Bike Test: Felt Edict Nine LTD 29er

The year 2013 is an important year for Felt Bicycles. With the introduction of several brand-new and redesigned models, the Southern California-based company is making yet another big push. Back in 2009, Felt Bicycles was one of the first companies to introduce a carbon fiber 29er. This year, they are again pushing the boundaries in the high-end, cross-country 29er segment with the all-new Edict Nine LTD. Felt says their goal for the bike is very straightforward: build the fastest cross-country bike possible.

The Edict Nine LTD is for the cross-country racer who is looking for a race weapon without compromise. From the parts spec to the frame materials, Felt means business with the LTD.

The Edict’s frame is constructed of Felt’s proprietary UHC Ultimate Plus Nano carbon fiber using their inside-out molding process. Felt claims this process creates a cleaner, more uniform surface inside of the tube wall for a stronger and lighter frame. It is hard to appreciate this without cutting the frame in half. Sorry, but we’d rather ride it than dissect it.

The Edict has 3.9 inches of suspension travel handled by their Felt Active Stay Technology (FAST) linkage system. This design employs seat and chainstays that flex slightly, like a carbon leaf spring, to help keep the suspension somewhat active under braking and eliminate pedal bob at the sag point. The head tube is tapered from 1 1/8 to 1 1/2 inches for additional stiffness.

All of them. LTD stands for “limited,” and it is basically a cross-country racer’s wish list. Felt’s Southern California neighbor, Shimano, handles the drivetrain and brake spec with their top-shelf XTR equipment. The cockpit is Felt branded and features a carbon handlebar and seatpost. The carbon fiber doesn’t stop there. Reynolds’ new 29er carbon wheelset helps shave the overall weight even more. Fox’s new Float CTD fork and shock offer on-the-fly tuning options.

Moving out: One of the benefits of the trend from 26- to 29-inch-wheeled cross-country bikes is that the position on the bike has become less borderline roadie. This makes these new race steeds more versatile than ever. The Edict puts the rider slightly forward of center, but thanks to the taller front end of the larger wheels, the position is comfortable enough for an epic-length race.

Sprinting: Felt emphasizes efficiency at every turn. The Edict simply gives you what you put into it. Out-of-the-saddle efforts are exceptionally rewarding, as the frame provides plenty of lateral stiffness.

Climbing: The combination of a laterally stiff frame and full-suspension platform allows the rider to put the power down on climbs. The rear wheel absorbs square-edge hits and maintains traction on loose climbs without a second thought. Remaining seated and plugging away on long climbs feel as if you are churning the pedals on a road bike. The Shimano XTR 2×10 drivetrain feels like it was built for this bike. We never longed for a missing gear. Even the lowest gear ratio of 26×36, a problem on some 29ers, felt easy to push because of the bike’s weight and lateral stiffness.

While Fox’s CTD (Climb, Trail, Descend) system certainly delivers a stiffer pedaling platform in the Climb mode, Felt’s suspension design is so efficient that we found ourselves using the feature less and less with every ride. Even with the damper wide open in Descend mode, there was only minimal pedal bob. We found ourselves limiting the choices between the Trail and Descend modes on climbs, depending on how rough or loose the trail was.

Cornering: With full-suspension 29ers, there is a fine line between big-wheel stability and the quick-handling characteristics that racers are accustomed to. The Edict walks the line well, leaning slightly toward quick handling. The long stem screams race bike and helps the front end knife around switchbacks.

Slide your weight back a bit and it will track through loose, sweeping corners just fine, but the bike seems to be tuned to offset the big wheels’ inherently larger turning radius.

The Kenda 24/7 tires left a bit to be desired on our dry, dusty, hardpack trails. They roll like road tires and tend to corner like them as well.

Braking: Shimano’s XTR brakes are the best option avail- able for the job; however, their performance was somewhat hindered by the low traction of the Kenda 24/7 tires and the stiffening of the rear suspension under hard braking.

Descending: The FAST system, which is essentially a single-pivot design aided by the leaf-spring effect of the chainstays and seatstays, is aimed at race-worthy efficiency, and thus gives up a bit when it comes to small-bump compliance. Additionally, because of its single-pivot nature, the rear suspension stiffens up a bit under braking power and is especially felt through stuttering braking bumps.

The Edict isn’t going to soak up big-hit descents, but it did keep us confident and comfortable on moderately rough descents of the kind we encounter in cross-country races. It’s hard to ask a 24-pound race bike that climbs like a billy goat to do much more than that.

We opted to switch the bar out for a wider model, which helped improve stability when descending and gave us more leverage when cornering and climbing. Also, a slightly shorter stem would tone the handling down a bit and get the rider’s weight off the back of the bike for steep and fast descents.

The Kenda 24/7 tires are designed for minimal rolling resistance, but we would gladly give up a few watts of power for a better-gripping tire.

While you can certainly keep the CTD system in the Trail mode and just ride, getting the most out of the bike requires a good amount of knob turning. Our CTD usage looked something like this: We used the Climb mode mainly for paved road sections to and from the trails, the Trail mode for most undulating trails and climbs, and the Descend mode for descents and rough sections of trail.

If you have the means, the Edict Nine LTD competes with the best of them on the cross-country racecourse. The $9300 price tag will certainly strike fear in the hearts of many potential buyers, but Felt has always stressed their trickle-down engineering. For 2013, they are offering the Edict Nine platform in six different models, starting with the aluminum Edict Nine 60 for $2070. For a carbon frame, the entry price is $3630 with the Edict Nine 3. While the components certainly won’t be the dream team assembled on the LTD, the bike will still share many of the same attributes we appreciate in the Edict Nine.

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