I haven’t had this much fun on a bicycle in a while. The past few weeks I’ve been traveling with a new partner in crime, the Felt Virtue 1. This carefully, crafted carbon creation has been tackling everything from long fire road climbs, to steep rock garden switchbacks, twisty big drops, desolation in the Arizona desert, and even a few light rainstorms. To me, any bicycle that claims to hold title in the All Mountain category needs to be just that, able to handle everything the mountain will throw at you.
At first glance, you know without a doubt this is a bike carries a heavy design influence. Every nook and cranny has some type of detail, thoughtful cut-out, subtle curve or graphic element to keep you focused. The frame is busy, but not so much it screams at you. Battleship grey, red and the UHC Advanced + TeXtreme carbon fiber blend perfectly together in a satin finish.
The bike I’ve been riding is centered around a Large, 29-inch Virtue 1 frame, almost the exact same frame that comes in their top-of-the-line Virtue FRD. The frame as well as the front and rear triangles are constructed from Felt’s UHC Advanced + TeXtreme carbon fiber with 130mm of travel from the Equilink suspension. The frame has been designed using an InsideOut internally optimized molding process, Modular Monocoque Construction, and full carbon dropouts. My test bike came in at 26.2 pounds with Crank Brothers Eggbeater 3 pedals and bottle cage (not included).
I’d love to give you a dissertation on Felt’s Equilink Suspension, but an engineer I am not. Instead, let me give you the quick hit items and tell you about how it feels in the dirt. As you can see from the diagram above, the main Equilink component is that red, dog bone shaped guy. Car geeks out there will most likely look at this image and think, oh, its a traction bar. They aren’t wrong. The Equilink suspension separates the drivetrain and shock movement thus, providing an equal amount force in both directions. What this does is keep the bike on the ground, working with your pedal stroke, over the terrain below you, never not providing forward momentum.
If you’ve ever turned dirt in Arizona, you know that desert terrain is dry, rocky and full of rather annoying cactus. Ouch. Most of the trails are covered in small rock and shale poking out from every switchback. Pedal bob is a huge issue when I ride in Arizona, as there are rare wide open flat sections. Where many have failed, the Equilink shined. I experienced virtually no pedal bob climbing through the McDowell Mountains. Working with the RockShox Monarch RT3 shock, the bike did a good job of handling bob at the same time keeping me planted over rocks. Although the Monarch has 3 settings (Open/Pedal/Lock), I found myself leaving it in Pedal mode 90% of the time. The suspension worked so well I never found myself needing it locked for climbing and only open over long DH stretches for fun.
There’s an uncanny “planted” feeling riding this bike. I didn’t find myself bouncing off rocks, squatting hard in corners only to launch out or suffer any lag. It almost feels like I’m riding on a planet with twice our gravitational pull, sucking me to the ground as I move forward.
Even though the suspension is the main dish on the V1, there is plenty more to talk about. As the #2 bike in the Virtue lineup, the V1 comes with a SRAM XO carbon crankset running a 1×11 setup using a 73mm GXP sealed threaded bottom bracket. A 30T chainring up front is matched with a 10-42T cassette in the rear. Combined with a SRAM X01 rear derailleur (replaceable hanger), the shifting was smooth, never jumping and always on target. If you decide 1×11 isn’t for you, just add a front derailleur, internal cable routing is already built in. I should also mention Felt included their All-Weather Sealed Slick cables throughout. Moisture isn’t going to be a killer on this bike.
Felt’s 720mm wide carbon MTB bar carries the design elements from the frame across your paws. It features an 8mm rise and 9º sweep with ESI Racers Edge silicone grips in red. The bar is nice and wide without being so obnoxiously wide you can’t fit down a trail. The 80mm stem is Felt’s 3D-forged threadless design with a 7º rise. Your right hand controls include the RockShock Reverb Stealth dropper post remote, SRAM XO Trail brake lever and SRAM X1, 11-speed shifter. On the left is a PushLoc remote for the RockShock Revelation RLT fork and matching brake lever.
Both SRAM and Shimano have come out with better ways to gather all of your bar controls in one location. This can be good or bad, depending on the size of your hands. I’ve never favored them because my hands require a little more room and I usually scoot the shifter inward. I wouldn’t call it a problem, but it did cause me to shift my hands out a few times on the trail. This is a personal preference that may never affect you. The bar clamps do a great job of keeping the bars clutter free and organized.
The Easton Havoc aluminum 29-inch wheels use 2.0/1.7mm, double-butted stainless steel spokes with aluminum nipples. I’ve been pretty hard on the bike and they’ve stayed true with no sealing, burping or leaking issues from the Stan’s sealant inside. The rear hub is an Easton Havoc 24H with a 142x12mm axle and the front is an Easton Havoc 24H, with a 15mm axle. I have no complaints from the wheels, what I have not been very fond of is the tire selection.
