First Look Felt Decree

Light weight and adjustable geometry 140mm trail bike

27.5 All Mountain Trail
Felt’s Director of Product Development Brian Wilson is obsessed with balance and pivot points.

Felt’s director of product development Brian Wilson is obsessed with balance and pivot points (click to enlarge).

To find out how the Decree geometry compares, I made a spreadsheet of similar trail bikes, including the Specialized Stumpjumper 650b, Santa Cruz 5010, the Giant Trance 27.5 and my personal ride – the Fezzari Timp Peak. What I found, is Felt generally played it pretty safe with the Decree’s geometry – the seat stays are short but not crazy short, the bb is low but not so low you’ll bang pedals all the time, the seat tube angle is a bit on the slack side but not the slackest, etc. The head angle, however, is the slackest of the bikes on my spreadsheet. The overall effect is a bike that does everything very comfortably and excels on steep, chunky descents. Would I want to ride it on a World Cup DH course? Definitely not. But it handled some surprisingly steep, rocky trails in Garda without undue terror or incident. I also did some fairly long stiff climbs that the Decree handled very well. For riders who prefer longer XC or adventure rides with a ton of climbing, you can select the steeper geometry for a more comfortable climbing position. But personally, I’d just leave it in the low and slack position for maximum fun.

Felt’s Director of Product Development Brian Wilson, followed by Felt Mountain Bike Product Manager Rob Pauley, on a section of downhill “trail” in Torbole, Italy.

Felt’s director of product development Brian Wilson followed by Felt mountain bike product manager Rob Pauley on a section of downhill “trail” in Torbole, Italy (click to enlarge).

Suspension

So the journalists in attendance could get a good feel for the Decree, Felt set up a test circuit for us that included a bit of everything – technical descending on the aforementioned greasy Garda limestone, as well as some very challenging climbing on slippery rocks and extremely steep, uneven cobbles in the rain. (It rained pretty much the whole time I was there). The first challenge was just to sack up and ride the wet rocks.

Luckily, I’d had a go the afternoon before on Felt’s 160mm Compulsion so I wasn’t riding blind. My first impressions on the rocks with the Decree were very positive – especially compared to the longer travel Compulsion. Although a longer travel bike should handle the rocks better, I never felt under gunned on the Decree. That’s a testament to Felt’s FAST (Felt Active Stay Technology) suspension system. The FAST linkage is essentially a linked single pivot design with about 20mm of flex in the seat stays.

Combined with the custom-tuned RockShox Monarch Plus Debonair shock, the Decree’s FAST suspension has great top-end sensitivity and a very progressive, bottomless feel. I know that sounds like generic marketing BS but in the case of the Decree, it’s accurate. The Decree handles chunder like a much bigger bike. It also smoothes out the rough edges better than some other 140mm and 150mm bikes I’ve ridden. Hard-edge hits felt softer than I expected and that means better traction and control.

Rear linkage of the Felt Decree with FAST (Felt Active Stay Technology) flex stay suspension system and custom-tuned RockShox Monarch Plus Debonair shock.

Rear linkage of the Felt Decree with FAST (Felt Active Stay Technology) flex stay suspension system and custom-tuned RockShox Monarch Plus Debonair shock (click to enlarge).

The FAST suspension worked great pedaling, too. Part of our test circuit was a ridiculously steep, worn cobbled road where it was a challenge just to keep moving, let alone keep the rear wheel from spinning. Very low compression at the top of the shock stroke working with the flexible seatstays helps neutralize pedal forces, allowing the suspension to respond quickly and keep the rear wheel glued to the ground. There were some wet cobble sections where I had trouble with traction. But I think any bike would have spun in those conditions. Overall, I was really impressed with the Decree’s climbing ability. Between the light weight, FAST suspension and super stiff carbon frame, the bike is a great all-rounder that really does pedal like an XC bike when asked.

Felt Decree

Stiffness & Weight

In the Decree launch packet, Felt said their goal was “a bike that had XC weight with descending prowess and stiffness.” Carbon fiber plays a critical part in the bike’s weight, stiffness and durability. When you look at the Decree, you can’t help but notice the distinctive checkerboard texture in Felt’s proprietary TeXtreme carbon. I used to think it was just for looks but apparently that’s not the case. Felt says most carbon fiber frames are constructed of high modulus carbon fiber for stiffness and weight savings but TeXtreme uses a blend of high modulus and low modulus fibers that for better impact resistance. This is a big deal for mountain bike frames where rock hits and crashes are part of the deal.

UHC Ultimate + TeXtreme carbon fiber on the Felt Decree FRD – yes, that checkerboard pattern is for more than just looks.

UHC Ultimate + TeXtreme carbon fiber on the Felt Decree FRD – yes, that checkerboard pattern is for more than just looks (click to enlarge).

The Decree certainly felt stiff and Felt says their internal testing shows the frame to be generally lighter and stiffer than the competition. On the trail, there was no perceivable flex when pedaling, even when standing. Downhill handling was very precise and steering is razor sharp through rocks, roots and other terrain that tends to deflect bikes. The confidence-inspiring stiffness plus progressive suspension make the Decree feel like a whole lot more than the measurements and specs suggest. I found myself riding stuff I’d normally think twice about, even on a longer travel bike.

Continue to page 3 for more of our Felt Decree First Ride Review »

About the author: John Shafer

John Shafer, a.k.a. Photo-John, is a respected photography expert and adventure photographer. He’s been an Mtbr forum member and contributor since 1999 and you can find his writing and photography across the Web, in mountain bike magazines and on his own Web site, Photo-John.net. John loves big mountains, rocky singletrack, low-visibility powder days, 6-inch trail bikes, coffee and tacos. Look for him pushing his bike uphill, carrying an inappropriate amount of camera gear in an overloaded backpack.


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  • Gregg Kato says:

    Thanks for the great write-up Photo-John! And the killer pix. One question: the flip chip adjustment…is that something one can do trail side with just an Allen wrench? Does it require removing the air from the shock?

    • John Shafer says:

      Good question, Gregg. Felt didn’t intend the Flip Chips to be used for quick trailside geometry changes and it’s best to do it at home, in your garage or shop. They’re really intended to set up the bike for your particular riding style or for a specific trail or trip. That said, I’ve been told you could make the change on the trail, if you wanted. An Allen wrench is all that’s required and you don’t need to dump air from the shock. However, the seat stays are installed in a flexed position so it may take a bit of finessing to get the bolts in and out since they are under a bit of pressure.

  • wiseone says:

    Flex stays make for difficult to impossible shock tuning as they impart their own spring forces (negative turning positive). Not to mention they will fatigue prematurely (about when your warranty is up).

    That kinked seat tube pretty much mandates a dropper as you can’t sink a traditional post very far. Also means you won’t be able to use one of the forthcoming longer droppers.

  • vincent says:

    Thanks for the great review! I’m wondering how the feel of this bike compares to something like a Yeti sb-5c, Ibis HD3, etc? Did you need to put the shock into trail mode to get good pedaling support? Would you describe it as ‘playful’ or ‘planted’? I work for a felt dealer, and have always been very impressed with their carbon fiber tech- they build some of the lightest and stiffest frames on the market. The geometry of this bike looks to be very balanced and progressive as you mentioned. So my big question on this bike is, how does this suspension design stack up against some of the dual link floating pivot designs? thanks!

  • Matt says:

    So the top of the line European model comes with Enve wheels (north american made) and the top of the line North American model comes with DT Swiss Wheels (European made)….

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