We test the trail focused Felt Decree 1!
Tester: Bradley Babel Photographer: Lachlan Ryan
Felt are out of California and started making bikes back in 1991. They are a small company that pride themselves on making bikes that focus on improving the riders' experience. Although they have a history of making and racing bikes in almost all categories apart from Downhill, I think most people will be most familiar with them from the Triathalon and Ironman events and sponsored athletes. In the mountain bike world their XC athletes are regularly seen racing at World Cups.
The Decree is their trail bike, sporting 27.5 inch wheels and 150mm/140mm travel front and back respectively. The Decree 1 is the second from the top of the line, with the range topping Decree FRD above it, and 2 models below it all with carbon frames, as well as a frame only option. All the frames apart from the range topping FRD use Felts UHC Advance Carbon Fibre. The FRD uses their UHC Ultimate and TeXtreme carbon fibre to shave weight and keep the ride quality and stiffness they are chasing. So if you liked the look of this but the budget won’t stretch to this model, by getting a cheaper model in the Decree range you are not sacrificing anything about the frame and can upgrade parts later as you wear them or can afford if you like.
Tester: Bradley Babel
Riding Experience: Racing since 1989 on everything from XC to DH and Trials.
Generally Rides: Rocky Mountain Element 999 TO, Norco Sight C1, BMC SLR01
Bike Test Track: Gap Creek, Scribbly Gums
Felt call the Decree the ‘Ultimate Trail Bike” which they say has XC like climbing ability, descending prowess and adjustability to match any athlete's ultimate ride. How do they claim to be able to do this? Well the frame is full carbon fibre including the rocker link. They focused on stiffness and handling when designing the frame. he Decree uses Felt's FAST suspension. Felt Active Stay Technology, which basically uses carbon fibre seat stays' flex to eliminate the need for a pivot in the rear triangle either on the seat or chain stays.
This sort of design is quite common in XC and light trail bikes with up to 120mm of travel but not often seen in bikes with longer travel. It allows the manufacturer to reduce the weight of the frame, help to increase stiffness and keep good pedaling efficiency. Felt have designed the stays so that when they are at 0% sag the stays are actually flexed, and then reach neutral or straight at 30% sag. The stays then flex the other way as you continue through the travel. This they say helps to provide a more progressive spring rate but also gives good small bump sensitivity around the sag point and with an increasing amount of support through the travel to resist harsh bottom outs. Felt say it also helps to provide good anti squat numbers too.
The trail bike range these days is HUGE! With many manufacturers doing a great job it’s a matter of how they have specced out the bike, what they have designed it to excel at, and what compromises they’ve made to achieve this. Of course that has to match up to what the rider is looking for, their budget, or the perceived value that the rider gets as a sum result of all of these things. Bikes like the Norco Sight, Evil Calling, Santa Cruz Bronson, Trek Remedy, and the Orbea Occam all offer great trail bikes, although an increasing number of manufacturers are heading towards the bigger 29er hoops in preference over the 27.5” wheel. So it is a very competitive segment of the MTB market.
Felt have used a full carbon frame, including the rocker, and previously mentioned F.A.S.T. suspension design, Boost axle spacing, with a pretty beefy and wide cross section tubes all around, especially up front around the head set. You can see they were serious about trying to make a stiff handling bike by the size of the tubing used. The top tube has good stand over clearance, but still quite a high effective seat tube length which may make it a little tricky sizing wise if you are short in the leg for your height like I am. With only a 125mm dropper post in the Medium and Large, at 181 cm tall I have the dropper almost all the way slammed down on this size large, even with modest reach numbers in this size.
The geometry on the Felt Decree isn’t as progressive as many new bikes, which could be a good or a bad thing depending on what you are looking for in your bike. The head angle is 66.5 degrees, and seat tube angle 73 degrees, with a reach in the large of 436mm, and a wheel base of 1174mm. This makes for a capable bike, but nowhere near the numbers of bikes from brands like Transition and the like. I found the seating position pretty good, but the front end could get a little light on steep climbs, needing me to lean into it some more to keep it planted and going where I wanted it too. The chain stays are nice and short at only 428mm, and keep it nice and easy to lift the front end when needed and snappy on tight stuff. It doesn’t feel too big or long , but may lack that high speed stability and confident handling on the steep and high speed descents as a result compared to bikes that are longer and slacker.
