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.
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.
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.
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.
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.