Torbole, located at the head of Lake Garda in Italy, was the location where Felt chose to launch their new trail bike platform. Renowned for its treacherous rock slabs, rolling 'baby head' sized stones and usually great weather, it's is one of the most popular destinations for the German-speaking mountain biker. Greeted by unrelenting rain, we headed down to the hotel lobby to take a first look at the all-new Decree, Felt's 140mm travel trail bike which uses flex stays and promises impressive weight to stiffness figures
Introduced to bridge the gap in Felt's mountain line up between the 130mm/29" Virtue and the 160mm/27.5" Compulsion; the 27.5"/140mm travel Decree arrives into the ultra-competitive trail bike sector at a strange time of year. Felt say they have done away with the traditional model year schedules that can often see corners cut in the mad rush towards Eurobike, allowing the brand to perfect products, and introduce new technologies as they become available.
According to Rob Pauley, Felt's product manager, "After meticulous refinement of every detail and refusing to be constrained by typical industry schedules, we exceeded our goals for stiffness, weight and travel. Our team was able to develop a trail bike that shines across a wide spectrum of riding conditions."
• Intended use: trail / all-around
• Travel: 140mm
• 27.5" wheels
• FAST Suspension Technology
• 67° head angle
• 431mm chainstays
• 12 x 142mm rear spacing
• Threaded bottom bracket
• Sizes 16", 18", 20", 22"
• Price: $3499 - $9999 USD
• Felt Bicycles
The Decree will come in four complete builds and two frameset options. The cheapest Decree 30 bike sees an alloy front triangle, whereas varying grades of carbon fiber are found across other models. Starting at $3499 for the 30, big bank balances can head all the way to $9999 for the Decree FRD (Felt Racing Development) which boasts top-level RockShox Pike and Debonair damping, SRAM XX1 and Guide Ultimates, an Easton carbon cockpit and a DT Swiss XMC 1200 wheelset. This abundance of carbon allows the bike to come in at a claimed weight of 24.07 pounds for a large size.Details
Felt haven't jumped on board with all the modern trends as there is no Boost, Plus or Press-Fit to be seen. Instead, there's 12x142mm rear hub spacing, a 73mm BSA threaded bottom bracket and an internal top and external lower headset. There's internal routing for all cables, including stealth or external dropper posts and the cable port under the bottom bracket also doubles as a Shimano Di2 battery holder. A replaceable derailleur hangar, ISCG tabs and a removable, high front derailleur mount. Carbon fiber grades vary across the range, with the top of the line models using 'UHC Ultimate + TeXtreme' carbon fibre, the chequerboard weave allows fewer layers of fiber to be used while maintaining strength.
'Long, low and slack' is touted by numerous bike brands including Felt and is open to interpretation depending upon riding style, preferred terrain, fore/aft balance and comparison to previous steeds. The Decree's main numbers include a 67° head angle, 73.2° seat angle, 431mm chainstays and a 12mm bottom bracket drop.
Size specific numbers for an medium frame are a 417mm reach, 1139mm wheelbase and a 430mm seat tube. There are flip-chips at the seat stay/rocker link pivot which will raise the bottom bracket around 10mm and steepen the head angle around one degree compared to the stated numbers. Felt mentioned that during the prototyping phase one sample was delivered with an incorrectly welded, slacker head tube, which they found improved the handling, so they stuck with that for the final version.
Felt Active Stay Technology. The flexing rear triangle is moulded in the 30% sag position, which means that when riding along on smooth terrain there should be no flexion of the stays. If the suspension is extended or compressed, the force created in the flex wants to return to the sag point. Felt say that this can improve pedalling efficiency, combined with 'ideal anti-squat values.' To absorb large impacts, a decreasing leverage ratio is used, combined with the additional spring force of the flexing stays. For small bump sensitivity at the start of the shock stroke, the force required to compress the shock is reduced because the stays want to move towards the flex point, this means less compression damping can be used at the beginning stroke. The Decree's shock tunes are the same across all models regardless of component level, although the tunes do not differ between frame sizes.
As mentioned earlier, geometry tastes come down to a number of factors and the same is true for cockpit setups. Going into 2016, I think the 740mm handlebar on a trail bike is too narrow for the XL size I was riding; at least a wider bar could be cut down if necessary. The 70mm stem could be shorter as well, especially since the bike's reach number is long enough that a stem measuring 50mm or shorter could comfortably be run without any issues.
Climbing certainly 'felt' efficient, and the bike does sit around the sag point well when pedalling with minimal bobbing. Perhaps one disadvantage of this is I like to use the different compression modes on a shock to help the bike sit higher when climbing in order to move my weight further forwards between the wheels and put my hips more over the bottom bracket. With the FAST suspension, whichever compression mode you choose you still sit at 30% sag. This could also make setup a little more complicated, as a changing of shock pressure can't be easily regulated by reading the sag figure, and will need to be set more by feel and trial and error.
The Decree was lively and responsive out on the trail, and could easily be maneuvered around when quick direction changes were required. Support from the rear shock was good for a 140mm bike along with the compression, but going from my usual Solo Air Pike with 3 or 4 Bottomless Tokens to a Dual Air system made it feel like the air spring had been replaced by a small blancmange, although now that Bottomless Tokens are available for the Dual Air this would be a simple issue to fix. One thing we did notice was the shock would never extend to full travel under its own force, so it loses a few millimeters of travel from the outset. Also, with all the shock pressure released, or with the shock removed completely, the travel seems to have some friction, but was hard to tell if this was from the pressure in the stays, or the large amount of rotation at the top shock mount
Overall, the Decree seems to fit in nicely between the Virtue and the Compulsion, a light and stiff trail bike that's available in a wide range of sizes and parts kit, but we need to put in more saddle and setup time to give a solid opinion on the ride characteristics.