There is a flip chip located in the Felt Decree seat stay pivot that alters the head angle by 1 degree, and raises the BB by 10mm, but I didn’t feel the need to play around with this feature during testing, I was happy with the handling in the standard position. The Decree has a threaded bottom bracket too, which makes for easier home maintenance without the need for specialist shop quality bearing presses which is a good touch in my opinion.
The frame has good clearance with the 2.5” Minions. I’m not sure how much wider you could go though and still have some mud clearance. The cable routing is all internal and is Di2 compatible. Felt use a pretty neat set up on the entrance to the frame, and to my liking also had the brakes routed nicely for the usual Australian set up of front right, with the rear lever on the left, the cable entered the frame on the right side.
The Decree 1 gets the full SRAM and RockShox treatment spec wise, with an Eagle XO1 full drive train, Guide brakes with 180mm front rotor and 160mm out back. I’d prefer to see 180mm front and back on a bike with a design like this. Along with the high end drive train, RockShox provide the squish factor, with Pike RC forks running the Charger 2 RC damper that gives you low speed compression damping, and rebound damping adjustment. Rather than a standard 3 position lever there are about 10 clicks of adjustment to fine tune the feel you want. Our test bike looks like it’s come with the Super Deluxe RC3 as it had the 3 position compression adjustment, rather than the 2 position of the RCT version which is listed as its spec. Felt have given the suspension a custom tune with minimal compression damping, due to the way the suspension is designed it doesn’t need a lot of damping control, and this goes to aid in the sensitivity of the platform.
In the looks department Felt keep the aesthetics subdued but still with a little flair in the paint with a nice grey with the pop coming from the red decals in a gloss finish. The frame certainly has a super wide front end of the top tube and down tube, which tends to draw my eye when I look at it. The all internal cable routing keep things looking nice and neat, and no remotes keeps the cables to a minimum. Compared to most new bikes these days the slightly higher seat tube and shorter dropper post changes the lines in the back end a little.
Setting up the Felt Decree
Set up was pretty straight forward, and with cable routing for the rear brake entering the right side of the frame I didn’t get to test out how easy routing cables was. Felt do have a cable port under the bottom of the down tube that does come out allowing easier cable routing, but it is not as big as some on the market. That same port offers the Di2 battery mount also. The frame came well-greased everywhere you needed and friction paste in the seat tube, so again good attention to detail on the little things.
One of the only niggles in set up was the bars the Decree comes with do not have any centre marks to help line up the bars when adjusting, so I had to get the tape measure out and check each side and adjust as needed.
I was pretty impressed with the contact points, the grips are a wafer style grip which I find give great comfort and I but have been quite happy with the comfort and stability when seated and climbing with the WTB saddle.
For the suspension I set the pressures quite a bit lower than I would usually run to get the sag levels I was after. I ended up setting up at 25% sag in the rear, and about 23% sag in the front. I was getting full travel on the big hits, but it never felt harsh when bottoming out. The Decree felt good through G-outs, resisting diving through the travel and without getting squirmy.
On The Trail
Overall the handling felt pretty responsive. The set up on the bike felt comfortable and in control pretty much on most things except the quite steep climbs, when the front end got a little light, and the steep downs when that slightly shorter wheel base didn’t quite have the same stability. The suspension platform was impressive. It had plenty of pop when you wanted to pick it up and was supple off the sag point, moving easily due to the lower pressures and damping tune, but ramping nicely deeper into the travel without feeling harsh and giving me plenty of grip through the turns. That nice wide tubing of the frame certainly felt like they were keeping things stiff and tracking online.
Most bikes in this market segment won’t feel like a magic carpet ride over all bumps you’ll encounter, they just don’t have enough travel to do that, so they do give a little more feedback, but this is something I rather like about trail bikes. = They need to keep things comfortable and in control over that small to medium shudder bumps but will still let you know when you are pushing hard as things get a little rowdier, daring you to push a little harder if you are up to it.
