A 140mm 27.5 carbon trail bike with adjustable geometry.

The new Decree is a 140mm 27.5 carbon trail bike with adjustable geometry (click to enlarge).​

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.

The author, Photo-John, getting a good taste of Garda rocks, on the new Felt Decree. Photo courtesy of Johan Hjord

Photo-John getting a good taste of Garda rocks on the new Felt Decree (click to enlarge). Photo courtesy of Johan Hjord​

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.

[IMG alt="The "Flip Chips," located on the inside of the Decree's seat stay links, allow riders to switch the bike's geometry between "low and slack" and "steep and high." All that's needed to make the switch is a hex wrench. However, Felt recommends doing it with the bike on a stand because a bit of pressure is required to flex the seat stays to remove and install the shock bolt."]https://reviews.mtbr.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/Felt-Decree-08.jpg[/IMG]

The "Flip Chips," located on the inside of the Decree's seat stay links, allow riders to switch the bike's geometry between "low and slack" and "steep and high." All that's needed to make the switch is a hex wrench. However, Felt recommends doing it with the bike on a stand because a bit of pressure is required to flex the seat stays to remove and install the shock bolt (click to enlarge).​

Geometry

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.

Continue to page 2 for more of our Felt Decree First Ride Review »



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.

[IMG alt="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."]https://reviews.mtbr.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/Felt-Decree-10.jpg[/IMG]

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 »



The super stiff TeXtreme carbon frame helps keep the Felt Decree composed and moving forward, no matter what the terrain. Photo courtesy of Johan Hjord

The super stiff TeXtreme carbon frame helps keep the Felt Decree composed and moving forward, no matter what the terrain (click to enlarge). Photo courtesy of Johan Hjord​

The top-of-the-line European spec Decree FRD (Felt Racing Development) provided to journalists at the launch weighed just under 26 pounds with pedals and ENVE M60 carbon wheels. However, the North American-spec FRD bike will have lighter DT Swiss carbon wheels for a complete weight of just 24.06 pounds (sans pedals). That's a real world weight, too. Product manager Rob Pauley made a point of telling us that listed weights come from real bikes he weighs himself after they're photographed.

Felt uses different versions of their carbon fiber to hit different weight goals and price points. The FRD model is constructed from UHC Ultimate + TeXtreme, their lightest carbon fiber. The next step down, the Decree 1, uses UHC Advanced + TeXtreme carbon, which Felt says has the same stiffness but weighs a bit more. It's still super light, though - the complete Decree 1 (North American spec) weighs just 25.57 pounds and costs $3500 less than the $10,000 FRD.

Riding Tremalzo Pass with fresh snow. Riders: Collin and Judith McMahon.

Riding Tremalzo Pass with fresh snow. Riders: Collin and Judith McMahon (click to enlarge).​

Bottom Line

I was really impressed with the Felt Decree. Because there's so much travel time involved and I don't get to go to Europe very often, I stayed in Italy for a couple of extra days. That meant I got more time on the bike - possible more than anyone besides Felt employees. I spent two days riding it on the test trails Felt set up for us, in both wet and semi-wet conditions (there was no dry riding on this trip).

I also rode the classic Tremalzo Pass shuttle ride with a friend from Germany. That was a very interesting adventure, with a lot more variety than the trails in Torbole offered. We started at an altitude of 5500 feet in fresh snow and descended all the way to Riva del Garda, on the lake, at about 250 feet. The trail varied widely, from rocky World War I military roads to leafy singletrack, to steep rocky creek beds I later found out were ancient mule trails. My point is - I got to experience the Decree on almost anything you can think of. Everything but the "normal" flowy Western US trails I'm used to, anyway.

A classic view of Lago di Garda from the mid-point of the Tremalzo Pass descent. Riders: Collin and Judith McMahon.

A classic view of Lago di Garda from the mid-point of the Tremalzo Pass descent. Riders: Collin and Judith McMahon (click to enlarge).​

Feel free to take my first impressions on the Felt Decree with a grain of salt. I'll be the first to admit I'm probably still basking in the post Italy trip / new bike glow. And it's really hard to find much fault with any top-of-the-line $10,000 carbon fiber trail bike. My preference for a follow-up, long term test would be the $6500 Decree 1 as I think it's a more realistic bike (yes, I agree that's still a lot of money) for regular working folks. Regardless, I really enjoyed the bike and was genuinely surprised at how well it performed on Garda's sketchy trails.

The Felt Decree trail bike on Tremalzo Pass, high above Lago di Garda.

The Felt Decree trail bike on Tremalzo Pass, high above Lago di Garda (click to enlarge).​

For more information visit www.feltbicycles.com.