Bike Test: Felt Virtue Elite

Full-Tilt Carbon On A Budget
Felt redesigned their Virtue lineup to offer all-new carbon and aluminum versions. Think of this as the classic trailbike.

WHO IS IT MADE FOR?

With 5.1 inches of travel, the Virtue is a mid-travel trail- bike with very tight and nimble geometry. The design caters to the cross-country rider or racer who wants a bit more travel. If you’re thinking that this much travel means the Virtue is a scaled-down gravity bike, think again.


WHAT IS IT MADE FROM?
The carbon frame uses Felt’s Inside-Out technology, which decreases the amount of carbon left over inside the tubes after the molding process to reduce weight. They also use their Dynamic Monocoque Construction, which allows them to mold sections of the frameset with a specific purpose in mind and then co-mold those sections together. The Equilink suspension is a modified multi-pivot design and rides on a combination of cartridge bearings and bushings. The Virtue also uses a tapered head tube, 10×135-millimeter rear axle, and internal cable routing in the front triangle.

WHICH COMPONENTS STAND OUT?
The Rockshox Sektor Solo air fork and Ario rear shock work perfectly with the suspension design of the Virtue. While not the most complex or adjustable suspension, it will keep all but the most finicky tinkerers happy. Tweaks to the suspension setup are quick and easy to make.

HOW DOES IT PERFORM?
Setup: The Virtue’s suspension has a very firm feel throughout the stroke. While this makes the bike feel efficient, our initial setups with 20- to 30-percent sag proved too harsh for technical trails and high-speed sections. With the sag set to 40 percent, the suspension travel becomes much more usable and still retains the controlled and efficient feel. This bike needs to be set up on the soft side or you’ll never make it to the bottom of the stroke.

Pedaling: This is the Virtue’s strong suit. Right out of the gate, we noticed that the Equilink suspension’s controlled feel made the bike a great pedaler, even with our 40-percent-sag setup. The shock is equipped with a lockout, but we never needed it. The suspension delivers a platform that’s plenty firm, even when wide open.

Climbing: The suspension on the Virtue is ridiculously efficient, and the relatively steep seat angle puts the rider in astrong position over the cranks to put the power down. The design seems to favor the rider who sits in on a long climb, constantly shifting weight to transfer power to the pedals; however, out-of-the-saddle efforts also work well on the Virtue. This bike has the right chassis to be a great climber, but needs to shed some weight to really rocket up the hills. Anyone considering the Virtue Elite as
a race bike should plan for some upgrades before heading to the starting line.

Cornering: The conventional geometry of the Virtue makes it feel confident in any corner. The head angle is slack enough for high-speed, chattery trails and can still navigate a tight switch-back. The bottom bracket seems high on the geometry chart, but it delivers a centered and balanced feel on the trail that won’t snag rocks, even when pedaling through corners.

Braking: The Equilink suspension does a great job isolating braking input. Whether over high-speed chatter bumps, controlling speed into a corner or panic-braking on a technical section, the suspension remains open and relatively plush. The Elixir 3 brakes provide adequate power, but lack the positive and snappy feel of a more expensive brake.

Descending: With the suspension set up properly, the rest of the Virtue’s traits shine and will make most any trail rider happy. The geometry is spot-on, offering plenty of stability at speed and confidence when the trail points down a steep chute.

The Virtue’s rear end has a slightly longer feel than most bikes with this amount of travel. This gives it stability on high- speed descents, but makes it difficult to lift the front end to manual or bunnyhop over obstacles.

TRICKS, UPGRADES OR TIPS?

On the surface, the Virtue Elite isn’t going to win any value contests. The X7 and X9 drivetrain and Elixir 3 brakes are a weak spec for a bike with a $4000 price tag. However, dive a little deeper and you’ll understand that Felt put emphasis on the full-carbon frame and quality suspension spec first and worried about the details later.

The super-long stem is an awkward match for this bike and will likely be the first thing most riders want to change. The narrow bar will work well for smaller riders, but it will need to be swapped for a wider one, in the larger sizes.

The downtube protector appears to be an afterthought. It separated from the frame on the first ride and collected a rat’s nest of dirt and debris on the adhesive foam backing. We removed it immediately.

The WTB TCS hubs came loose after only a few rides. After a quick adjustment, they did not come loose again. The hub engagement also lacks a quick and snappy feel.

BUYING ADVICE
Understand that you are getting a quality carbon fiber frame at a reasonable price point. To accomplish this, some cost-cutting measures were necessary. Ride it stock and upgrade components over the years as needed. The frame makes this plan viable and cost-efficient.

The Virtue’s natural handling manners make it right at home on singletrack of almost any kind. The ideal Virtue rider will focus on frame design and quality rather than going derailleur to derailleur with a comparably priced bike. The Equilink suspension design delivers exactly what it promises: an efficient pedaling system that can dive into the travel when needed. Once we settled on a proper setup, the Virtue became a fun bike.