We review the Felt DA4 Ironman triathlon bike
As one of the original tri bike producers, Felt have always had a very loyal following and a strong presence in the Kona count. If it’s smooth, comfortable, aero efficient and user-friendly flat-land-speed that you’re after, the entry-level DA bike proves their popularity is well deserved.
FRAME AND FORK
The DA is the flagship frame of Felt’s tri family which means the DA4 comes out of the same mould as the £6,600 Nano carbon DA1 frame and uses the exact same Advanced MMC carbon chassis as the £6,200 DA2 and £3,700 DA3. Felt were one of the first to use a leading edge style fork and the latest Bayonet 3 design smooths out and extends the depth of the front of the frame to slice through the air. A conventionally mounted U-brake sits on front of the straight-legged fork, which isn’t super-aero but keeps adjustment easy.
The front wheel tucks into an extensive wheelhugger cut-out on the thin down tube, while the control cables insert vertically into the skinny top tube. The aero seatpost top pushes the seat forward into an aggressively steep seat angle position, while the seat clamp is a seamless insert at the top of the fin seat tube, which also has a big wheelhugger cut-out. The forward curve of the seat tube bottoms onto an oversize BB30 axle block. Behind that, the seat stays are slim blades while horizontally slotted dropouts sit at the tip of the chunky chainstays, which also mount a V-brake in the dirty air under the bottom bracket. The frame is also Di2 compatible.
Yes it’s streamlined, but the frame and fork are relatively heavy and Felt’s TTR3 alloy aero wheels certainly don’t do it any weight-watching favours either. Super narrow front hub flanges mean they’re pretty flexible when cornering too although they definitely help sustain speed once you’ve got them rolling. Unlike the angle adjustable stem on the DA2 we tested earlier in the year, our DA4 had a fixed angle, high-rise goose-neck stem bolted onto the top of the fork and frame. Felt’s own brand Devox cockpit features extensions embedded in the shallow base bars to keep everything relatively low (unless you want to add the optional arm rest spacers). The horns also include built in brake levers with neat rubber grip hoods for wet-weather confidence.
The real surprise find on the bars though are FSA/Vision Metron shifters. These look like mini brake levers, but squeezing them accesses multiple upshifts in a really smooth and intuitive way, while pressing the shifter top cap with your thumbs bangs it down into bigger gears. FSA/Vision also provide the chunky BB30 time trial chainset for churning round the Shimano Dura Ace gears. The close ratio 11-25T cassette means excellent cadence control on the flat, but there’s no bail-out gear to help haul the hefty complete bike weight uphill. The soft-nosed Felt saddle is as good as any aftermarket seats we’ve used though and naturally nudges you forwards into an efficient open-pelvis position.
While this instant engagement with an efficient yet comfortable aero position is something we’ve come to expect from Felt, the ease with which even novice aero bike riders settled into the DA ride was impressive. The high-rise stem might not suit those after a seriously aggressive position but the low profile Devox bars keep overall height reasonable and most of our testers weren’t far off a flat-back position. The DA4 continues Felt’s tradition of making extremely smooth and comfortable-riding frames. Where others rattle, the Felt positively glides over rough surfaces, with the rubber horn hoods and notably comfy saddle all boosting comfort levels. The narrow main tubes and slim fork blades soften the edges off even substantial potholes, definitely saving our bacon at least once when we ran straight into a big hole hidden in a flood puddle while still on the extensions. That fact that we were happy to keep tucked whatever the weather is testament to the very easy-going and friendly character of the Felt too, and even when we tested it with deep-section aero wheels it didn’t get badly out of shape in turbulent conditions. Once up to speed, the wheels and aerodynamics give a helpful tailwind effect on flat courses and it’s a great long haul-cruiser.
As is often the case, the same compliance that keeps it fatigue free over long distances also make it flexy when you start getting more physical with it. Stay seated and the BB30 chainset and stout chainstays transmit power OK, but out of the saddle there’s a distracting amount of flex between the bars and the back end. Wheel and frame flex also mean an approximate rather than accurate attitude to cornering and line holding. Factor in the acceleration compromising weight and it all adds up to a bike where coercing rather than cracking the whip is the most efficient approach.
+ Outstandingly comfortable and relaxing ride for stress-free speed
+ Own-brand parts and Vision shifters make a good value kit selection
– Heavy wheels and high overall weight reduce snap responsiveness
– Flexy frame means noticeable twist when climbing