Recently Mtbr was in Torbole, Italy, on the shore of Lago di Garda for the launch of Felt’s latest mountain bike, the Decree – a 140mm 27.5 carbon trail bike with adjustable geometry that weighs in at just a hair over 24 pounds (FRD model, US spec, size medium). An international launch at a glamorous location like Garda is a new move for the Southern California company. But if you’ve got a brand new trail bike you feel really good about, you couldn’t pick a better spot to show it off.
Lago di Garda is a huge lake located at the southern foot of the Italian Alps. It’s one of the most popular mountain bike destinations in Europe because of its dramatic beauty and steep, technical trails. In fact, Garda is one of the most challenging places I’ve ever ridden. The operative word for Garda mountain biking is “loose.” The trails are covered in fist to baby head-sized rocks interspersed with big steppy chunks of limestone that feel like someone rubbed soap all over them. You do your best to pick a line but ultimately the trail makes the decision for you. Honestly, most of the riding at Garda is pretty scary.
For more on the new Felt Decree, check out our First Look here.
Obviously, Felt has a lot of confidence in the Decree, a bike they described in their launch packet as “the ultimate trail bike.” Doing the launch in Garda, on terrain that seems more appropriate for a freeride bike, was a bold move. However, mountain bikes have evolved considerably and current 6-inch bikes are fully capable of handling terrain that used to be the exclusive domain of dedicated downhill sleds. Versatility is the name of the game now. Improved design and materials mean bikes can be both excellent climbers and great descenders. It’s clear that was Felt’s goal with the Decree was to be a great all-rounder that performs at a high level regardless of the terrain.
I think they hit it out of the park.
A great bike starts with great geometry and I immediately felt at home on the Decree. The words I kept hearing from other journalists and the Felt product team were, “balanced” and “neutral.” I would describe the bike as, “composed.” I’m 5’8” tall and with a 50mm stem the cockpit on the medium bike I rode was perfect. The bike can be set up low and slack or steep and high via “Flip Chips” in the seat stays. The low and slack position, which is all I rode, has a 67° head angle (see correction, below), a bb drop of 12mm and a 73.2° seat tube angle. Flipping the chip steepens the angles by one degree and raises the bb height by 10mm. Personally, I would have been happy with a slightly slacker bike – especially since the geometry is adjustable. But there’s a reason the 67° head angle is standard issue on 140 and 150mm trail bikes – it works great. Even though a slacker head angle (maybe 66.5°) would have been nice on some of the steeper stuff I rode, I never felt like the head angle was too steep or twitchy. Even on fast road descents the Decree was felt stable and confident.
Correction: It turns out there was some confusion with the Decree’s head angle and it’s actually 66.5°, not 67° like I original wrote. This is embarrassing for me, although it does explain why the bike felt so mysteriously good to me, in spite of what appeared to be middle-of-the-road geometry. The reason for the mistake is Felt originally intended the bike to be spec’d with a 140mm fork. But when they tried it with a 150mm fork, they liked it so much they decided to stick with the longer fork and slacker angles. I think they did the right thing. The slacker head angle is a big part of what makes the Decree a standout in a sea of fairly vanilla 140mm trail bikes.