Felt dares to do something that not even British Cycling has done

This is the Felt TA FRD track bike that the USA will be using at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, and at first glance it looks like any other track bike. But wait, something’s not quite right here. Yes, Felt’s engineers have done something that not even the secret squirrel club at British Cycling have dared to do and moved the drivetrain to the left side of the bike.

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The reason for this, according to Felt, is that bikes are faster when the airflow is coming from the drivetrain side, so as the air will always be coming from the left when riding anti-clockwise around a velodrome, it switch the drivetrain to that side.

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And as an added bonus, Felt also says that this change improves handling as the bike’s weight and centre of gravity is moved to the inside when riding around the banking.


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Another change is that the Felt TA FRD track bike now features asymmetric tube shapes, which basically means that the aerofoil tubes have been reshaped to be at their best with airflow coming from the left-hand side of the bike, while the ability to design the new bike from the ground up and to work closely with HED to design the wheels, has enable Felt to narrow the front and rear dropouts.

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The radical bike will be used by USA’s women’s team pursuit squad who finished second behind Great Britain in the 2012 Olympics, while the men’s squad failed to qualify for Rio.

  • John

    Interesting stuff. There is no unquestionable rule that the chain has to be on the right, although the gains fron this large investment in time and money must be absolutely tiny. Then again, it’s how BC have been approaching tech for years, and it gets Felt’s name in the news, associated with technological progress. Maybe that’s the most significant marginal gain here?

  • Rockman Rock

    Gimmick.

  • bigcrush1

    And yet, he still gets a medal. Just like everyone else.

  • Robert Paynter

    Try it with fairings around the rider

  • Andrea Cattolico

    For a start, they could have tensioned the chain properly 😉

    As far as the left hand drive, a genius like Pino Morroni had done it a few decades ago!

  • Kev

    That’s too grown up a word for me, I’m off.

  • Rob

    This conversation is puerile, I suggest we do the noble thing and stop it.

  • Kev

    Was that a joke?

  • Rob

    Someone lend Kev 50p for the funny-meter.

  • Kev

    I’ll keep that in mind before I make any comments again. Thanks again princess.

  • Rob

    Generally something has to be funny for me to find it funny.

  • Ciaran Carroll

    I’ve seen left hand drivetrain before on FGFS bikes (fixed gear free style). A friend of mine has a Volume Thrasher with the crank and chainrings on the left, I’m not sure of the reason.

  • Bodo Vosshenrich

    Felt is doing cool stuff once more. Love that brand ! (Ride that brand, by the way…)

  • Rob

    You clearly have no idea about bike fit, track riding or pursuit bars. Thanks anyway.

  • Jdog

    I’m sure they’ll all run some tests to make sure that this is legit.

  • Frank Martinez

    Wouldn’t it have been easier to just race clockwise, assuming the numbers are correct and that obviously every team would want that advantage, thereby nullifying the advantage? /head exploded.

  • David Hewett

    I’d say just looking at that single piece carbon DS crank arm vs a NDS crank arm would suggest it’s more aero.

  • Stevo

    Is it also known why the bike is faster when the chainset is on the upstream side?

  • David Hewett

    Effectively, yes. But they’re focussing on the crankset itself which is always going to be towards the front and so will be exposed to a left-hand yaw.

  • Stevo

    So this is because the bike is rotating anticlockwise around a vertical axis near the back of the bike, and most of the bike is swinging to the left?

    I suppose that means that if the bike was symmetrical front/rear, the effect wouldn’t occur, since the axis of rotation would be between the front and rear wheels and the side wind at the rear of the bike would be from the right.

  • LaszloZoltan

    a medalist isnt worth his salt if his place depended on hundreth watt gains

  • camarones

    On the straights it doesn’t make a difference, but in the corners the left hand side of the bike is traveling through the air more slowly than the right hand side so it creates less drag.

