Cross-country hardtails have seen few changes over the past years, and yet we wouldn’t call our quiver complete without one. Riders are drawn to the hardtail’s efficient nature and ultra-lightweight design. With a hardtail, a boring section of road can be turned into a time trial, or a dreaded climb can become a welcome challenge. Hardtails tend to change the way you look at your trail network, and whether you own one for training days or race day, these bikes will rarely, if ever, let you down.
This month our testers ditched their regular diets of burgers and French fries for quinoa salads and kale juice in an effort to push Felt’s Doctrine 1 to its absolute limit. As you know, XC racing is all about commitment, so we charged into this test fully committed.
The Doctrine might look like any old hardtail, but under its carbon skin lies evidence of years of experience. Crafted from UHC Advanced carbon fiber, the Doctrine is Felt’s stiffest and lightest frame built for XC racing. Featuring full-carbon dropouts, internal cable routing and Boost hub spacing, the Doctrine is ready to take on any racecourse.
Additional features include a minimal chainguide to ensure the chain will stay in place throughout a race and thin seatstays to aid in vertical compliance. Meanwhile, the chainstays are short and stiff to enhance cornering performance.
Felt built this ride for speed with cross-country-specific components. Starting up front, Felt equipped this bike with a RockShox SID RL fork and a handlebar-mounted OneLoc remote lockout. The cockpit features 720mm-wide handlebars and a 70mm stem. A pair of SRAM Level TLM brakes were then mounted next to some ESI silicone grips. The Doctrine comes with a Devox carbon post mounted to a Prologo Kappa RS saddle. Wrapping up the build is a pair of DT Swiss M1900 wheels and Maxxis Ikon 29×2.2-inch tires.
Power on demand: SRAM Level TLM brakes offered enough power to slow this wild pony down.
Another benefit of a hardtail is that it is easy to set up. We opted for 20-percent sag in our RockShox SID fork and adjusted rebound using the recommendation printed on the back of the fork leg. The remote lockout was a welcome feature that allowed us to make our bike as efficient as possible.
DOWN AND DIRTY
It really came as no surprise that the Doctrine was an incredible climber, but we didn’t expect to have as much fun on the climbs as we did. As mentioned earlier, hardtails change the way you look at a trail, and by that we mean you’ll learn to love climbing more than descending. We know, we really can’t believe we said that, either, but the acceleration you feel when charging up a hill is quite exhilarating. The Doctrine kindly asks you to get out of the saddle and rewards you in a big way for your efforts. We found ourselves switching the remote lockout on for most steep climbs; however, it wasn’t necessary on undulating terrain. If you live for the climb, this Felt will deliver.
High-posting: Unless you’re a gram-counting racer, we believe riders would benefit from a lowered saddle height during descents.
Finding flow on this machine can be a bit challenging, mostly because its steep head tube angle and rigid seatpost don’t engender confidence on descents. Sure, this bike is capable of picking its way through a rock garden or other features that might pop up on a racecourse, but those types of maneuvers must be handled with precise steering input and brake control.
Where the Doctrine shines is on mellower trails that require a lot of pedaling. Out of the saddle, the Felt powers through turns and flies down straightways. There is just something about the Doctrine’s quick acceleration that leads you to believe you’re hunting for glory, even on training days.
Pure acceleration: The Felt Doctrine is a purpose-built bike designed to speed down singletrack like a runaway train.
The Doctrine brings a stiff rear end to the table, along with short chainstays, allowing riders to snap this bike around the corners. The tall seat height, on the other hand, is a disadvantage. If it has been a while since you’ve ridden without a dropper, then reverting back to your old cornering skills might be challenging.
The steep head tube angle made steering input rather quick. This design requires a rider to keep a watchful eye on the Doctrine, as a small mistake could quickly escalate into a major disaster. As far as racing is concerned, the Doctrine is built for all-out speed, and once you get a feel for its capabilities, we see no reason why it couldn’t place you at the top step of your local podium.
MODS AND UPGRADES
The very first upgrade we would make to this Felt would be converting the wheels to tubeless, so lower tire pressures could be run without risk of pinch flatting. Reducing tire pressure would make the ride a little smoother and increase traction.
Many of the other upgrades our testers considered would benefit this bike more for trail riding than racing, things like dropper posts, wider bars, etc. And while that might make the Doctrine more fun on the descents, it would take away from what this bike is truly designed for.
The bottom line is that the Doctrine is a true race bike built to conquer climbs and roar down singletrack at top speed. A rider looking for an everyday trail bike will not find it here; however, a racer looking for a lightweight weapon for training or race days will find the Doctrine is a great option. Furthermore, this hardtail could be a great addition to any rider’s stable. As a bonus, we often found ourselves riding to the trails straight from home since this bike is so efficient to pedal. If eating right and hill repeats are your cup of tea, then the Felt Doctrine just might be the bike for you.
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