Last year we were torn over which bike to include in our Ultimate Trail Bike Test: the 130mm-travel Virtue or the longer-travel Compulsion. In the end we opted for the Virtue as the proportions looked better on paper. This year, Felt has pretty much redesigned the Compulsion frame from the ground up and increased the travel by 5mm to 150mm, making it a perfect candidate for this test.
With five main pivots and two sets of bushings on the Equilink rear suspension, Felt was keen to increase durability and improve stiffness for 2009, so all of the pivot bearings and fitting hardware on the Compulsion have been oversized. Bearing dust shields are now integrated to further improve bearing life and facilitate ease of assembly.
Felt has also ditched the carbon-fibre plate between the rocker links, opting instead for an aluminium spacer to further increase stiffness. The link plates themselves have been shortened, changing the dynamics of the suspension and, you guessed it, increasing stiffness. Even with all these improvements the Felt doesn’t feel quite as stiff as the other bikes on test.
Up front the tube profiles have been modified to bring the styling of the Compulsion in line with the longer travel Felt Redemption. Geometry has also been tweaked, and the Compulsion now has a lower bottom bracket height and longer wheelbase than last year. Even with the geometry changes, the Compulsion still has the shortest wheelbase and highest bottom bracket on test.
Also, the main reason we chose to test the Virtue over the Compulsion last year was that the head angle on the latter looked really steep for a 150mm bike. Well, the angle finder doesn’t lie and at 70 degrees the head angle on the Compulsion is more in keeping with an XC race bike and is actually steeper than most of the marathon race bikes we tested in the December issue.
This is the one bike on test that would really benefit from a longer fork to help slacken the geometry. Instead, the Compulsion 1 comes with the standard 100-140mm-travel Talas fork. On the rear, Felt’s Equilink design is pretty hard to get your head around, but on the trail it proves very capable, providing a good balance between pedalling efficiency and bump absorption.
It is also noticeably better than the suspension on the Virtue 1 that we tested last year. This improved suspension prowess could be due to the reworked links and extra travel or it could be because the Virtue 1 is the only bike in Felt’s Equilink range without a seatstay pivot.
Hop off any of the other bikes on test and then onto the Felt and its 80mm stem and full-width bar instantly fill you with a sense of confidence and purpose. In fact, every component
on the Compulsion 1 screams ‘all-mountain’.
However, once you start to push the Compulsion on demanding terrain the steep head angle quickly comes into play, presenting a lack of steering stability while increasing the tendency for the fork to dive when descending. Some magazines refer to these handling traits as a ‘cat-like agility’, but it just left us wishing we had nine lives. Running the Felt with extra sag helps slow things down in the steering department, and because the suspension action doesn’t seem to be as sag-sensitive as other designs, the rear suspension remained effective. Obviously, this approach isn’t ideal as it robs you of useable travel and it can come back to bite you in the ass when you slam on the anchors, causing the rear end to extend, inducing a massive swing in geometry and weight distribution.
The handling of most of the bikes in this 150mm-travel bunch test could easily be improved by fitting a wider handlebar and a shorter stem. But seeing as the Felt Compulsion 1 already has both, it leaves very little room to manoeuvre. Ultimately, what Felt needs to do with the Compulsion is to slacken the head angle by a couple of degrees, and use the Talas adjuster on the fork for attitude adjustment for climbing, descending or personal riding preferences. As it stands, you reach the handling limitations of the Felt Compulsion 1 long before you start to tax the rear suspension.
Mbr rating: 6