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Felt Unveils its Radical New TA FRD Track Bike

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Felt officially unveil its new TA FRD track bike this week, touting it as the most advanced design the company has created to date.

Developed exclusively for the riders of the USA’s women’s team pursuit team, the TA FRD will make its debut at this year’s Olympic Games in Rio this August. 

In the process of designing the new TA FRD, Felt created several patent-pending technologies, which include a proprietary series of asymmetric airfoils and cross sections that were designed in-house by engineers specifically for track racing. In addition, after working with other industry-leading brands, Felt engineers also crafted a level of component integration never-before seen on a pursuit bike.

As result, the TA FRD features a specialized left-hand drive system made possible only through the use of proprietary components developed in partnership with HED, FSA, Stages Cycling and Phil Wood.

“This is exactly the type of endeavor that we’re good at, and it was a project we really wanted to take on,” says Jim Felt, founder of Felt Bicycles. “And what we’ve created is truly revolutionary in its singular focus on the team pursuit discipline. Everything from the asymmetric airfoils to the left-hand drive to the component integration makes the TA FRD the perfect weapon for the athletes of Team USA in their pursuit for gold in Rio.”

“The only way to make something the absolute best it can be is to be really focused on it,” says Jeff Soucek, Director of Engineering at Felt Bicycles. “So by narrowing this project down to being a women’s team pursuit bike ridden by the athletes of Team USA, we were able to eliminate all constraints. From an engineering standpoint, having those restrictions taken away meant that we were creating a pure race bike for team pursuit.”

“We conducted a lot of research regarding airfoils inside a velodrome,” says Anton Petrov, Head of Aerodynamics at Felt Bicycles. “And we found that there exists a specific range of yaw on the track and that it is not a symmetric airflow. So we set out to design a bike with asymmetric cross sections. With this, you’ll get an airfoil that will work better from one side than it does from the other. And the end result is a faster bike. All things considered, the new Felt TA FRD is a distinct advantage for Team USA. Realistically, we should be able to save around three and a half seconds over the course of the women’s team pursuit event, which is monumental.”

more from Felt…

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MAKING HISTORY

On a frenzied night of racing back in 2012, four American women made history. Sarah Hammer, Dotsie Bausch, Lauren Tamayo and Jennie Reed rode their Felt TK track bikes to the silver medal in the women’s team pursuit event at the Olympic Games in London. It was the greatest achievement by a U.S. track racing team ever in
the Olympics.

In front of a partisan crowd that nal night at the Lee Valley VeloPark, the women of Great Britain took the gold medal in dominating fashion, a performance highlighted by a new world record. For Great Britain, a nation who had embraced track racing more than any other over the previous decade, it was business as usual. By the Games’ end, Britain won seven gold medals out of ten events in London, the very same feat achieved four years prior in Beijing. The challenge for Team USA, therefore, was guring out how to beat Great Britain in 2016.

“The initial discussion for this project began four years ago,” says Jim Miller, Vice President of Athletics for USA Cycling. “We looked at the success that our American women had in London taking the silver medal behind Great Britain and asked ourselves, ‘How can we go one better? What’s it going to take to win and beat Great Britain and the other top teams in the world in 2016?’”

After the London Olympics in 2012, cycling’s governing body changed the format of the women’s team pursuit, expanding it from three athletes competing over a distance of three kilometers, to four athletes competing over four kilometers (along with a fth backup rider). This change aligned the women’s event with the men’s, which had longed featured four riders on the track at the same time. The move was another piece in the massive puzzle that was Team USA’s pursuit for gold.

“When you’re trying to win an Olympic gold medal, everything is critical,” says Miller. “It all comes down to making those marginal gains. You need to have partners who understand the goal, who are committed to the project, and you need to have a support team behind the group of athletes to help make everything happen. We broke this project down into three pieces: aerodynamics, chassis and engines. And when it all comes together, you have a team that is capable of helping the athletes win the gold medal.”

The “engines” are the athletes. And USA Cycling has rounded up the best of the best that America has to offer. Veteran racer and multiple-time World Champion Sarah Hammer returns to the squad for one last shot at an Olympic gold medal. Joining her is a quartet of rising stars, including Junior Road Race and Time Trial World Champion Chloe Dygert, along with Kelly Catlin, Jennifer Valente and Ruth Winder.

As for the “chassis” and the “aerodynamics” portions of Miller’s project, that’s where Felt Bicycles came in.

