The Nine 3 shares its modular monocoque carbon frame with the top of the range Nine 1. As the frame’s the very heart of any bike, it’s always a great place to begin when looking for quality in a ride.
Ride & handling: Heavy but trail tough
The Felt Nine 3 feels Tonka toy tough and it’s a friend on trails you don’t know, feeling stout and secure beneath your feet. It’s not a bruiser, though – the extra weight is component-borne rather than from meat in the frame.
This chassis is a race weight, fine-tuned item, but one with an element of finesse, especially in the rear end, which was relatively very comfortable. The 71.5-degree front end places a bit more weight over the bar than we’d like, but this is a hangover from Felt’s desire to make this a serious race bike, which it is.
In stock form you don’t want to be stopping and starting it – the 12kg (26lb) weight tells – but once rolling it holds speed very well. Wise upgrading will reveal the lithe blaster that’s lurking under the decals.
It’s a fast steering bike that will please riders who like pinpoint slow-speed precision.
Felt nine 3: Future Publishing
Frame & equipment: Solid SRAM shifting and a comfy rear end
Felt have gone for the benchmark tapered head tube for a more stable front end when the action hots up. The headstock is beefy – in fact, it makes the very large down tube, with all its flex-resisting strength seem normal size. That steeply sloping top tube is narrower, but still a stout old thing in relation to the skinnier seatstays.
Seatstays are the de facto place for engineering in some bum-cosseting vertical compliance, and there’s a power delivery upside to such flex. You can stay relaxed in the saddle, and on the gas, when you might otherwise be hovering tensely. That ability’s enhanced here by Felt’s decision to go with a flexiest size of seatpost, the now unfashionably (because dropper posts rarely fit) skinny 27.2mm.
Componentry is a mix of mid-field, reassuringly solid X9 and X7 SRAM running gear with a non-series S-1000 2×10 alloy compact crank. The fork is a 100mm travel QR1-axle Recon Gold with leg top lockout, the next model down in the RockShox pecking order.
One issue that really should be fixed is the rear brake hose routing. As it passes the headstock it’s loopy, ugly and prone to waving in the wind. We also suggest losing the conical Aheadset bearing cap as it adds 2cm of height to the front end, and lowering the stem by removing spacers.
The Nine 3 is a workhorse that performs well in stock form, and a bit of wise component upgrading will, over time, leave you with a real weapon.
This article was originally published in What Mountain Bike magazine, available on Apple Newsstand and Zinio.