By James Huang in Boulder City, Nevada
The carbon hardtail lives
For whatever reason, carbon hardtails seem to be making a comeback and Felt throw its hat into the ring with the new Six Team. Based on the Nine Carbon introduced at last year's show, this new 26" version shares many of its features but delves even further into the full-on race bike category.
The frame uses Felt's Ultra High Modulus carbon fiber blend and one-piece seat stay and chain stay assemblies along with beefy head tube and bottom bracket areas for precise handling and drivetrain rigidity. Claimed frame weight for complete bikes is just 1200g while the higher-end frame-only configuration is said to knock off another 150g. Complete top-end bikes reportedly weigh less than 9.5kg (21lb).
The frame tube profiles scream ‘fast and rigid' to us and the parts spec similarly makes no illusions as to the bike's intentions. The RockShox SID fork is set to just 80mm of travel, the carbon handlebar is both flat and narrow, and the Sun Ringle Black Flag wheelset certainly strikes us as better suited to flying uphill than bombing rock-strewn scree fields.
The new Six Team might not be a versatile trail bike but if racing is your gig, this might be a good tool for the job.
Substantial changes to Virtue and Compulsion platforms
Speaking of trail bikes, the 130mm-travel Virtue and 150mm-travel Compulsion platforms both get major updates for '09. Stiffer front triangles improve handling precision, especially in rougher conditions, while a more compact Equilink suspension layout with beefier linkages offers similar benefits out back. Slacker head tube angles all around make for a more stable feel, too.
Both also get semi-interrupted seat tubes similar to that used on the burlier Redemption which allows the use of a more conventional high-clamp front derailleur (last year's bikes used E-type mounts).
Last but certainly not least, suspension pivot hardware has been completely redesigned meaning you can stop carrying that bottle of Loctite in your hydration pack. The new pivots now use through-bolts at all points and tweaks to the alloy dust caps have supposedly eliminated loosening under hard use.
All of these changes should make the Virtue and Redemption more capable but interestingly, it also moves the former away from the pseudo-race category and further into trail bike territory, thus leaving a notable gap in the line. Never fear though, as Felt reportedly has a short-travel Equilink bike in the works that will be specifically aimed at racing. Select teams and riders will apparently have access to it for '09 but production versions won't be offered until 2010. Sit tight.