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“The relationship between Felt Bicycles and USA Cycling started years ago, around 2008,” says Miller. “At the time, Felt was working with a professional road cycling team at the WorldTour level, and they developed a time trial bike that was super fast in crosswinds. We noticed in some industry testing we did ourselves that it was
a really great bike. So we contacted Jim Felt. After silver in London, we wanted Felt’s expertise to help us go one better.”

“Back in 2012 when the discussion came around to the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio and the goals for that event, Jim Miller came to me,” says Jim Felt, founder of Felt Bicycles. “And Miller asked me, ‘What do you think? Would you guys be interested in doing this Olympic team pursuit project?’ And it was a no-brainer for us to
stay on board as the women’s team pursuit equipment supplier and to create a new bike. This is exactly the type of endeavor that we’re good at, and it was a project we really wanted to take on. The athletes were picked, the support staff was set, and the goal was clearly de ned: Gold in Rio. The question for us was, how do we improve our current model and create the fastest track bike in history?”

A CLEAN SHEET

“Some of the rst steps we take when we work on a new project like this include looking at the variables involved,” says Jeff Soucek, Director of Engineering at Felt Bicycles. “We knew we wanted to make a bike that was very speci c for the athletes, and we really had no constraints as far as it being a product that would be sold to the masses, meaning that we didn’t need to create a bike that would appeal to a wide consumer audience. So we started by asking ourselves, what could we do to make the bike better than the old TK track bike?

“Felt’s original TK was a bicycle designed for track racing, so it was a sprint bike, it was a points bike and a pursuit bike,” continues Soucek. “And while that versatility is really good for most track racers, it’s also one of the limitations of a bike like that. The only way to make something the absolute best it can be is to be really focused on it. So by narrowing this project down to being a women’s team pursuit bike ridden by the athletes of Team USA, we were able to eliminate all constraints. From an engineering standpoint, having those restrictions taken away from you makes for a really fun, yet challenging, project. A pure race bike is something that’s really exciting to work on.

“There are a lot of similarities that cross over among all the disciplines in cycling when it comes to the carbon ber construction and the manufacturing processes. But track racing is a very speci c sport because the bikes are going one direction on the track at all times, and there are a lot of variables that are eliminated because you’re
in an indoor environment inside the velodrome. So we really tried to exploit that while working on this new bike.”

“The goal of this project was to make the fastest bike possible, to make something that was a little bit more out of the ordinary,” says Anton Petrov, Head of Aerodynamics at Felt Bicycles. “We saw an opportunity to make something unique, something that would be truly revolutionary. The rst step for us was to look at track bikes as a whole and consider what kind of environment they ride in. Looking at the big picture and seeing if there was anything we could make different or change on the macro level was our priority.

“We conducted a lot of research regarding airfoils inside a velodrome,” continues Petrov. “As part of our initial research, we found that there exists a speci c range of yaw on the track and that it is not a symmetric air ow. So we set out to design a bike with asymmetric cross sections. With this, you’ll get an airfoil that will work better from one side than it does from the other. And if you have asymmetric air ow, you then optimize shapes for that ow. And the end result is a faster bike. The TA FRD is designed speci cally for the velodrome.

“A bicycle and its rider combine to generate drag. So as the air is pushing against you, it’s slowing you down. So when we design bicycles, our goal is to minimize drag by any means possible. Obviously, putting the rider in the correct position is very important, and that’s why the TA FRD is highly adjustable and highly catered to the riders of Team USA. If the athletes can’t get their respective ts right or are not positioned correctly, then they’re generating a lot more drag. That adjustability to suit the needs of the athletes was also a key design criterion.”

“And then the project comes down to taking the new design from concept stages through prototyping,” says Soucek. “There we will do a lot of CFD [computational uid dynamics] modeling, rapid prototyping, wind tunnel testing and FEA [finite element analysis]. There’s just a ton of steps that go into a project like this, and it became one of the biggest undertakings of Felt Bicycles, ever. And it resulted in the creation of several patent-pending technologies.”

AERO EVOLVED

As the engineering team at Felt Bicycles worked through the project, they relied on their decades-long experience in aerodynamics and carbon fiber construction to guide them in a new direction. And that new direction led them to major advances in an area of bicycle frame development that is subtle to the naked eye, yet critical in the pursuit of aerodynamic performance: airfoils.

