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2016 Felt Decree 3 (discontinued)

Vital Rating: (Good)
2016 Felt Decree 3
2016 Felt Decree 3 2016 Felt Decree 3
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2016 Test Sessions: Felt Decree 3

Rating: Vital Review

Reviewed by Fred Robinson and AJ Barlas // Photos by Lear Miller

While Felt might be best known for their road bikes, over the past few years they’ve been hard at work further developing their mountain line. Featuring an all carbon frame with Felt Active Stay Technology (FAST) suspension, the 140mm (5.5-inch) travel Decree uses flexible seatstays in order to mimic the performance characteristics of a four-bar system, yet eliminates the need for a pivot near the rear dropout. This simplifies and reduces the overall weight of the rear triangle, yielding an ultralight frame that's still surprisingly sturdy. We were excited to throw a leg over the bike and see how it performs during the 2016 Vital MTB Test Sessions.



  • Carbon frame
  • 27.5 (650b) wheels
  • 140mm (5.5-inches) of rear wheel travel // 150mm (5.9-inches) fork travel
  • Felt Active Stay Technology (FAST) suspension
  • Tapered headtube
  • Internal cable routing
  • Adjustable geometry via flip chip
  • Removable direct front derailleur mount
  • 160mm post disc brake mount
  • 73mm threaded bottom bracket with ISCG mounts
  • 142mm rear spacing with 12mm through axle
  • Measured weight (size 20, no pedals): 27.7-pounds (12.6kg)
  • MSRP $4,499 USD

What's all this talk about flex? Isn't that a bad thing? Not necessarily. While the word may have scary connotations, the end result can actually yield a very stiff frame because flexible stay designs allow you to eliminate a pivot point. As the Decree's suspension is compressed, the FAST system works by letting the seatstays flex upwards. The flex is needed because without it (or a pivot) the system would bind and you wouldn't be able to compress the shock.


While many companies have used flexible stays on suspension bikes before, including Felt with their Virtue starting clear back in 2007, Felt's approach remains pretty unique. In contrast to many modified single pivot flexible stay designs, they chose to make it so the stays are not flexing (neutralized) at the rear suspension's sag point rather than full extension. They achieve this by molding the carbon rear triangle slightly larger than it would otherwise need to be. With the bike unweighted and shock fully extended the rear triangle is compressed, at 30% sag it's neutral, and as you continue into the travel the triangle is spread apart/extended by the rocker as shown in this diagram:


Felt says that making the neutral flex point occur at sag helps "combat unwanted suspension activity." During both shock extension and compression from the sag point, the flexible stays create forces that counteract the movement, helping the bike return to the 30% sag point and creating a more stable platform for pedaling. Felt claims it's "just enough resistance... but not so much that bump compliance is compromised."

There's more to it than just pedaling, though, as the marketing materials are quick to point out. Under big impacts the stays help resist bottoming, and at top out the stays help compress the shock and soften the initial part of travel.


Looking the full carbon rig over you'll notice a massive bottom bracket area and wide top tube, both of which add substantial stiffness to the frame. The bike comes in a few carbon varieties depending on the model, with the highest end Decree FRD sporting Felt's "UHC Ultimate + TeXtreme" carbon fiber layup with a checkerboard weave that allows them to use less resin for an even lower frame weight. The Decree 1 and 3 feature slightly heavier frames due to the use of "UHC Advanced + TeXtreme" and "UHC Performance" carbon, respectively.

Felt's interesting looking internal cable "hub" on front of the head tube is actually pretty handy, as it allows you to run the cables however you choose. This is especially nice for those running their brakes moto-style. Any unused housing ports are covered by rubber plugs, and the ports that are occupied hold the housing secure via rubber fittings in an effort to minimize cable rattle while riding. The system works well and cable slap wasn't an issue on the trail. Near the bottom bracket you'll find an exit port that doubles as a Shimano Di2 battery holder should you wish to upgrade the drivetrain in the future. The rear derailleur and rear brake route internally through the chainstays, and there are options for Stealth or top tube dropper post routing.

