The Felt Nine Sport is a 29er – that's to say it's one of the growing number of mountain bikes with 29in wheels rather than standard 26in ones. Like any new development, 29ers have their supporters and their critics — see our article The Truth Behind 29ers for more on this — but the bigger wheels definitely offer some major advantages for beginners. They roll over uneven terrain more easily and offer confidence-boosting stability, for starters.
The Felt may not offer the most impressive spec on paper — it's one of the few bikes in this group with old-fashioned square-taper cranks, for example — but the complete package won us over with its surprisingly capable and entertaining mix of great handling, a properly adjustable and well controlled fork, competent hydraulic disc brakes with a 180mm front rotor, and fantastic tires that were fast rolling yet very grippy, with predictable breakaway characteristics.
Overall weight is decidedly middle-of-the-road, but like all good bikes, it feels lighter than it is on the trail. Also, while there are a few disappointments spec-wise, Felt's product managers have wisely put their money where it'll make more of an impact in the real world. One caveat: we did break the rebound damper on the fork during an admittedly sloppy run through a high-speed rock garden. So why did the Felt still win? We'd rather have a good-performing fork that might need to be repaired if pushed hard (hopefully under warranty) than one that doesn't work well even when at its best.
- Standout features: Best complete 29in-wheeled package on test
- Pros: Fork performance (before it broke); joint best tires on test (WTB Prowler 29, a tie with the Scott’s Schwalbe Rocket Rons); Tektro Draco brakes
- Cons: We broke the fork; soft crank materials may not hold up well over time
- Weight 13.97kg/30.29lb (without pedals). Wheelset: 5.12kg/11.29lb (complete w/ tires, tubes, cassette, skewers)