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Summary: The Felt IA immediately became a category leading triathlon bike when it was released in 2014. The IA 16 is an ideal triathlon bike for almost any intermediate to beginner triathlete, or even an elite triathlete who does not want a fully integrated triathlon bike.
The Fit: The 2017 Felt IA 16 is a relatively adjustable triathlon bike due to the Felt aerobar system- the Bayonet 3. The aerobars come with a variety of spacers to pedestal both the armrest and extensions up to 9cm above the basebar. This, combined with complete fore/aft adjustability, makes the Bayonet 3 more adjustable than most other aerobars on the market. This is good, as the stem is proprietary and comes only in a 90mm size with -6 degrees of rise.
The bike's seat tube angle varies from 79.5 degrees in the 48cm size to 77.5 degrees in the 58cm. This is relatively steep, which is exactly what we'd expect from a triathlon specific platform like the IA.
In general, we have found the IA to fit a bit short in length, occasionally requiring an athlete to size up in frame sizes. Part of this is due to the inability to run alternative (i.e. longer) stems.
The Frameset: The 2017 IA16 comes in an understated matte black color with red highlights.
Aerodynamics and integration is the theme throughout the IA. The deep carbon fiber fork, frame tubes, and seatpost are defining features. Felt spent their time in the wind tunnel refining the shape of this bike, and it shows. Not concerned with creating a UCI legal bike, Felt designed the IA to be one the fastest triathlon specific bikes ever made. The result is a frameset that flies at speed. Smaller riders may feel pushed around on this bike on windy days. But this has not stopped riders like Mirinda Carfrae from winning Kona multiple times on this bike's big brother (or sister!), the IA1, while racing in one of the windiest races in the world.
The seatpost is an ingenious system using an internal wedge to compress the post against the sides of the frame. We have never had an IA seatpost slip on us, nor crack. Felt partnered with 3T and uses their 'Diffloc' saddle clamp system to hold the saddle in place. The Diffloc system takes patience when dialing in your saddle tilt, but once setup will never slip. Tip: when bolting down your saddle be sure to evenly tighten the left and right Diffloc bolts.
Felt accomplishes their integration goals through a variety of proprietary features. The rear brake cable and both derailleur cables route internally through the frame, entering behind the stem. Felt smartly specs a traditional dual pull front brake, and a direct mount TRP rear brake handles rear stopping duties.
Integration continues with the bento box installed behind the stem. Felt calls their proprietary bento box the Calpac. The Calpac is a 2-piece mechanism. The lower container bolts directly to the frame, and the upper cover press-fits onto the lower container. You can store a fair amount of nutrition in the Calpac, and even a set of keys or a smaller phone will fit too. Another benefit of this integrated bento box comes when having to re-cable the rear brake line (or derailleur/Di2 cables if configured that way). By removing the Calpac your mechanic is left with a large opening in the top tube to fish cables through. Sounds silly- but any mechanic will be grateful for the ease of installation!
The 2017 IA 16 does not come with the new BTSpac, but we highly recommend it as an add-on purchase. BTS stands for "Behind the Saddle", and that's pretty much exactly where you find it. Two rivnuts are set into the back of the seat tube, allowing you to directly mount the BTSpac to the frame as a clean and aerodynamic extension of the bike itself. The BTSpac can hold all the repair items you'll need to fix a flat on the road. The system works well, mounts easily, and does not open on its own. Older versions of the IA 10, 14, or 16 have mount holes for a system like the BTSpac. IA's 1, 2, and 3 prior to 2018 do not have the mounts for the BTSpac.
Finally, the seat tube and downtime have mounts for water bottle cages. We love this- and wish all triathlon bikes afforded the rider the opportunity to hold two bottles on the frame. Who cares how fast your triathlon bike is if you're dehydrated and bonking 70 miles into an Ironman?
The Components: The IA 16 uses a mixed component package that is practical and functional, but not flashy. By 'mixed component' package we mean that the parts come from a variety of manufacturers- the aerobars, basebar, stem, and wheels come from Felt's Devox line. Derailleurs, cassette, and chain from Shimano. Compact crank from FSA. Shifters from Microshift. Brakes from TRP. Saddle from Prologo.
The highlight of the component package is the cockpit- Felt's Devox basebar, aerobar, and stem combination is arguably the best OEM aerobar system on the market. We feel adjustability is the most important feature in a triathlon setup, and the Devox cockpit delivers- albeit without the ability to change out stems. When it comes to aerodynamics, the base bar has an aero profile, and the brake cables can be routed cleanly through the stem if you desire.
The Shimano derailleurs work brilliantly. The 2017 IA 16 comes with the solid Shimano 105 front derailleur and rear derailleurs. Paired with Microshift 11 speed shifters you won't have any issues with this drivetrain, this is a utilitarian but very practical drivetrain.
The Felt Devox wheelset are durable and great for daily training. Overall we have had no issues with the Devox wheels over the years, and find them to be a great training or entry level race wheelset. These wheels keep the bike's price competitive and lets you spend your saved money on a race wheelset of your choice.
Felt spec'd a Prologo Tri PAS T2.0 saddle: we don't pass judgement on saddles, as "comfort is in the seat of the beholder". We recommend you try the saddle out, but don't be shy to try some of the other great saddles that exist for triathlon use if you're not comfortable.
Areas of Concern and Improvement: Partially integrated triathlon bikes like the IA16 are more complicated than more traditional triathlon bikes like the Cervelo P2. With that said, the Felt intelligently designed the IA16 to avoid most of the adjustment and setup issues found with some integrated triathlon bikes. With that said, we have only one area of concern with the IA 16:
- The proprietary stem with the option to internally route the cables is not practical. The brake cable will require severe bends/angles to fit through the stem, and in many cases will make the handlebars naturally want to rotate to one side. There is an easy fix for this... just don't run the cables through the stem, which is what we chose to do with all the IA 10 and 16's that we sell.
- Leaving the fork steerer tube left uncut would allow you to run any stem you like. Fortunately Felt listened to us and their customers and now sells the 2018 IA 16 with the stem left long and ready for any stem you like.
- The 3T Diflock seatpost mechanism is more complicated than necessary. It works well once setup, but requires patience and diligence in setting up your ideal saddle tilt. We have also seen clients strip out the clamp bolts on occasion. For most riders this will never be an issue, especially if they have your bike professionally fit, as your fitter will hopefully take the time to set this up correctly from day one. Regardless, there are more simple, effective, and adjustable systems we would like to see Felt use in the future.
- The TRP rear brake isn't horrible, but it is harder to install and adjust than the Shimano version. We'd like to see Felt spec the Shimano direct mount rear brake in future models, even if it requires a slight price adjustment. Felt: your clients and retail partners will thank you.