Other details include a locking collet axle on the main pivot, room for a water bottle in the main triangle, a standard 73mm threaded bottom bracket, ISCG tabs, and the cleanest removable front derailleur mount we've ever seen. There's about 13mm (0.5-inches) of mud clearance with the stock 2.25-inch Schwalbe rear tire. The frame is protected by a rubber chainstay guard, though the downtube and inner seatstay are left unprotected.

Felt offers four Decree models: the Decree FRD at $9,999 USD, Decree 1 at $6,499, Decree 3 at $4,499, and Decree 30 at $3,499. The Decree 30 uses an aluminum front triangle with the same carbon rear triangle as the other models. You can also pick up a frame and shock for $2,999 or $3,999, depending on the carbon type you'd like. We tested the most affordable carbon Decree 3 model.



The Decree features adjustable geometry by means of flip chips located at the top of the seatstays. Numbers listed above are for the low and slack setting, but by flipping the chips you can bring the bottom bracket up 10mm (0.4-inches) and steepen the head angle to 67.3-degrees. We chose to ride it in the low and slack mode for maximum funsies.

Following several years of steep and short bikes, we're pleased to see Felt continuing to move toward more modern geometry, and the Decree has their best numbers yet. The 66.5-degree head tube angle is very capable for a 140mm bike (especially with a 150mm fork out front), and there's a good amount of reach available across the size range. 430mm (16.9-inch) chainstays keep things snug out back. We measured the bottom bracket height at 335mm (13.2-inches), which also falls in line with many of today's best trail bikes.

Felt uses a somewhat misleading sizing scheme of 16, 18, 20, and 22, which roughly corresponds to the seat tube lengths in inches on some sizes but not others, so be sure to double check the numbers before purchasing. Though they've made an effort to reduce them, the seat tube lengths are still relatively long compared to much of the market.

On The Trail

We initially set the bike up using Felt's recommended 30% rear sag and left the 200x57mm (7.875x2.25-inch) RockShox Monarch RT3 Debonair shock in the open compression setting. After swapping out the bars and stem for our preferred short and wide setup, it was time to get the bike dirty.


Right away we noticed the Decree climbed extremely well. The bike's firm feel at the pedals - even with the shock left in the open setting - got us up the long opening climb of the South Mountain trail network better than majority of the 17 bikes in our Test Sessions lineup. Being able to leave the shock completely open made techy climbs less painful to our rear end and added traction, but it never felt as though it was robbing us of power thanks to a nicely optimized anti-squat profile. When we first laid eyes on the Degree, we admit it looked like a much bigger bike than it actually felt like while pedaling. Agile and nimble are a few common words that come to mind often while dicing your way up climbs.

In terms of steering, tight switchbacks and steeper grades were no problem for the bike, but at times we did have to scoot over the front of the bike a bit more than normal to keep the front wheel from wandering. This is likely due to Felt's somewhat slack actual seat tube angle, which will be more of an issue with taller riders as the increased seatpost height will put you further over the rear wheel while seated. Fancier models come with a Dual Position Air travel adjust RockShox Pike fork to help with steep climbs, though we prefer the feel of the SoloAir version included on the Decree 3 when pointed downhill.

Another contributing factor to the Decree's overall great climbing abilities is the bike's impressive weight. The Decree 3, Felt's most affordably spec'd carbon framed build, weighs in at just 27.7-pounds (12.6kg) and was among the lightest bikes we tested this year. For its weight the Decree feels very stiff, which adds to its precise and snappy demeanor.

On mellow, swooping sections of trail, the short chainstays and healthy reach left us with a roomy bike that feels just as home in the twisty stuff as it does when you open it up on faster sections.