Felt chose Schwalbe Nobby Nic TL ready, SnakeSkin folding 29″ x 2.35″ tires for the Virtue 1. While they provide great traction for acceleration, I found the side knobs inadequate in the corners. People LOVE these tires online, so this may just be me, but I found when banking high in corners, the outermost knob would fold and send the bike sideways. I always like to use a familiar trail when testing a new bicycle. The Cactus Trail in Whiting Ranch is a twisty, rutted, rocked out downhill section that will tell you all you want to know about a bikes suspension and tires. Our last rainstorm in SoCal cleared away a lot of the topsoil making it extra rough right now.
Over a dozen runs, I tried several different tire and shock pressures to dial in the best possible ride quality. The tires had a magic pressure number of 20psi. That’s much lower than I like to run, but that was their sweet spot. Tons of grip in all conditions, but the problem is I don’t feel comfortable running 20psi. 24 maybe, 26, yes please. 26 is my happy place. I’ve never rolled a tire off a rim at that mark and I never feel like I am over-riding a bike there either. Until I got down to 20, I felt like the tires wouldn’t keep up with me. The bike screamed, “More, more, more!”, but the tires said, “Wait a minute here pal.”
If I was to setup my personal Virtue 1, I would go for a less meaty tire in the rear like the Onza Lynx and maybe a Geax Goma in the front.
I was happy to see the V1 come with SRAM XO Trail hydraulic disc brakes. Big, 180mm brakes are important on AM category bikes. Lever modulation is nice with the Trail’s and there is plenty of stopping power. When you talk braking, you also have to talk suspension as they should be designed to work together. Otherwise, it’s like riding a bicycle down a hill and suddenly shoving a stick in the rear wheel. Not good. Braking hard in corners causes bikes to squat and push. That force causes your feet to push on the pedals to keep your balance. The Equilink did a great job of dealing with brake squat. The bike stayed planted in corners and I never felt out of control (due to braking). I was on the brakes far less than normal, as I realized looking over my new Strava PR times.
“This bike wants everything you can give it, and more!”
Having 140mm of fork in front of you means one of two things. It can save your ass and keep you out of trouble, or it can get you into a lot of trouble. 20 years ago, it would have got me into a lot of trouble. These days, it saves my ass more than not. 100-120mm forks aren’t going to cut it in the AM/Enduro category. With occasional drops and possible, “I didn’t see that around the corner” comings, you need it. This is my first experience on the RockShock Revelation RLT 140. This is also my first time using PushLoc. Having remote controls for your fork and seatpost are items that you think you’ll never need, until you have them. Now I want them on every bicycle in my garage.
The RLT uses a hollow 6061 aluminum crown, tapered aluminum steerer tube, magnesium lowers, 15mm Maxle, and post-style disc mounts. You can also run up to a 200mm rotor with an adapter if you choose. It took me 3-4 days to get it dialed in perfectly. That may seem like a while but I like to take my time and get it just right. Once it was set up, the ride was smooth, controlled and handled big hits notably well. Throughout all my testing, the fork favored the larger hits over washboard roads. The small stuff felt fine, but pushing through chunk is where the fun started. The only fork I’ve ridden that was smoother than this is the Pike RCT3. That of course, comes on the Virtue FRD.
The Reverb Stealth worked without flaw and reminded me to take chances. Trail flow never stops when you’re riding a bike like this. About to hit a big drop, push the remote and bam, you’re ready. Transitioning from a techy downhill to a climb, lock out the fork and wham, good to go. Those remotes sure did come in handy.
It’s small details like this that really add love to a bicycle. Technical design callouts, frame cutouts designed so the shock/upper link doesn’t impact the frame at full compression and clear skin frame protectors keeping debris from damaging your bicycle. As you can tell I’ve really enjoyed my time on the 2015 Felt Virtue 1. I wish I could have grabbed a few more riding pics but solo, selfie shots really aren’t my thing. Or that easy. Special thanks to Adam Bendig for snapping all of these great photos.
If you’re looking for one bike to do-it-all, you can’t go wrong with the Virtue 1. At $5,999, I think it’s priced right and competitively with the market. This is most likely an avid riders second bike. They’ve already purchased the entry level bike that has been beating them up on the trail for years and it’s time for an upgrade. This is an upgrade that will keep you ahead of your friends on the trail, push your limits at the races and still be comfortable enough to sit and climb all day on. I’ve been fortunate to have spent time behind the wheel of Trophy Trucks in Baja and numerous racecars on the track, the Virtue feels right at home in this mix. All designed with a wealth of technical features after one thing, to get there first.
Be sure to head on over to Felt Bicycles today and check out all the technical briefings on the Virtue series. If you can’t find a Virtue on the rack at your local bike shop, use their dealer locator or drop them a line and I’m sure they help get you sorted out. Thanks for sharing this review with your friends. Now I’ve got trails calling my name, until next time. Cheers!
The Virtue 1 is the closest I've come to delivering a 10. A bicycle that delivers on all angles, rides fast, looks incredible and priced on the money. Add your favorite set of tires and this is the bike you'll grab most often from your quiver.