“At Felt Bicycles, we’re able to take a lot of the knowledge that we’ve learned over the past few decades and keep building on what we already know,” says Soucek. “We’ve used many of these tools over the years and every time we use them, we get that much more information to keep building and improving on our next product. So some of the unique features of this bike are things like the asymmetrical attributes of the bike. When looking at it from the front view, you’ll notice that the airfoil shapes are asymmetrical. Since track bikes only go around the track in one direction, we can really exploit this from the aerodynamic advantage of the slight yaw angles you see when the bike is ridden through a velodrome’s banked turns.”

“Every part of the TA FRD went through rigorous CFD and wind tunnel analysis,” says Petrov. “We didn’t use any ‘off-the-shelf’ airfoils. Everything was designed and engineered specifically in-house.”

The most striking development that Felt engineers came upon, however, involved a radical departure from typical bicycle design norms. Throughout cycling’s history, bicycles have more often than not sported a drivetrain on the right-hand side. But for this revolutionary new track bike, Felt engineers discovered that this commonly accepted attribute was, in fact, detrimental to speed.

“Just like with the asymmetry of the cross sections, we found that the bikes typically test faster when the air ow is from the drive side of the bicycle,” says Petrov. “So a traditional crankset is on the right-hand side of the bike, which we found to be the incorrect side for the velodrome, aerodynamically speaking. From a rider’s perspective, you’re not losing anything by having the crank on the opposite side. But again, aerodynamically, that makes a huge difference.”

“Wind is coming in towards the frame from the left-hand side,” elaborates Soucek. “So by moving the drive side on the bike from the outside of the track [right-hand] to the inner part of the track [left-hand], not only does the bike become more aerodynamic, it also helps with moving the weight and center of gravity inboard, as well. Other things like the narrow front and rear hubs and a lot of various small features have gone into the bike to make it very unique and incredibly fast.”

“All things considered, the new Felt TA FRD is a distinct advantage for Team USA,” says Petrov. “Realistically, we should be able to save around three and a half seconds over the course of the women’s team pursuit event, which is monumental.”

ONWARD TO RIO

In April 2016, the athletes of Team USA gathered together with coaches, trainers, support staff and representatives from bike industry partners at the Velo Sports Center in Carson, California. After four years of development, Jim Felt, the founder of Felt Bicycles, unveiled the TA FRD bikes with which the riders would compete in Rio. And after presentations from Felt’s engineering team wrapped up, the atmosphere was electric.

“I think that the bike is beyond any of our expectations,” said Andy Sparks, Head Coach of Team USA. “We knew it was going to be a fantastic project. But the riders, all the coaches and I are amazed with the thought, the detail and the attention that went into it. I think it’s very safe to say that nothing like this has ever been created before. So our riders who are going into Rio as gold medal favorites have yet another advantage that really symbolizes everything that we’re really proud of in the U.S. And this means having a great support system behind the women and all of our partners coming together to produce an amazing product to help us achieve our Olympic goal, which is to produce the rst Olympic gold medal for women’s track cycling. The women have a fantastic new bicycle that we know no one else in the world will have anything close to, so things could not be any better.”

“Some of the partners who contributed to this project include HED wheels,” says Jeff Soucek. “Working with company founder Steve Hed from the beginning of this project before his untimely passing, we knew we wanted to develop the frame and the wheels together in order to exploit the attributes of both of those components working in tandem. So the frame is designed speci cally for use with these HED wheels that we worked with them on. It was the same thing with the company FSA. We worked with them on a very special crank, not only to make it left- hand drive, but on the shape as well in order to make it as aerodynamic as possible. Stages Cycling came to the project and helped us develop a dual-arm power meter for the carbon crank, which is a highly valuable training tool for the athletes. Other partners include Vittoria and Phil Wood. So when you combine the efforts of all these different leading companies together, it truly results in a very special product.”

“This bike is going to be a big advantage for the team,” says Jim Miller. “They’re the reigning world champions in the team pursuit discipline having won the gold at the world championships this year. There, set two of the three fastest times ever ridden by a women’s team pursuit squad. But really, mainly what they did by winning that world title is reset the bar. So all of the other top teams around the world are all going to get to work, train harder, and show up to the Rio Olympics riding faster. We expect that to win the gold medal, teams will have to ride in the 4:10 range, with 4:14 being the best that any nation has ever ridden before. And the TA FRD is the absolute perfect weapon to do that.”

 

 

Felt

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