Pointed downhill, the bike excels at fast, flowy, rolling, pumpable terrain with an almost slalom-like feel to it. The leverage ratio is quite progressive for a 140mm travel bike, and it benefits the ride greatly in these scenarios while adding good bottom-out support. It’s responsive when you push into it, easy to change lines, and loves to flow dynamically down these types of trails. You can really feel the side-to-side stiffness of the rear end when bashing through successive turns.

In contrast to our launch feature, bringing the Decree to a really rough riding area like Phoenix's South Mountain trail network exposed some less than favorable traits. In fast, chattery corners, traction was hard to come by and the rear end wanted to skip out, giving the bike a skittish feeling and really limiting us in terms of how hard we were willing to push the bike. In flatter corners we also noticed the front end tending to push, which after adjusting our riding to a more forward position did improve. As the trails got really demanding we found ourselves being bounced around and struggling to stay on line through high speed chunk with successive medium to big hits.

While the flex stay design does do the things Felt describes - like adding bottom out resistance, improving off the top compliance, and creating a more stable pedaling zone - it also has some negative effects. The stays are always fighting to return the shock to the 30% sag point, which creates some odd and fast rebound quirks deep in the shock's stroke, makes it a little harder to soak up bumps in that mid travel range, and makes it ride higher in its travel than normal. The resistance of the stays is equivalent to about 10psi of air pressure in the shock, according to Felt. You can watch the rear end in action here:

When we cycled the rear end without the shock present we noted less resistance from the flex than many similar designs, though the traits are still present on trail and could be even more apparent to lighter weight riders. Slowing the rebound made the bike feel a bit dead, so we kept that pretty constant as we prefer a lively ride.

In search of a bit more downhill compliance we opted to increase the sag to 40%, which helped the bike track far better for obvious reasons. Despite running quite a bit deeper into the bike's travel, it maintained its positive pedaling characteristics pretty well. The only significant tradeoff was the occasional harsh bottom-out, which only happened a few times during our test and could be remedied by the addition of a volume spacer or two in the rear shock. We encourage those riding in rough terrain to experiment with a little more sag than recommended.

Build Kit

The Decree 3 represents a pretty good value when you consider it has a full carbon frame and comes complete with items like a KS dropper post, RockShox Pike RC SoloAir fork, Monarch RT3 Debonair shock, and Shimano XT 1X drivetrain. There are some lower price point components in a few key areas, however, so a few part swaps may be needed depending on your riding style and terrain.

While an improvement over previous years, we’re still seeing a number of bikes with relatively long stems. Felt was one of them with a house brand 70mm stem and 760mm (29.9-inch) flat bar. They're finally pushing more aggressive geometry, so why the compromise in the controls department? We recommend a shorter stem and higher rise bars to better access this bike's potential.

As we've come to expect, RockShox's Pike RC Solo Air fork performed well. Consider adding a Bottomless Token or two to help the front end balance with the progressive nature of the rear.

It's possible that the RockShox Monarch Plus RC3 Debonair that comes stock on both the more expensive Decree 1 and Decree FRD would help the bike out significantly thanks to added damping control. Felt likely spec'd the in-line Monarch in an effort to keep the overall cost down on this particular kit.


While relatively narrow at 21mm wide internally, the pinned Alexrims MD21 hoops still offered a stiff and snappy feel. They held up well, only requiring some minor truing despite the extremely rough Arizona trails. They're tubeless ready if you'd like to make the switch, which we recommend.

Shimano's 11-speed XT drivetrain with Race Face Ride cranks was a notable highlight of the build, pairing an 11-42 tooth cassette with a 32-tooth narrow/wide chainring. The system shifted extremely well, was easy to dial-in, and remained very quiet on the trail. Riders with very fast trails may want to opt for a slightly larger chainring, however.