  • David Hewett

    I believe it’s so that the rear cog with a conventional right hand thread would self tighten. Not sure about wheel size, though of course 700c is just one of many sizes.

  • David Hewett

    The fact that you’re cornering! Front of the bike is rotating left relative to the rear of the bike. Think about turning a bike’s handlebars all the way to the left and then turning it whilst keeping the back wheel stationary – clearly, it’s being exposed to a wind from the left. Add the headwind component in at speed in the velodrome, and reduce the turning angle, but the left wind is still there . . .

  • Stevo

    Do you know where that yaw comes from?

  • David Hewett

    You’re still cornering so there’s a left hand yaw on the banks of 5-10 degrees, so there’s definitely an advantage to this bike.

  • Stevo

    I don’t know. The article is a bit vague.

  • David Hewett

    Incorrect (apart from on the straights). In the corners, you’re best off on a rider’s right hip as there’s a yaw of 5-10 degrees from the left.

  • Stevo

    If the air is still, then the headwind direction is opposite to your direction of travel, i.e. from straight ahead. And if there is a rider in front of you, his/her draught will be directed from right to left, if anything.

  • Chris

    Thanks. That’s good info. So basically this bike is a pile of poo.

  • David Hewett

    There is a significant cornering effect. Try taking a straight strip of paper and bending it into the shape of a velodrome – you can’t do it, because the inside edge is significantly shorter than the outside edge, so you have to corner and you’re not going into a straight headwind. The length of the bike is non-zero so you’re exposing the sides to yaw angles.

  • Stevo

    I hadn’t thought of the effects of banking. If you had a circular track with 90 degree banking and sticky enough tyres you would’t need to turn your bars at all.

  • Stevo

    Yes. That is not taking lean into account.

  • Alasdair Gillies

    Steve, you put my thoughts down more eloquently than I could. If the bike is travelling in a banked track then the steering input is negligible. Thus it is not turning, but banking – with a forward motion. So aerodynamically I don’t see the advantage, but the centre of mass being moved inwards makes sense to me. It would be possibly no worse on a straight, but offer slight benefit in the banking. Allowing a fast speed due to a more acute lean angle.

    Also, with speed comes the aerodynamic advantage, and with speed the banking makes the lean more and the steering input less, thus making the direction of motion even more linear. (thats made sense in my head) Result – Benefit would come from a bike with forward motion as the primary design remit.

    Oh, thats what others have been doing. I wonder if this a big carbon fibre placebo pill?

  • hulksmashu

    It hasn’t got any pedals.

  • Chris

    That is assuming no lean? When I corner quickly on the road I can go around a bend with a radius of say 20 feet, with a lot of lean and very little bar turn.

  • David Hewett

    It’s more to do with the recirculation currents in the velodrome air caused by the riders.

  • Stevo

    For a circular track it would be:

    360 degrees x (wheelbase of bike) / (track circumference)

  • Stevo

    Is the air flow really coming from the side? I cannot see why it would be. As the bike travels through a curve, it accelerates radially towards the centre of the curve, but its direction of motion is circumferential. There is no sideways component of velocity.

    It would be interesting to know if the assertion is based on real engineering or if it is more like L-shaped cranks helping you to pedal through TDC.

  • Chris

    Ooh Metron! or should it be Nortam

  • The Sniper

    It’s Aptil the 1st right?

  • Chris

    Being a roadie, I’d be interested to know exactly what the angle of deflection from straight ahead the H/bars are normally at, assuming an average track curve? Or is it all down to the angle of lean? I would have thought 99% of the latter.

  • Kev

    It also has a Giraffe neck stem. WTF is that about? Slam it.

  • Jay

    Any one who claims to know the history of bikes care to explain why it’s on the right to begin with? Pls no banter abt the left side right side wrong side stuff.

    Another question is why are wheels at 700c?

  • Ade

    Ooh matron!

  • Jonathan Theyers

    Brain says Argh! Can’t comprehend!