This article originally published on BikeRadar
Felt's Nine 29er carbon hardtail hasn't changed much since its introduction back in 2008 but the 2013 version looks to be worth the wait with huge leaps forward in performance. It's slightly lighter but that's not the big story – claimed stiffness figures jump by up to 50 percent and the geometry is a further refinement over what was already a winning formula.
The new Nine carbon frame follows in the footsteps of Felt's road-going F series with more smoothly flowing lines, straighter tube and fiber paths, fewer radical kinks and flat surfaces that previously served as unintended flex points, and the same InsideOut internal and external molding process that yields more precise internal shapes and less wasted material. It's a quieter design visually for sure but if our experience on the current F-series is any indicator, what it loses in flair it should gain enormously in performance on the trail.
One key element to the carbon Nine's new design is the seat cluster, which trades the previous version's wishbone-style seat stays to a new twin stay setup with a more bulbous joint. According to Felt research and development director Jeff Soucek, the new design effectively allows the seat tube to 'float' in the seat cluster for more comfort while the more organic lines – plus a vertical rib running inside the aft section of the top tube – lend far more full-frame torsional stiffness than before for better handling and an overall snappier feel.
Felt will also bring the new Nine up to date with the ancillary features, which now include a tapered head tube, fully lined and guided internal routing for the front and rear derailleurs, hollow tubular-style carbon fiber dropouts (with replaceable hangers for standard or Shimano's new Direct Mount fitment), a slimmed-down 27.2mm seatpost diameter to further soften the ride, and new InForce woven carbon fiber 'shields' built into the down tube, top tube, and chain stays to provide impact resistance without the need for thick and heavy plastic guards.
The bottom bracket area is thoroughly puffed up from before and, in fact, it's big enough to easily accommodate a BB30 shell. However, Felt has decided to stick with a conventionally threaded aluminum two-piece overlapping insert for more precise bearing alignment, better crank compatibility (not to mention the option of BB-mounted XC-style chain guides), and reduced creaking. Aluminum is also used in the bearing seats for the integrated headset and the IS-style rear brake caliper mounts.
Geometry has been updated with 100mm-travel forks, chain stays that have shortened by 5mm courtesy of a subtly kinked seat tube, head tube angles slackened half a degree to 71° (while retaining the same trail thanks to new fork offsets), and shorter head tube lengths as little as 90mm in the smallest sizes to retain aggressive cockpit positioning. Speaking of which, the size range grows by two with the total spread now running from 14 inches all the way up to 22 inches.
Frame sizes from 14 to 22 inches
Despite the continued use of aluminum, claimed frame weight for the new Nine FRD flagship is a paltry 900g for a medium size – 150g than last year's LTD – thanks to a new partnership with Swedish Formula 1 carbon fiber supplier oXeon. According to Soucek, oXeon's TeXtreme fabric uses woven fiber plies that are thinner than the norm by as much as half, thus allowing less material for the same stiffness or – as Felt has chosen to do – a greater number of plies in select areas to more finely hone the ride quality and boost stiffness while still maintaining thin and lively tube walls plus the inherent impact resistance of a woven cloth.
Moreover, TeXtreme supposedly conforms better to complex curves for less fiber wrinkling.
Retail pricing on the Nine FRD is quite high at US$2,850 for the bare frame. However, the clever thing about Felt's new frame design is that the benefits are inherent to the new shape instead of exotic materials or ultra-expensive construction techniques. Therefore, Soucek claims the stiffness and ride quality gains trickle down to the more reasonable price points, too. According to Felt, the mid-range Nine carbon variant weighs only 100g more than the FRD but is roughly half the cost at US$1,499 while the entry-level version is still just 1,120g for the frame and costs only US$2,700 for a complete bike built with a SRAM X7/X9 2x10 drivetrain.
New alloy Nine frames
Felt has completely revamped its Nine carbon and aluminum hardtails for 2013
Alloy Nine frames are completely redesigned for 2013 in a similar fashion to the carbon chassis, with smoother and more puffed-up shapes plus more flowing lines that supposedly distribute stresses across a larger area than before for improved stiffness and ride quality. The new frames – used on complete bikes down to US$1,000 – also get tapered head tubes, bridgeless twin seat stays, and a two-piece forged chain stay yoke that provides extra tire clearance.
Geometry is also updated on these bikes although Felt has decided to steer the alloy Nines towards a slightly more hard-hitting crowd. Travel is again bumped up to 100mm but the head tube angle is yet another half-degree slacker and the head tube is about 5mm longer than the carbon bikes, too.
New carbon Compulsion, Edict goes 29er, plus tweaks to other models
The current 150-160mm-travel Compulsion was introduced in Europe last year as an all-alloy model but 2013 will bring two higher-end versions with carbon fiber front triangles that will now be offered in the US, too. The rear ends will stick with TIG-welded aluminum construction but gets upgraded to triple butted material for reduced weight.
Suspension travel comes courtesy of Felt's long-running Equilink six-pivot linkage system, which is somewhat similar to a standard short dual link setup with the exception of an additional CNC-machined aluminum strut that ties the upper and lower links together to help tune the anti-squat characteristics. The top-end frame will get titanium hardware across the board to supplement the mix of full-complement bearings and DU bushings.
Additional features include an AngleSet-compatible semi-integrated tapered head tube, a 142x12mm thru-axle rear end, and a wealth of routing options that include Truvativ HammerSchmidt and dropper post compatibility.
Pricing for the Compulsion runs from US$6,199 for the top carbon model with Shimano Deore XT and Fox's latest 34 fork with aluminum models starting at US$2,899.
Felt's new Edict 29er 100mm-travel cross-country full-suspension bikes were already previewed at Sea Otter – and we already have one on hand for an upcoming review – but one new detail is how truncated the 26" version has become. Whereas Felt previously offered a broad range of 26"-wheeled Edicts, Felt now only lists a bare Edict Six LTD frame option at US$3,099.
Carbon Virtue 26"-wheeled trail bikes carry on for 2013 but now get carbon rear ends instead of the previous alloy ones.
All of the new bikes are either available now or will be in stock at dealers within a month or so.