Unfortunately we faced another KS dropper post issue on the Decree 3. Out of the box the 125mm (4.9-inch) travel LEV DX dropper sagged down a full inch while seated. In addition to the post not staying at full extension, we also had to run a zip-tie around the box that houses the cable-stop in order to keep the cable from popping out while riding. This certainly wasn't an ideal scenario and would require service early on. Also, know that the size 16 and 18 (small/medium) frames come with 100mm (3.9-inch) travel dropper posts, likely due to potential clearance issues created by the bend in the seat tube.

The Schwalbe Nobby Nic Evo tires offered okay traction, but were overwhelmed when it came to the rough desert trails where we tested the bike. For smoother or loamy trails they might be a decent choice, but for rockier trails we'd recommend something a bit more robust with a softer compound for improved traction. While they roll quickly, the lightweight casing adds a skittery sensation when smashing through rough or rocky sections. An upgrade here will make a big difference to the bike's overall handling.

Shimano's Deore M615 brakes aren't likely to light up your fancy component stoke meter, but the brakes do work very well and we feel saving a few dollars here is an okay thing. We would opt for a larger rear rotor, however, as the stock 180/160mm combo could use just a bit more power when things get steep or fast.

Long Term Durability

Save the tires, our experience on the Decree 3 yielded no major long term durability concerns in the build kit department. The wheels did require some truing, likely due to several pinch flats and them being brand new. That said, the narrow folding bead tires aren't up to the task of aggressive riding in rough terrain.

In regards to the frame’s durability, we noticed a creak developing near the lower pivot/bottom bracket area after only a few rides, but we were never able to isolate it. The issue would likely be resolved with some grease and a torque wrench.

By eliminating a pivot and instead asking the frame to flex there are definitely some unique stresses being applied to the swingarm. It's engineered flex, though, and we trust Felt has done their homework and extensive lab testing.

Felt backs the frame with a lifetime warranty, but be aware that the exclusions include use in competitions and "stunt riding," so go easy on those sweet parking lot tricks.


What's The Bottom Line?

Felt's new Decree 3 features great geometry, lots of rad little details, and an extremely light and stiff frame with excellent climbing capabilities. The bike has a very agile feel that is complemented by its low overall weight, which is quite impressive given the attainable price point.

The company's recent push towards longer, lower, and slacker geometry paired with a 150mm travel fork let you ride into some hairy terrain, and it's here that the bike falls a little short in terms of suspension performance. We feel the Decree's light and snappy ride traits are best suited to flowy, less demanding trails that reward an easily pumpable bike with lots of forward gusto. When pushing hard on steep or rough terrain we were sometimes forced to back off as the bike was difficult to keep on track, leaving us wondering if the upgraded shock on higher end models would be a solution.

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Vital MTB Rating

  • Climbing: 4.5 stars - Outstanding
  • Descending: 2.5 stars - Okay
  • Fun Factor: 3 stars - Good
  • Value: 3.5 stars - Very Good
  • Overall Impression: 3 stars - Good

Bonus Gallery: 20 photos of the 2016 Felt Decree 3 up close and in action

About The Reviewers

Fred Robinson - Age: 31 // Years Riding MTB: 13 // Height: 6'1" (1.85m) // Weight: 240-pounds (108.9kg)

"Drop my heels and go." Fred has been on two wheels since he was two years old, is deceptively quick for a bigger guy, and likes steep, fast trails where he can hang it off the back of the bike. Several years of shop experience means he's not afraid to tinker. He's very particular when it comes to a bike's suspension performance and stiffness traits.

AJ Barlas - Age: 35 // Years Riding MTB: 15+ // Height: 6'3" (1.91m) // Weight: 165-pounds (74.8kg)

"Smooth and fluid." Hailing from Squamish, BC, AJ's preferred terrain is chunky, twisty trail with natural features. He's picky with equipment and has built a strong understanding of what works well and why by riding a large number of different parts and bikes. Observant, mechanically inclined, and always looking to learn more through new experiences and products.

