Mtbr was in Torbole, Italy for the launch of the new Felt Decree – a 140mm, 27.5 carbon trail bike. There’s been a lot of buzz about this bike among journalists and other industry insiders, but no one really knew what to expect. Most people, myself included, expected a longer travel bike – something more in the neighborhood of 160mm. With 140mm of rear wheel travel and a 150mm in the front, the Decree is designed to be a light, versatile all-around trail bike that pedals well and can handle a wide variety of terrain.
I’ve tried not to read too much into it, but I can’t help but think it’s interesting Felt chose to launch a 140mm bike at Lago di Garda. With notoriously rocky, treacherous trails, Garda wouldn’t be my first choice for a medium travel trail bike introduction. Maybe Felt is trying to make a point by launching the Decree here, in what is usually considered freeride bike territory?
I’m not going to say much about how the bike performs. We’re saving that for another story. However, I think the Decree surprised everyone, performing beyond expectations on both the XC and the downhill ends of the riding spectrum. It’s a ~24-pound trail bike (medium, U.S.-spec FRD model) that can legitimately be ridden like a freeride bike. I watched journalists pinning it through rock gardens and the bike was taking it like a champ.
I asked Felt’s director of product development Brian Wilson about the company’s intent with the Decree. He said the goal was simply to design a straightforward high-performance trail bike. Mountain bikes have gotten far better in the past few years, pushing the performance bar for both pedaling and descending and increasing our expectations all around. But my impression is, even Felt is somewhat surprised at how the Decree appears to move the bar up for medium-travel trail bikes. Having the launch in Garda, where the climbs are stupid steep, and the descents are ridiculously rocky and technical reinforces that point.
Specs, Features and Details
The core elements of the Decree are Felt’s FAST (Felt Active Stay Technology) flex stay suspension system, 27.5” wheels, solid trail geometry, and TeXtreme carbon fiber. Yes, that checkerboard pattern is more than just aesthetics; it’s a carefully engineered weave of different fibers that make the frame stiff without being brittle and overly fragile.
Felt introduced their FAST flex stay suspension design in 2011 with their Verdict XC bike. It’s essentially a single-pivot linkage that uses a one-piece carbon rear triangle with the seatstays tuned to flex and work as an active suspension element. Less moving parts makes the FAST system lighter and more reliable than suspension designs with more links and pivots, is Felt’s take here.
With the Decree, Felt’s goal was to use better materials and improved engineering to apply the benefits of the FAST suspension system to a longer travel bike. They also worked with RockShox to custom tune the Monarch Plus RC3 rear shock so it complimented the FAST suspension design. The result is a bike they claim has better small bump sensitivity and improved bottom-out resistance and a frame that’s lighter and more durable.
Geometry is possibly the most important consideration with bikes these days. For the most part, we know what works and what doesn’t. For a trail bike, we want a relatively slack head angle, a bottom bracket that keeps the center of gravity low without too many pedal strikes, and chainstays that are short enough for quick handling but long enough to keep the bike stable. The Decree’s 67-degree head angle, 12mm BB drop, and 431mm chainstays put it right in the sweet spot for a fun, well-behaved trail bike.
And if those angles aren’t to your liking, Felt incorporated an eccentric “Flip Chip” in the seatstay pivot that allows you to increase the head angle by about one degree, and raise the bottom bracket 10mm. It’s almost like getting two bikes for the price of one.