To me, any rider who can only afford one bike should be riding a full suspension bike, they're super light, super stiff, and offer more traction in any trail than a hardtail. I also knew which bike company that offered full suspension race bikes I wanted: Felt. Ever since working at Muskoka Outfitters in the summer of 2010, I've had my eyes on these bikes. Being an employee at a bike shop gives you the inside scoop on all of the tech that the companies using, and quite frankly Felt really doesn't cut corners. Most companies use different grades of carbon fiber on their bikes, the more you pay, the more high modulus (light/stiff/durable) your bike will be. Felt is a small company <50 employees based out of California that basically got it's momentum as a 3 man company with the idea of making the best bikes, not the most bikes. The fact that most people don't know much about Felt and they they don't currently have any big teams just shows that they are a product driven company as opposed to a marketing-driven company.
My new Felt Edict 1 actually blew me away with how she rides. As a guy who's always raced a hard tail, you expect that a full suspension bike is going to bob every time that you push down on the pedals, that it will be heavy up the hills, and that the pivots will come apart. It took me a week to actually figure out which setting on my rear shock was locked out, the added traction of rear suspension has given me more confidence flying down hills, and even helped me to get up hills faster than before because the rear wheel doesn't bounce at all. Felt engineered the bike to have 100mm of travel in the rear, but kept the whole thing super stiff through the carbon linkage, and by not putting pivots in the rear. Instead the bike is engineered so that it has a certain amount of travel that's given by the rear shock, and once the rear shock is compressed, the frame flexes, resulting in smooth and stiff suspension.
Suddenly having another shock to preload has turned out to be tons of fun too, now I can preload and pivot my back wheel quickly and smoothly. This is a tough trick to do but in the right circumstances it lets me get around a corner without my brakes, it's important to have a bike that's laterally stiff enough to handle this kind of force, which the Edict does wonderfully. I can also preload before my hops now which is smooth, helpful, and fun!
The bike is a 22 inch frame with 29 inch wheels (the largest size bike you can buy really), but it whips around better than any 29er that I've ever ridden. Felt built the bike with a super steep head tube angle, which keeps the wheelbase tight, and the bike twitchy around tight corners. It also lets me lean through my corners better and keep a smaller "footprint" on the trail - letting me pedal around corners that were so tight that on other bikes I would have come to a stop to get through.
It's pretty rare that a bike looks better in person than it does on the internet, but I couldn't stop smiling when I unboxed this beauty. The pictures on the Felt site don't do the bright blue justice, and the Textreme carbon fiber is lighter, stiffer, and prettier than anything else I've seen. I love that checkerboard sheen that my bike has. It's an incredibly thin carbon fiber that is tougher because the wider strands laced at 90 degrees. Felt imports their carbon from Sweden, and though it's a crazy expensive carbon layup, you can get it on $6000 mountain bikes.
They kept the price very competitive on the bike by using the less expensive parts where it makes sense; wheels, shifter, and lockouts for the front and rear. All things considered however, this bike was 24. pounds with my pedals out of the box. The extra 2 pounds would cost around $4000 to lose, and since I got the bike I've put carbon wheels on it, and changed the stock mechanical lockout (which was warrantied anyways). Racers typically have two sets of wheels anyways (I know that I always have), and with such a stiff rear end I haven't found the need to put a remote lockout version of the shock on. I've raced everything from super technical courses like the Pan American course, to the fast and hilly Ontario courses like Albion Hills. I've found a new and reliable sidekick in all of my bike adventures, and am riding with more confidence and control than I have in the past.