Which reviewer resembles you the most? Don't miss our Q&A with the testers for more insight about their styles and preferences.


About Test Sessions

Four years ago Vital MTB set out to bring you the most honest, unbiased reviews you'll find anywhere. That tradition continues today as we ride 2016's most exciting trail, all-mountain, and enduro bikes in Phoenix, Arizona. Reviews can be accessed 24/7 in our Product Guide. Test Sessions was made possible with the help of Rage Cycles. Tester gear provided by Troy Lee Designs, Royal Racing, Smith, Fox Racing, Race Face, Easton, and Source.


Product Felt Decree 3
Model Year 2016
Riding Type Trail
Rider Unisex
Sizes and Geometry
S, M, L, XL View Geometry
Size S M L XL
Top Tube Length 565mm 595mm 625mm 655mm
Head Tube Angle 66.5° 66.5° 66.5° 66.5°
Head Tube Length 90mm 105mm 125mm 145mm
Seat Tube Angle 73° 73° 73° 73°
Seat Tube Length 395mm 430mm 485mm 540mm
Bottom Bracket Height 12mmm Drop 12mmm Drop 12mmm Drop 12mmm Drop
Chainstay Length 430mm 430mm 430mm 430mm
Wheelbase 1107mm 1139mm 1171mm 1203mm
Standover 694mm 725mm 774mm 822mm
Reach 391mm 417mm 441mm 465mm
Stack 576mm 590mm 609mm 627mm
Wheel Size 27.5" (650b)
Frame Material Carbon Fiber
Frame Material Details UHC Performance Carbon Fiber, MMC with InsideOut Construction, Full Carbon Dropouts
Rear Travel 140mm
Rear Shock RockShox Monarch RT3, Debonair with High Volume Eyelet, Custom Tune, 200 x 57
Fork RockShox Pike RC Solo Air, 15mm x 100mm
Fork Travel 150mm
Head Tube Diameter Control Taper
Headset FSA NO.42ACB-A with 7.8mm Custom Cone Spacer
Handlebar Felt MTB 6061 Flat Top, 31.8mm, 5mm Rise x 9° Sweep (760mm)
Stem Felt MTB 3D-Forged Threadless, 1-1/8", +/- 7° Rise for 31.8mm Handlebar with Black Cr-Mo Bolts, S/M - 60mm, L/XL - 70mm
Grips Felt Wing Lock-On
Brakes Shimano Deore M615, 180mm Front, 160mm Rear
Brake Levers Shimano Deore
Drivetrain 1x
Shifters Shimano XT 11-Speed, I-Spec II
Front Derailleur N/A
Rear Derailleur Shimano XT 11-Speed Shadow Plus, Medium Cage
ISCG Tabs Yes
Chainguide N/A
Cranks Race Face Ride, SM - 170mm, M/L/XL - 175mm
Chainrings 32 Tooth
Bottom Bracket Race Face 73mm
Pedals N/A
Chain Shimano HG700
Cassette Shimano XT 11-Speed, 11-42 Tooth
Rims Aluminum Double Wall, 21mm Inside
Hubs Forged Aluminum, 6-Bolt
Spokes 2.0/1.8mm Double-Butted Stainless
Tires Schwalbe Nobby Nic Evo, TL-Ready, Folding, 27.5" x 2.25"
Saddle WTB Volt Race, Cr-Mo Rails
Seatpost KS LEV Integra DX, S/M - 342mm with 100mm Travel, L/XL - 392mm with 125mm Travel
Seatpost Diameter 30.9mm
Seatpost Clamp Aluminum 6061 CNC Cold-Forged with Cr-Mo Bolt, 34.9mm
Rear Dropout / Hub Dimensions 12mm x 142mm with Synt
Max. Tire Size
Bottle Cage Mounts Yes
Colors Fluoro Red
Warranty Lifetime Frame
Weight 27 lb 11 oz (12,559 g)
Price $4,499
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