This article originally published on BikeRadar
Felt's Edict Nine LTD full-suspension 29er flagship certainly looks the part what with its curvaceous carbon fiber frame, menacing visage, and enticing parts spec that practically begs to be raced. But unfortunately, the appeal on paper doesn't translate out on the trail where we found the outdated geometry and surprisingly soft frame to be a letdown on what we otherwise expected to be a cross-country rocket ship.
Ride and handling: good rear suspension but the front end is out of sorts
"Snazzy looks but with old-school handling and a rather soft frame"
The Edict Nine LTD scores high marks for pedaling efficiency what with its reasonably well-placed single pivot, stiff carbon fiber rear triangle, and well tuned Fox Float CTD Boost Valve w/ Trail Adjust rear shock. While not as ultimately firm under power as some other bikes we've tested with slightly higher pivot placements or multiple links, pedal-induced bob is still mostly minimal – especially with a light platform engaged – and the Edict Nine LTD nevertheless scoots forward eagerly when you drop the hammer.
Add in the ultrafast-rolling Kenda 24Seven stock rubber and it's indeed impressive just how light the Edict Nine LTD feels underfoot and how quickly you gain speed, whether on the flats or heading uphill.
As we noticed on the 26" version, the rear end of the Edict Nine LTD has a bit of a two-faced personality – and thankfully, both of them are friendly. At low-to-moderate speeds, the built-in spring of the carbon fiber rear end (more on this later) lends a firm feel that contributes to its snappy feel under power. Once the speeds climb and you hit things harder and faster, though, the Edict Nine LTD suddenly seems to grow longer legs with a more linear-feeling spring rate and a surprisingly smooth ride in the rough.
Unfortunately, things quickly go sideways – somewhat literally, in fact – in terms of handling.
Geometry-wise, the Edict Nine LTD feels behind the curve with its very steep 71.5° head tube angle. On the upside, this makes relatively easy work of tight uphill switchbacks – just turn the bars and pedal with little to no additional body input required. However, that steep head tube starts to feel awfully twitchy as the surroundings get increasingly blurry.
Felt stands by the steep front end, though, saying it's the result of feedback from its sponsored riders.
"We chose our head angle from what we had learned on the applauded handling from the 29" hardtails," said mountain bike engineer Nick Ducharme. "We looked at the trail numbers and kept them in the realm of the 26"-wheeled bikes. This keeps a light and easy-to-turn front end. Instead of running a slacker, sluggish head angle, we relied on the large diameter wheels and a lower BB height to give the bike its stability."
We wish the tapered head tube was just a little bit shorter
Compounding the issue is the front triangle, which we found to be disappointingly flexy despite its oversized carbon fiber construction. Taken together, we had a consistently tough time holding our lines through even modestly bumpy terrain where we constantly found ourselves readjusting mid-corner. Piloting the Edict Nine LTD smoothly proved particularly challenging when there was good grip as the front end would first tend to dive into the turn, load up, and then unexpectedly spring back – undoubtedly when there was a misplaced tree or rock nearby. Interestingly, hitting the brakes to avert imminent disaster only makes the Edict Nine want to stand up straight, pushing it further toward the outside of the turn where you invariably don't want to be.
Unfortunately, things don't get any easier when the trail gets slippery. The hard rubber compound that gives the Kenda 24Seven tires such fantastic straight-line speed also makes them seriously sketchy when the ground is even slightly damp. Felt's choice of a narrow 680mm handlebar (L and XL sizes get marginally wider 700mm bars) doesn't provide much leverage to correct things in a pinch, either.
Felt, however, insists the Edict Nine LTD is anything but noodly.
"The frame actually tests very well compared to some big name competitors," Ducharme told Cyclingnews. "We have purchased several competitors' bikes (most notably the Specialized Epic 29 and Santa Cruz Tallboy). We made sure we tested better than anyone else in frame stiffness."
Frame: clean and effective suspension design
Felt skipped over its usual Equilink six-bar suspension on the Edict Nine LTD, opting instead for a lighter and simpler single-pivot arrangement called FAST (Felt Active Stay Technology) that omits conventional rear dropout pivots. Instead, the carbon fiber seat stays and chain stays are built with a tuned flex pattern to accommodate changes in geometry as the rear end moves through its travel.
The one-piece FAST rear end also helps explain the Edict's split personality on the trail. Felt molds the rear triangle for when it's in the sagged position – and if you remove the shock, that's exactly where it goes. At lower speeds, the added leaf spring effect lends a firmer and racier feel but it's largely canceled out in more demanding situations.
