The Decree fills the 140mm, 650b-wheeled gap in Felt's mountain bike line-up. With a five bike range and price points ranging from £2,250 / $3,499 to £7,999 / $9,999 (Australian pricing was TBC at time of writing) it does so for a lot of different budgets. Two major features stand out when it comes to the Decree – its unusual suspension system and its low, low weight.
At a glance, the Decree has a similar look to many competitors in this segment – but take a closer look and you’ll notice the seatstay doesn’t have a pivot where most bikes with a similar suspension design would do. That’s because the Decree doesn’t use the Equilink suspension system Felt uses on its longer-travel bikes. Instead it pulls out a classy acronym: FAST, or Felt Active Stay Technology, and a design that it already uses successfully on its excellent Edict 29er.
Where's the pivot gone?
So, doing away with a pivot that Felt knows works perfectly well… what's going on there? Felt says that dropping the pivot saves on weight, allows for an increase in stiffness and provides for unique suspension characteristics that benefit the rider.
There’s definitely truth in that too, with an impressive claimed frame and shock weight of only 2,100g and even the cheapest complete build Decrees supposedly tipping Felt’s scales at under 30lbs / 13.6kg – very strong numbers.
The Decree we tested was the full on remortgage-spec £7,999 / $9,999 FRD model (Felt Racing Development, if you were wondering). Aside from the glamorous parts list, the Frame also gets Felt’s Tex carbon finish, which, along with its chessboard appearance, is supposed to make for a higher strength-to-weight ratio over the carbon used on the cheaper frames. According to Felt’s own scales, the Decree FRD totals a floaty 24.63lbs (11.17kg).
Let’s talk about suspension again, because for this suspension design to work properly the frame has to take on the job of the absent seatstay pivot – and this is where things get interesting.
Those carbon seatstays will load as they bend, themselves acting as a spring, and that means that in order for the suspension to reach full extension or full compression the frame’s rear triangle has to compress. Felt says that in the shock’s sag position (it states 30%) the rear triangle will be neutral.
According to Felt, this extra spring effect adds to the Decree’s suspension performance and makes for a bike with improved small bump performance, pedalling characteristics and bottom out resistance.
First ride impressions: in a cutthroat marketplace, is it enough?
How did the claims hold out on our test ride? Well, the Decree does pedal well, and the Monarch Debonair shock required very little force to access the smooth travel on offer.
I found that when the bike was unweighted it would get sucked down into its travel by a few millimetres and, as much as that wasn’t giving any abnormalities on our ride, I have to question whether the bike is using all of its available suspension travel effectively.
With sag set correctly for my 78kg weight I found myself running the rebound damping one click from its full open setting, and for riders who prefer a faster setting, and indeed those who are just lighter, it simply wouldn’t have been fast enough.
The XL size frame that I tested pairs a lengthy front centre (772mm) to a relatively compact chainstay (431mm). It wasn’t hard to familiarise myself with the fit but during climbing I found the front end of the bike was too eager to lift. Combined with the relaxed 73.2 degree seat angle, I found my weight was placed pretty much straight over the rear axle – which is neither efficient nor comfortable.
The Decree we tested was the range topping £7,999 FRD (Felt Racing Development) model
Sliding the saddle all the way forward on its rails went a long way to fix climbing manners, however. For my size at least, I’d have preferred a steeper seat angle. For a bike that is so light the Decree is impressively stable on the descents and doesn’t take on the nervous characteristics of some bikes of a similar weight. Few people will be disappointed by the 150mm Pike RCT3 Dual Position air fork up front but adding bottomless tokens will be a must for more aggressive riders.
The 70mm stem that graces the front end of large and extra large sizes represents quite dated thinking, and is the first thing I’d have altered. I think that anyone who’s already familiar with a bar wider than the 720mm Easton Haven will likely find themselves pining for more width too.
The rest of the bike consisted of spendy parts that we're already familiar with including SRAM’s excellent XX1 drivetrain and Guide Ultimate brakes. The supplied Enve 60 Forty carbon wheelset complete with Chris King hubs provided a stiff (and pretty damn spangly) tubeless platform for the Schwalbe Nobby Nic tyres to work around.
The Decree is a worthwhile addition to the Felt mountain bike line-up and offers an entertaining and capable ride. Its weight should make it ideal for long-distance ventures but – in this spendy spec at least – it doesn’t bring anything fresh to the packed world of 140mm trail bikes.
We’d like to try a cheaper Decree, particularly as the less costly models still come in at impressive claimed weights and are going to appeal to more riders.