While Felt is still focused mainly on triathlon and road bikes, its hiring of old-school DH legend Scott Sharples has added some genuine gravity to its off-road family. That’s clearest on the thoroughly overhauled Compulsion, which now matches 160mm (6.3in) of travel with 650b wheels and – equally importantly – slacker angles and a longer reach than its previous uptight incarnations.
Frame and equipment: the long and short of it
The trend for shorter and shorter stems means reach is becoming increasingly important, and the Felt is OK for the supplied 70mm stem. The medium frame is a lot shorter than the large we tested though, so if you’re after a long bike be prepared to straddle the tall top tube of a bigger size.
While carbon mainframes are becoming common once you get above this price point, the Compulsion gets a full-alloy chassis. But at well under 2.7kg (6lb), it’s lighter than several comparable composite frames. The bottom bracket is a durable threaded external unit and the cables and hoses are all routed externally for easy access. The lack of ISCG chain guide mounts is an oversight on an enduro bike though.
Twin top and bottom linkages are a common way to join a fixed swingarm to a mainframe, but Felt is unique in adding a rear pivot to cope with the differing leverage rates. Its forged figure-of-eight dropout design puts the pivot knuckle about 4cm above the 142x12mm rear axle so that it clears the post-mount brake. They also tie the two linkages together with a solid ‘Equilink’ strut, which is a real ride definer – as we’ll see later.
When it comes to easy setup and standout control, nothing beats RockShox’s Pike RCT3 and Monarch Plus RC3 double act. The long-stroke shock keeps leverage ratios manageable and Felt has stuck with a conventional air can rather than a larger-volume DebonAir sleeve.
SRAM provides the 11-speed X01 gears and top-of-the-range Guide RSC brakes too, though initial power leverage comes from a single-ring Race Face Turbine crankset. The externally routed KS LEV is a slightly odd choice given that the frame is ported for ‘stealth’ droppers. Cockpit kit is Felt’s own-brand gear, including a 760mm carbon bar.
Novatec’s bombproof hubs provide the axis for the new KOM version of WTB’s i23 rims, which, it's claimed, offer the same ‘carbon competitive performance at alloy price’ benefits as the frame. A Schwalbe Hans Dampf adds all-weather steering grip up front, while a semi-slick Rock Razor speeds up back end business.
Ride and handling: takes on the ups and the downs
With its carbon-style weight and fast rear end the Compulsion is naturally responsive to propulsion, but its suspension is tailored towards pedalling and climbing too. By tying the two linkages together and preventing them being splayed apart by pedal torque, the Equilink subtly stiffens the suspension to keep the already short rear end tucked in.
While a slightly modified Equilink relationship means the 2015 bike isn’t as aggressively pedal-reactive as previous versions, it still pulls forward and down into any undulation for outstanding climbing grip. The high BB means excellent pedal clearance too, so you can keep on torquing up technical slopes where you’d be pushing most of its long-travel peers. It singletracks really well too, with a consistently tight rather than wallowy feel from the RockShox suspension. There’s none of the excess rebound bounce of Felt’s carbon flex-stay bikes either, so setup is simple.
Heading back down, the 66-degree head angle throws the wheel out a long way in front for easy self-correcting stability. It’s certainly not a super-plush, ground sucking bomber that’ll push your gravity riding to new levels, but it’s capable enough to keep descending fun. Cornering isn’t as convincing though, because the tall BB and high-riding suspension leave you feeling perched on top of the bike rather than hammocked into it. The lightweight frame is noticeably flexible too, but because it bends and twists throughout its length rather than in one particular point, this manifests itself more as a background steering and line holding softness than a specific handling issue.