The generously proportioned front triangle is carbon fiber as well, built with Felt's top-end UHC Ultimate+Nano composite material blend and supplemental internal molds to provide more consistent tube walls, higher compaction, and sharper interior corners to decrease weight. The tapered head tube (with internal headset cups to decrease the stack height) is sized for an 1 1/8-to-1 1/2" steerer but the bottom bracket shell is threaded for standard cups – perhaps unusual these days but still arguably the best option in terms of bearing longevity and component flexibility.
Add in 120g (claimed) of titanium pivot hardware and a pair of forged aluminum links and the total actual frame weight is a respectable 2,440g (5.38lb, medium size frame with rear shock, rear derailleur hanger, seatpost collar, and water bottle bolts).
Felt dresses the Edict Nine LTD frame in a serious-looking red, black, and white paint scheme that's perhaps a bit stereotypical in terms of the color choice but well done nonetheless and we got nearly universal praise from onlookers. Unfortunately, the frame's clean lines are needlessly cluttered by the clumsy cable routing: the front derailleur is run internally, the full-length rear derailleur housing is fed through closed molded-in carbon fiber loops, and the rear brake hose is secured with zip-ties.
It works, yes, but it's disappointingly inelegant on what's otherwise a good-looking bike.
Equipment: superb XTR kit but the bars and rear hub have got to go
Try as we might, there's simply no faulting the XTR 2x10 drivetrain and hydraulic disc brakes that Felt has included on the Edict Nine LTD.
As we've noted in the past, braking power, modulation, and lever feel are superb. Felt has also made the smart move of including a 180mm front rotor for more leverage, finned brake pads to help dissipate heat, and the Trail variant of the brake levers for their adjustable pad contact.
Likewise, shift performance is outstanding with utterly dependable, fast, and smooth chain movement across the cassette and two-ring crankset – not surprisingly given Felt's admirable adherence to an all-XTR drivetrain instead of subbing in cheaper components as is often the case. Trail riders in especially mountainous terrain might miss the 22T bailout ring but otherwise, we never found ourselves lacking for gears. Shifts are so reliable up front, in fact, that it renders the Edict Nine LTD's built-in carbon fiber anti-drop plate wholly unnecessary.
The XTR hydraulic disc brakes mount to IS-style tabs out back
We also had no complaints on the Fox rear shock and fork. Though we're still a tad polarized on the simplified CTD user interface, ride quality on both the Float CTD BV w/ Trail Adjust rear shock and 32 Float 29 100 FIT CTD w/ Trail Adjust fork are superb with excellent small-bump sensitivity, a very well-controlled mid-stroke, and fantastic bottom-out control. Thankfully, Fox hasn't messed with spring rate on these shorter-travel forks, either.
Rolling stock was a mixed bag, on the other hand. The Reynolds 29er carbon fiber rims are admirably lightweight, tubeless-compatible, and notably stiffer than a comparable aluminum rim. We even inadvertently bottomed out the rear tire and slammed the rim into sharp Colorado Front Range rocks on several occasions with no damage to show for it.
However, some of that rim stiffness is squandered by the meager 24-hole drilling and whisper-thin DT Swiss Revolution spokes. Buyers will have to reseal the rims (with fresh tape, no less) before converting to tubeless since the tape ends aren't overlapped at the factory. Valve stems aren't included, either.
More troubling during testing was the rear hub, which is not only slow to engage but began popping and pinging in the telltale signs of an imminent freehub body failure almost from day one.
Finishing kit was hit or miss, too. We found the stock Prologo Nago X10 saddle to be comfortable and supportive for long days on the trail but the no-name seatpost – while perfectly functional – seems a little cheap for a bike this expensive. We can forgive the house-brand forged aluminum stem as it's actually quite sturdy but the anemic, 680mm-wide carbon fiber handlebar is a glaring oversight.
Felt at least specs a flat bar to help keep the grip height low – a constant struggle for shorter riders on full-suspension 29ers – but again, that advantage was wasted by a 20mm-tall headset cone. Felt says later production models have rectified the issue with a two-piece cone that gives riders the option of a taller or shorter setup.
We really wanted to love the Edict Nine LTD – we even swapped out the bar and tires – but ultimately just couldn't come to terms with its quirky handling and flexy front end. It may be fast in a straight line but it doesn't inspire enough confidence to really take advantage of it when things get remotely tricky.
Weight: 10.89kg (24.0lb)
Available sizes: S, M (tested), L, XL
Cyclingnews verdict: 3 stars
More information: www.feltbicycles.com