With the on going battle of wheels sizes continuously heating up, Felt hit one out of the park with this years 29er series, more specifically their hardtails. For myself, transitioning from a full suspension 29er to a hardtail took some time, somewhere along the trail, man and bike seemed to click. Then I realized, this bike handles amazing! With their race ready geometry the bike handles like a dream on the the climbs, and is incredibly nimble through all the switch backs and rock gardens. With handling that can be as snappy as you want to make it, These Felts handle the tight technical trails like a mountain goat, while still descending very fast and smooth, allowing you to find your flow as you shred your favorite trail. The remarkable thing about these bikes though, is that the bottom bracket is remarkably stiff, at first I figured it was the transition from a soft tail to a hard tail, then one day while doing a routine drive train cleaning, I noticed Felt's secret. The forged yoke that the bottom bracket shell and and chain stays all are welded to (see the pictures below). With the addition of the 15 mm thru axle on the Nine 3 and the Nine 20 these bikes are almost too stiff! Even with their carbon frame, Felt has found a way to stiffen them up, in all the key area's while keeping them incredibly light yet durable.
When you combine the 29 in wheel with Sram's 10 speed or Shimano's Dyna-Sys groups (both of which have a 36 tooth cog on their cassette) no climb is to steep to spin up! I was honestly amazed the first time I shifted my sram drive train into big big and was able to spin up the climbs on the local trails at Massanutten. Pair that sweet 10 speed drive train with some powerful brakes for the descents and you've created an unstoppable machine! (Well the brakes make it stoppable, but you catch my drift) My personal choice were the Shimano XT trail brakes, a perfect combination of function and affordability, though the SLX are just as sweet, and will save you that extra dough. My favorite thing about their aluminum frames is that these things can take a beating. It's great to have a frame you're not worried about putting a "few" scuffs and dents in, especially with all the rocks that like to jump out and grab you around here. Felt had some forward thinking when they made their aluminum line, by putting rack mounts on their bikes, making them even more versatile for the mountain biker interested in some longer rides or even touring.
Which ever bike you decide to go with, you can complete the experience down the road, by upgrading the wheels to some American Classics. The engagement on the hubs is nice and solid, and you'll never find your freehub skipping on you. With choices spanning between Race to All Mountain wheels, I found that I gravitated toward their 29er tubeless wheel set. Mostly to save a little more weight in the rims while still maintaining some extra durability. To put it simply, these bikes are sweet, and combined with an AC wheel set, they're unstoppable! Swing by the shop or check out the web page to see Felt's full line of 29er's!