Bike Test: Felt Compulsion 10

Felt is best known for its ultra-sleek and fast-looking road and triathlon bikes, but take a trip to its SoCal headquarters and you’ll see where its passion for knobby tires comes from. The factory is just a stone’s throw from some of the best singletrack desert trails in California. The Compulsion has been in Felt’s lineup for years, but the newest version for 2015 comes to the table with an entirely new geometry, redesigned suspension platform and an update from 26- to 27.5-inch wheels. When Felt offered us one for a long-term test, we simply couldn’t say no.


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WHO IS IT MADE FOR?

The Compulsion seeks to satisfy the enduro rider in all of us, with long-travel suspension performance matched with a pedal-friendly and efficient design. The Compulsion is the longest travel bike in the Felt lineup, built to handle aggressive trails strewn with rocks, roots, drops and chutes, all without throwing pedaling efficiency completely out the window.

WHAT IS IT MADE FROM?

The Compulsion is aluminum through and through and sports Felt’s proprietary Equilink suspension design. The 6.3-inch-travel bike uses slack and stable geometry that’s right at home on any enduro track or aggressive trail. The bike uses an aluminum frame with a tapered head tube, 12x142mm rear axle, and a 73mm threaded bottom bracket shell with ISCG mounts should you choose to use a chainguide system.

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WHICH COMPONENTS STAND OUT?

The Compulsion comes decked out with a smart mix of SRAM components that would make a sponsored rider drool. The X01 drivetrain handles the power details with precision. The RockShox Pike fork and Monarch shock provide ground-leveling suspension. Nice touches include the WTB KOM wheels, which, while somewhat dent-prone for heavier riders, are very lightweight and snappy on the trail.

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HOW DOES IT PERFORM?

Equilink explained: Equilink suspension is a bit like the leaf- spring suspension system of a race car. It’s designed to provide active suspension with a firm pedaling platform, without the hampering feel of a shock with tons of compression damping or a true lockout. The designers achieved this by tying the upper and lower rockers together with an additional member called the Equilink. This piece runs perpendicular to the chain tension, thereby resisting pedaling inputs at the top of the stroke and allowing for plush suspension performance on bigger hits. While we could spend all day dissecting the physics of the system, what we really care about is how it rides, so we took it to the trails.

Suspension setup: Setup on this bike is easy thanks to the simple air-sprung suspension front and rear. We found a relatively soft 30-percent sag setting allowed us to take advantage of the active suspension and efficient pedaling platform.

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Moving out: The Compulsion fits very true to size and made all of our stock-large test riders happy. The standover height is kept low thanks to the aggressively sloping top tube, and the center of gravity is kept low thanks to the well-thought-out shock and linkage placements.

Pedaling: Equilink’s anti-squat characteristics make the Compulsion feel light and lively when the power is put to the pedals. While the shock comes equipped with a compression damper that’s easily accessed on the fly, we rarely used it. On small bumps and chattery pedaling sections, our riders noted a small amount of tug on the drivetrain from the suspension, but this was not nearly enough to be a deal-breaker. Our riders appreciated the quick acceleration, especially for a bike with this much travel.

Climbing: The relatively steep 74-degree seat angle puts the rider in a strong and aggressive position for climbing right over the bottom bracket. While this bike won’t win any cross-country hill-climbs, it has plenty of efficiency to get to the top of any climb with relative ease. The weight of the Compulsion is also kept in check thanks to some lightweight wheels and tires, which makes this bike float uphill easily, especially if you’re willing to put it in the lower gears of the SRAM X01 drivetrain and just spin.

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Flickable feel: The Compulsion strikes a balance between stability at speed and a light and nimble feel in the corners. The slack 66-degree head angle may look slow on paper, but lean the Compulsion into the first corner and you’ll be a believer. The bike feels light and lively, and loves to be bunnyhopped and playfully flicked down the trail. Quick line changes are no problem with this bike; it’s lively when you need it to be, yet stable at speed.

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Descending: Pointing the Compulsion downhill is a treat. The low center of gravity and slack geometry keep this bike feeling confident over all but the roughest terrain. While we’ve ridden bikes in this travel category that feel plusher, the responsive and lively Compulsion keeps the pilot in control of the descent quite well.

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Suspension feel: With over 6 inches of suspension travel, the Compulsion is a long-travel bike; however, thanks to some clever engineering work with the Equilink suspension platform, the bike pedals fast and efficiently. The suspension exhibits noticeable anti-squat characteristics at the top end of the stroke, which keeps it from feeling as plush on small bumps as some other bikes in this category; however, once through the first bit of travel, the suspension dives through its travel and becomes exceptionally active, making it very well controlled for bigger hits, jumps and drops.

Braking: The Compulsion’s suspension remains active under braking, which makes the Compulsion confidence-inspiring when the trail gets rough. The SRAM Guide brakes provide excellent control with minimal noise.

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TRICKS, UPGRADES OR TIPS?

The Compulsion comes stock with WTB’s KOM rims and Schwalbe Tubeless Easy tires, so removing the stock inner tubes and going tubeless is the first upgrade we made on this bike.

The house-branded Felt bar and stem keep the Compulsion’s cost in check but will likely be the first components most riders will upgrade. We opted to swap these out for a slightly shorter Renthal Apex stem and slightly taller Renthal Carbon Fatbar for the bulk of the testing period.

 

BUYING ADVICE

The Compulsion is a truly versatile, long-travel bike, combining excellent pedaling efficiency with capable and active suspension performance. While it’s not the plushest or most active bike we’ve swung a leg over, its geometry and mid-to-deep-stroke suspension performance are more than enough to keep the most aggressive riders coming back for more. The bike sports a smart components spec that’s impressive, especially considering its relatively modest $4500 price tag. Right out of the box, this bike is just as ready to hit the trails as it is ready for any enduro racecourse. ❏

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