IRVINE, California (VN) — Felt Bicycles unveiled a redesigned Z Series line of endurance road bikes and updated Nine Series mountain bikes at its headquarters this week.
Z Series endurance road bikes
The one totally redesigned road bike in the 2012 Felt line is the Z Series. Available in both men’s and women’s options, Felt updated the Z2 and ZW2 with an increase in stiffness to give the rider improved performance while still maintaining the same level of comfort.
The women’s version of the Z-Series, the ZW, not only has women-specific geometry, but the smaller women’s options also incorporate narrower head tubes so that frames don’t ride as stiff as the larger men’s bikes. Felt pushed its fork offsets out to 52mm from 50mm to fit 700c wheels on the two smallest sizes that previously used 650c wheels.
Another defining refinement is the creased fork and headtube. On both the Z and ZW the fork has a crease that runs up the outside of the fork blades and meets the headtube’s crease. Felt frame engineer, Jeff Soucek explained that the crease keeps the frame stiff when out of the saddle sprinting and climbing, but allows the front end to flex front-to-back and absorb bumps, slow squirrels, curbs, and the like.
The carbon line of Z frames ranges from the $1,760 Z5 to the $10,329 Z1. Each frame in the line utlizes the same design, but a different grade of carbon. The Z2 builds were on-hand Monday. At $6,000 with Shimano Ultegra Di2 and Shimano’s electronic satellite climbing shifters, the Z2 is likely to be the most popular of the line (Felt is including Shimano’s sprint satellite shifters on its $4,750 F3 bikes, too).
Nine Series Mountain Bikes
Felt had to rethink the geometry on its Nine Series. Over the past couple years, engineers realized that riders were fitting 100mm forks on the previous Nine that was designed for 80mm forks. This was creating a problem, as the bike was becoming known for “handling like a 29er.” Felt wanted to make the Nine the most agile, “least 29er-feeling bike on the market,” according to Felt’s Souceck.
While trying to design a lighter and stronger carbon bike is no different from what most frame companies are working towards, Felt is employing a name brand company in Oxeon to separate its marketing plan from the norm (similar to Specialized employing McLaren when it launched the Venge in 2011).
The top-of-the-line Nine FRD frame weighs in at a scant 900 grams and uses high-end TeXtreme materials from Oxeon. More common on F1 race cars, Oxeon uses its patented “Spread toe” weave to make each carbon thread more important by lengthening it. The spread toe weave allows Felt frame engineers to cut down on the amount of material used in certain areas, thus saving weight while keeping strength high.
While brands are driven to have the lightest and greatest flagship bikes, Felt product managers were more excited with their ability to integrate the high-end technology on the mid-level Nine frames. The Nine 1, which will retail for $5,170 with a Shimano XT drivetrain, uses the same frame design cues as the FRD, but uses Felt’s “UHC Advanced” carbon instead of the TeXtreme material. Still a high-grade material, the Nine 1 will likely become the go-to XC race bike in the Felt line.