The Felt-sponsored Argos-Shimano team began racing their new TeXtreme® composite carbon fiber F-Series FRD’s in one of the premier early-season WorldTour races, the Tour of Qatar. Immediately following that event the team went straight to the Tour of Oman where Marcel Kittel (GER) won the opening stage, their first major victory of the year. Fair to say that TeXtreme® is off to a very fast and successful start.
TeXtreme is the trade name of Oxeon’s “spread tow” carbon fiber composite. TeXtreme is different than traditional carbon fiber because the individual fibers are configured like extremely small ribbons, not round strands of carbon as with conventional carbon fiber. The wider, flatter orientation of TeXtreme carbon fiber means the individual carbon fibers nest closer to one another, producing a denser, stiffer, stronger interlace of carbon fibers. Since the carbon fibers are arrayed in closer proximity to each other there is less room for the matrix material, the “glue” that makes carbon fiber solid. Less matrix means more carbon and more carbon means better stiffness and energy management. It also means Felt engineers can use less carbon fiber to produce an even stronger bike.
Jeff Soucek, Director of Research and Development for Felt, said, “TeXtreme can potentially save 100-200 grams on a carbon frameset depending on what you’re comparing it too, while maintaining or increasing strength and stiffness.”
The most obvious advantage of TeXtreme is that less material can be used to produce a stronger, stiffer, more durable frameset at lighter weight. An additional benefit is the control TeXtreme offers to Felt engineers when planning the carbon lay-up schedule on a frame to produce the optimal mix of lateral stiffness and vertical compliance. A Felt carbon fiber frame is made up of many layers of carbon fiber laid by hand into the mold at precise orientations. The correct fiber orientation within the mold determines the “feel” of the frame, its lateral stiffness and vertical compliance. The perfect lay-up provides shock-damping in the vertical plane for ride comfort and stiffness in the lateral plane to resist pedaling forces. It is the result of this orientation that produces the bike reviewers cliche’ of “stiff, but comfortable”. Those two conflicting qualities in a frame can be separated even further with TeXtreme while simultaneously reducing weight.
“The material is so advanced you can, simply put, use less of it” says Felt Engineer Anton Petrov. “It delivers the things everyone wants in a frame; lower weight with greater strength and stiffness.” Petrov says.
TeXtreme is already available in the Nine FRD hardtail, Felt’s top-line 29″ mountain bike frame and possibly the most advanced carbon fiber hardtail mountain bike in the industry. Felt Engineer Jeff Soucek said, “We started with a mountain bike to prove the performance of TeXtreme.” Since its introduction the Felt Nine FRD has proven itself as an anomaly in bike frames, with a level of stiffness, durability, light weight and comfort that has caused riders to ponder new superlatives to describe the level of seemingly conflicting performance qualities.
The amount of TeXtreme material used in a given frame model varies according to the performance qualities engineers want to achieve. The Felt Nine FRD uses a substantial amount of TeXtreme in the lay-up, while the road frames uses less TeXtreme in combination with other hand laid-up carbon fibers to produce optimal ride quality. An interesting feature of TeXtreme used on the outer layers of a bike’s structural lay-up is the blocky pattern of contrasting fabric that is visible. Consumers and dealers have mentioned they like the unique appearance since it conspicuously differentiates a TeXtreme bike from more conventional non-TeXtreme carbon fiber bikes.
The Felt F-Series FRD TeXtreme framesets being ridden by the Argos-Shimano pros will be used throught the season, including at the 2013 Tour de France and World Championships, and are slated for 2014 release at the consumer level. The Felt F-Series FRD is the result of significant engineering and testing emanating from the Felt Nine FRD along with additional insights and engineering specific to the road market. The real-world testing at the highest levels of the sport by Argos-Shimano is the final phase of its development and testing prior to consumer release. Given the feedback from engineers and team riders so far the use of TeXtreme in carbon fiber frame construction is likely the most significant technological advancement since the first carbon fiber bike frames. TeXtreme is the “next level” in frame material engineering.