The Race Face Aeffect R wheels paired with the Maxxis Minions DHF front and rear definitely helped on the handling front, giving you oodles of predictable grip. The Aeffect R (R is for Rally) have a 30mm internal width, which matches very well with the 2.5” WT Minions. I did feel that the hubs on this bike could have done with a bit quicker engagement on the trail. The Race Face Turbine wheel set still have an alloy rim not carbon, but have a higher engagement better quality rear hub, and would have been a nice spec on the Decree 1.
With the short chain stays, slightly shorter wheelbase and the 27.5” wheels this bike loves the tight stuff. It pedals very well thanks to the rocker link 4 bar style design but with Felt’s FAST setup in the stays. It encourages you to play and hop around to get the most speed from the trail. But when the descents get quite steep, the Felt Decree just isn’t quite as stable and the steep ups require a little more input from the rider to keep the front wheel down and steering the bike where you want it to go. I think having 180mm rotors front and rear would help on the longer downhills to manage the heat and help with a bit more power, with the Guides performing well, but not really having massive stopping bight compared to other brakes in this style. The smaller wheels do need more rider input to keep the Felt Decree rolling fast over mellower terrain, and this suits riders who like to throw their bike around. But those wanting to steamroll things, maybe bigger hoops might be on the agenda for the next frame update.
Felt promise a ”berm crushing, root jumping good time” and I think they deliver on that with a playful fun platform, and a stiff and responsive frame. They also state its race ready to get you on the podium at your next Enduro, and next to more modern Enduro sleds it just doesn’t carry the speed or have quite the same rock garden crushing ability as some these days.
Next to a lot of the competition that are going to bigger wheels and some having some pretty stretched numbers in regards to geometry, the Felt Decree 1 is sticking to a fun and nimble platform, and while that may require more input from the rider to go fast, it will reward the rider with an agile and playful ride that won’t resist laying it over into turns, and getting back up to speed quickly right out of them.
With a super solid build on the Felt Decree 1, there were very little concerns about performance and durability on this bike. I would be interested to see how the Aeffect wheels would go under someone a little heavier and rougher than myself.
The Felt Decree 1 has a solid frame build and a good spec. Felt have matched playful geometry and 27.5” wheels with a well-designed suspension platform. That same playful geometry might be seen as a little old school by some, and I think the responsive bike could really benefit with a rear hub with less lag. If you're after a bike that descends well and flicks between corners, but doesn't give anything up in pedaling efficiency, then you'd love the Felt Decree 1.
If you love big, fast high speed descents in truly big mountains, then maybe the Decree isn't for you. It's a good value bike, I'd probably prefer a GX Eagle spec in exchange for some higher quality wheels and stronger brakes, but that's just based on my preferences. As it is, the Felt Decree 1 is ready to shred and light up the tight and technical trails.
Model Decree 1
Available Sizes 16”, 18”, 20” (tested), 22”
Frame Material UHC Advance Carbon Fiber
Fork RockShox Pike RC Debonair, Charger 2, Boost, 150 mm
Shock RockShox Super Delux RCT, Debonair with custom tune 205x 62.5mm Trunnion, 140mm
Shifter SRAM XO1 Eagle 12sp
Derailleur SRAM XO1 Eagle 12sp
Crank SRAM XO1 Carbon ,Eagle 34T
Bottom bracket SRAM GXP, BSA Threaded 73mm
Chain SRAM XO1 Eagle 12sp
Cassette SRAM XG1295 12sp 10-50t
Hubs Race Face Trace, 9 degree engagement
Spokes Straight Pull Double Butted
Rims Race Face Aeffect R 27.5” 30mm internal
Tyres Maxxis Minion DHF 3C/EXO/TR, 27.5” x 2.5 WT
Brakes SRAM Guide RSC with 180/160mm
Stem Devox 7 Degree 31.8mm
Handlebars Devox Carbon 31.8mm, 15mm rise, 9 deg sweep, 780mm
Seatpost RockShox Reverb Stealth 30.9mm
Saddle WTB Volt Race Cr-mo Rails