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By Matt Pacocha
You’re likely to see lots of Felt bikes in the coming days, especially with the Garmin-Slipstream team at this week’s start of the Giro d’Italia. Rest assured, however, none of them will racing this new bike from Felt.
We caught a glimpse of this prototype mountain bike last month. It’s a new full suspension cross-country machine that Felt makes for sponsored racers.
Nonetheless, you’ll see a lot of them out there this season, since Felt’s lead suspension engineer Mike Ducharme estimates that the company built racers somewhere between 50 and 100 of the frames he designed. The brand’s dealers also had access to the frame for their own grassroots shop teams. The best place to see it, however, will be under those sponsored by Mafia Racing, a pro-am team based in Colorado.
While this prototype may look like the longer travel, consumer-available, Virtue models, it only shares one component with the 5-inch travel production bike: the lower link of the Equilink suspension system. The new bike has a main frame welded from 7005 aluminum tubes, all of which are specific to the bike’s cross-country application. The front end is mated to a new carbon fiber rear triangle, for which Felt says it had to create a whole set of molds.
Felt built four sizes of this bike, which Ducharme says is a stop-gap until Felt releases a new full suspension race bike to consumers for 2010. The new production bike builds off Felt’s Equilink technology to deliver a design that’s simplified, much stiffer and a lot lighter, but he’s holding any further details until the bike’s design is completed. And that led to the need for this special bike.
“We have new technology coming,” he said, “But we needed something for our racers to race, now.”
According to Ducharme, the large prototype 2009 racing frame weighs 5.9-pounds with a Fox RP23 rear shock. It has 100mm of rear travel that’s meant to be mated to a 100mm travel fork.
Ducharme’s personal version, also a large, has a claimed complete weigh just under 22 pounds.