Pimp My Ride: Felt DA4 Upgrades

Hey!  So after six months of having my tri bike, I thought I might share some of my bike upgrades with y’all.  Yep, this sport isn’t cheap and I’ve spent some $$ on accessories and upgrades.  When I first bought the bike, I knew there were things I needed to get, and I was kind of lost, searching forums and blogs for what works, etc., so now I want to share what has worked for me as well as what I didn’t like in hopes it might help!

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{ Before – just a newbie with reflectors }

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{ After – the Femme Fatale ready to kill it! }

When I first bought the bike, there were no pedals (oh and the stickers, “dork disk”, and reflective lights were promptly removed).  For a month I used some janky older Shimano pedals I had, but I later bought new Shimano Ultegra pedals in black – I’ve always ran Shimano pedals and I like the black look.  There are also carbon Shimano Dura-ace pedals available, but I weighed the additional cost versus grams saved and it was hardly worth it to me.

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Shimano Ultegra Pedals in black

Another early purchase was the Adamo Road saddle.  We have a love-hate relationship.  When it is positioned right it can be very comfortable, but I’ve been through several fits and mis-fits this year and have discovered that we don’t agree if the saddle is pointed downwards.  If the rails stay parallel to the ground, my body is much happier.  I still haven’t decided if I’ll try for a different saddle yet.  FYI, the road saddle has a little more cushion than Adamo’s race saddle.

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Adamo Road Saddle in white

Another immediate purchase was a bottle cage for hydration.  Much to my dismay, there are only holes for one cage on the frame – really Felt?!   I got rid of the weird triangular hydration thing in the “before” picture above and replaced it with an Xlab Chimp Carbon bottle cage in white.

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Xlab Chimp Carbon Cage

One bottle wasn’t going to be enough, and I really wanted a straw in my face and a bottle in between the aero bars that was easily refillable.  Now this is where things get complicated.  I saw the Speedfil A2 on Miranda Cafrae’s old rig and thought if it worked for Rinny…  I purchased it and also the Z4 cage and mounted on the Xlab Torpedo Mount (not carbon) for securing.  You can zip-tie the Z4 on to the aero bars, but I like being able to remove the cage if I’m on the trainer. 

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Speedfil A2 bottle, Z4 cage, Xlab mount, & Garmin 500

A couple notes on the Speedfil: for the A2 bottle, if I were to purchase a between the bars hydration bottle again, I might consider a different one such as the Profile Design Aero HC or the TorHans.  My first issue with the Speefil was that I cut the straw according to their directions, and it was too short.  So I had to order a second one.  I also emailed them that the straw was flopping around.  No response – kind of disappointed with the customer service there.  So I rigged a hanger wire (see the white wire above) to keep the straw upright.  Furthermore, the gasket where the threads connect on the water bottle leak a little and the cleaning is tedious.  And currently, the straw end piece somehow fell off and I have yet to find it.  On the bright side, now that I have it “rigged” up correctly, the straw is right where I want it, I can see my Garmin easily and it is easy to refill during a ride.  And the Z4 cage is quite expensive for what it is – a piece of plastic.  The whole thing is over-engineered in my opinion, but it worked in the race.  Maybe later I’ll change things up.

Speaking of the Garmin, I have the Garmin 910xt wristwatch and had been using it for riding, but Coach Marni highly suggested a Garmin computer for the bike so I could easily look down and see my data.  I went with the older Garmin Edge 500 model (it’s the cheapest, others are the 510, 900, or 910), and I’m so glad she convinced me to purchase this – it makes a huge difference!  The screen is larger and I don’t have to keep flipping my wrist to see data on the watch.  When you’re looking at power, HR, time, etc. you want to be able to glance quickly and not alter your shoulder/arm position.  I also installed the Garmin speed/cadence sensors.

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Highly recommend Shimano bar-end shifters

If you look closely, you’ll notice the shifters aren’t the ones that came with the original bike.  The original bar-end shifters were Vision Metron (shown below), and I had huge problems with them.  While they were functional, there was a lot of skipping and when I shifted down I would often have to pull the levers up and down to get the gears to shift.  The bike shop called Felt and replaced the first set under warranty.  After the second set arrived and still did not properly work, I told the bike shop “let’s just get these replaced”.  And since the guys at Bicycle World & Fitness are awesome (HIGHLY recommend them if you live in Houston!!), they were able to do a trade-in deal and install the Shimano Dura-Ace bar-end shifters shown above.  You’ll also notice I replaced the white rubber grips on the brake wings that kept slipping around for regular black bar tape.

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Not a fan of Vision Metron shifters

Now that I had the front end hydration installed, I knew I’d need 1-2 more cages for half & full ironman events.  I opted for the Xlab Turbo Wing with 2 black carbon Xlab Gorilla bottle cages.  I went with the non-carbon wing for price, but I liked the look of the Gorilla cages and had done some research that they were the best “grippy” cages around (I didn’t want bottles flying all over the place).  So far so good, knock on wood! 

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Turbo wing & Gorilla cages

I also wanted enough storage for 2 tubes, 2 CO2 cartridges & stem, tire levers, a multi-tool, a small patch kit, and nutrition.  Not too much to ask right?  I wasn’t liking the Xlab saddle bag options (the mini bag is too small and the mezzo bag too big and goofy), so the guys at Bicycle World showed me this cool set up of using the velcro straps that came with the Turbo wing to secure the two tubes and levers on the back.  I love how nice & neat it is.

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Tube & lever storage

The rest of the tools, cartridges, and nutrition goes in a bento box in the front, an old hammy-down from David that he wasn’t using.  Again, I like the nutrition in my face.

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Bento Box

And saving the BIGGEST purchase for last – my Quarq power meter & upgraded Dura-Ace chain rings!   Coach Marni had also urged me to consider a power meter if it was within my budget.  I purchased a used one from Karel, Coach Marni’s Czech husband who is a Cat 1 cyclist and triathlete.  I knew that a new power meter was outside of my budget, but a used one fit the bill, and I trusted that Karel had kept it in top-notch condition.  When I’m in the big ring and powering along, I think “I wonder what speeds Karel rode this thing at?”  He completed a Half Ironman a little while ago with a 2:22 bike, WOW!  I hope some Czech power carries over to my bike ride next weekend Winking smile  I owe a whole additional post about riding with a power meter, but so far I am really loving how it saves my legs for running, it works wonders. 

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Quarq Power Meter

Once my husband reads this I’m sure he will wince in pain at the thought of the expense of all these accessories – I sort of am!  But I really wanted to get out what worked for me and what didn’t, and I all of these accessories will be pretty essential during ironman training.

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9 thoughts on “Pimp My Ride: Felt DA4 Upgrades

  1. Awesome! This is great for me since I have he same bike 🙂 I haven’t purchased a bottle for my aero bars yer, but I’m thinking I’ll go with the profile design. Also, I’ve heard great things about Cobb saddles, but I have a Selle Italia diva saddle that I really like.

  2. I also have a Felt DA4 and I love the vision shifters but hey thats why they make different products right! Thanks for showing the upgrades. I’m gonna be purchasing the XLab for the rear as well for IMLP. One thing I’ve had trouble with is a bento box for the front since its the bayonet system so no real stem for it to grab on it. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Interesting- mine wouldn’t shift worth anything! I’d have to negotiate and shift both up and down to get them to work. Yeah, I kind of just stuff the bento box in, not ideal but it works. Hope you like the xlab for the rear – I really like them so far!

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