension bend options. The team exclusively runs Shimano Dura-Ace Di2. This allows satellite shifters to be used on the aerobar extensions, in addition to on the brake lever. The versatile design allows the rider the option of shifting while on the base bar, or in the extensions.
Part of the reason the wind tunnel testing is so critical is that every rider has their own ideal position. Depending on flexibility and biomechanics, one rider’s perfect position could be completely wrong for the next guy, as was the case with Patrick Gretsch and Marcel Kittel (his bike is pictured). Kittel’s arm position was significantly higher than Gretsch’s ultra-low profile. If Kittel tried to use Gretsch’s position he would be much more aero, but would also most likely be slower because he couldn’t put out the necessary power. There is always a balance between power and aerodynamics, the best in one category doesn’t always mean it’s the fastest.
All the 1T4i team bikes are decked out with SRM Dura-Ace power meters. One of the keys to successful time trialing is pacing, and what better way to pace yourself perfectly than with a power meter. Before coming to the wind tunnel the team spent a week doing aerodynamic testing on a velodrome in the Netherlands. The power meter was the key to recording data in order to find the fastest setup.
Felt’s Di2 battery mount isn’t quite as clean as an internal battery placement; but since Shimano doesn’t yet offer that as a factory hop-up, the back of the seatpost will have to do. It’s still better than it hanging out in the wind on the downtube.
Thanks to Shimano and Pro, 1T41 will never be left without the ideal wheel setup for any given course or weather condition. With options ranging from a disc, to a four spoke, to 50mm deep wheels, there’s something for everything. The most popular choice? A rear disc with a 50mm deep front Dura-Ace wheel.
1T4i was doing a lot of helmet testing since your head is one of the biggest factors in frontal drag. The Uvex helmet received a treatment of tape across all the vents during one of the tests. Since time trials are relatively short, helmet ventilation can sometimes be reduced in order to better the airflow over the helmet.
Jim Felt (left) is much more than just the company’s founder; he’s about as hands on as they come. His equipment knowledge and aerodynamic savvy are a testament to the brand’s cutting-edge designs. It’s clear that he’s spent a fair amount of time in the wind tunnel with the Garmin team, not to mention the triathletes and track riders that Felt works with.
At $850 an hour for the wind tunnel, there’s no time to be wasted by keeping things tidy.
The workings of the San Diego Slow Speed Wind Tunnel are impressive, especially for something built 65 years ago. Built originally to test planes and missiles, the tunnel underwent an overhaul a decade ago, which allowed it to be used for bicycle testing purposes. Since then, the tunnel has seen just about every top cyclist you could dream of.
Yes, even Andy Schleck has been there; proving that he has been on his time trial bike at least once outside of a stage race.