Six-Month Review: Felt Decree 1
Felt’s newest trail machine makes a strong argument that one bike really can do it all
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On one hand, the Felt Decree 1 can be seen as just another great trail machine in a sea of very good bikes. But it also exemplifies the trend toward longer-travel, more capable rides that’s taking place across the industry. As carbon manufacturing has improved and parts get lighter and stronger, bikes like the Decree are getting more travel without gaining weight. Our tester weighed just 25.5 pounds (size medium), which isn’t much more than some cross-country bikes, but the suspension (140mm rear/150mm fork) is all-mountain capable. The company even bandies about the word “enduro” in some of the bike’s marketing, though that feels like a stretch.
Given that Felt has recently concentrated its efforts—and successes—on the road and tri markets, this bike is also noteworthy as arguably Felt’s best mountain outing in quite a long time. One tester, an industry vet and bike shop owner, went so far as to say that it is the best mountain bike from the company that he’d ever ridden.
The Good: An overall snappy and efficient feel courtesy of the 27.5 wheels, tight rear end, and relatively slack geometry. The spec is high quality without veering into stratospheric pricing, including the X01 1×11 drivetrain. And it might be the best-looking mountain bike that Felt has produced.
The Bad: The pivot-less suspension design works well but makes for a stiff ride, which is great for pedaling but firmer than some testers liked for going down. The internal routings leave the cables to jangle noisily. The RockShox Pike had some seizing issues, though that was probably a one-off problem given this fork’s excellent durability record.
The Verdict: This 140-millimeter carbon trail whip is simultaneously light enough to keep pace with race machines and burly enough to tackle pretty much all obstacles. And whereas in the past Felt’s bikes were unjustifiably expensive relative to the competition, this top-end model represents solid value. It was one of the favorite 27.5-wheeled bikes in the test and, according to several testers, the best mountain bike that Felt has produced in years.
- Weight: 25.5 pounds (size medium)
- Drivetrain: SRAM X01
- Price: $6,000
Capitalizing on carbon fiber know-how from its road-bike department, Felt crafted a full carbon frame that is snappy, strong, light, and incredibly laterally stiff. Credit for that goes to the oversize tubing and squared-off shaping, which makes for a very solid-feeling frame that avoids the tinny, delicate feel of some other manufacturers’ lightweight bikes. The frame is Di2 compatible, if such things matter to you, and there’s also a thick, adhesive vinyl clear coat on the bottom of the down tube to protect against rocks.
The suspension design is unique, as it relies on flex in the seat stays for its travel instead of a pivot at the back of the rear triangle. It’s a design that’s more commonly used in shorter-travel, XC-oriented bikes, which explains why the Decree has a fairly firm feel and excellent climbing characteristics. The increased oil volume and dual compression circuits of the RockShox Monarch Plus RC3 Debonair clearly helped to mitigate said harshness and kept the suspension active and supple on long, treacherous, rocky descents.
It’s a good-looking bike, too, at least from an overall form perspective, with a nicely unified structure from front to back and minimal swing arm and pivots that are tucked away. The full internal cable routings help preserve the clean aesthetics, with slick-looking rubber grommets at the ports to hold the cables in place. (Unfortunately, they still slap and rattle inside the frame.) And despite Felt’s characteristic checkerboard weave pattern on the top coat, the Decree is not at all a flashy bike—a bit more effort on the graphics and colors would probably help sell more models.
As is basically now the norm on high-end bikes, the Decree gets a 1×11 drivetrain (hardworking SRAM X01 in this case), but I appreciate that Felt built the frame to accommodate a front derailleur should you choose to switch. As noted, our RockShox Pike had some tuning issues, but this meaty model is definitely the right fork for this bike and, given how many of them we’ve seen without problems over the years, I’m willing to chalk it up to a little bad luck.
Other parts of note: SRAM Guide RSC brakes (which continued to impress this year and prove almost as durable as Shimano’s benchmark XT stoppers); house-brand carbon bars (though we’d have preferred 780mm width to the 760mm stocked); a RockShox Reverb post (one of only a few in the test that never broke); and alloy DT Swss M1800 wheels (the best part of which are the sturdy, 350 hubs). In short, these are all good, but not premium components, meaning you get stuff that will stay true and keep working for a long time, minus the sticker shock of the top-shelf.
With a 66.5-degree head angle, relatively short chain stays (430mm), and the snappy suspension design, the Decree felt quick, playful, and downright explosive. It felt far more efficient climbing than it had any right to given those numbers and just how much travel it delivers. But honestly, it skipped up steep bits and tech with such ease that several testers started referring to the Decree as “the long-travel XC bike.” It’s a bike that feels fast and makes you want to pedal harder to go even faster.
I really hate the generalization that 27.5ers are quick and nimble (the implication being that 29ers are not), but in this case, it’s true. If the Decree is fast uphill, it’s blinding down, with both-wheels-off-the-ground speeding common, thanks to the bike’s light weight. I always felt I was carrying plenty of momentum to pop off rocks and logs, kick out the rear end, and generally play with the ride. The suspension definitely has a hard edge, but it also never felt overwhelmed or outgunned, probably thanks to the piggyback shock. And while it’s true that the Decree is probably able to handle most enduro-style courses, I would personally want a bigger, plusher machine if such racing was my predominant style.
We tested several comparable bikes to the Decree this year, including the excellent Devinci Troy Carbon RR and the Intense Spyder 275C. Both of those bikes ride a little softer and more aggressively than the Felt. The Devinci, in particular, would be an excellent choice for some looking for a trail bike that leans a little harder into the enduro realm. And it represents just as good of a value as the Decree—and better than the Intense.
On the other hand, the Decree is a great all-arounder for those who favor stiffer suspension feel and super pedaling efficiency. It is, as our testers said, “a long-travel XC racer.” It was popular among women, as the shorter cockpit and good stand-over clearance favored smaller riders. Finally, it’s also worth noting that the Decree 3, which mates the exact same frame to slightly lower grade—but still excellent—components, is also an excellent choice and much more approachable at $4,000. It’s better looking, too.
Truth is, I don’t really love the mid-travel 27.5 category, preferring instead that my little wheels come paired with more suspension. But the Decree (as well as the Devinci Troy) won me over this year—along with lots of testers. It’s a bike that’s so adept in virtually every terrain that you could easily own it as your one and only mountain bike and never feel like you didn’t have the right machine for the task. The one-bike quiver might be a cliché, but it’s hard to argue that this ripping trail bike fits the bill.