Felt’s Virtue Sport has 130mm of travel at both
ends, a through-axle fork and big tyres. This makes it a good choice for more
testing terrain, and it pedals well enough to make its 31.5lb (14.3kg) weight
less of an issue.

Ride handling: Confident feel from
through-axle fork; supple and effective rear suspension

The Virtue Sport is
definitely a solid bit of kit but while it feels sturdy (and hits the scales
with quite a thud) it’s surprisingly lively on the trail. That’s down to the
well-controlled Equilink suspension, fast-rolling Continental X-King tyres and
reasonable cockpit length.

The weight makes itself
felt on longer drags but acceleration is entirely acceptable. As well as
remaining stable under power, the back end is pretty fluid over bumps too. It’s
not that reactive to weight shifts but moves enough to aid front wheel lofts
and to settle reassuringly into berms.

The Virtue’s geometry is
entirely conventional but if you want a more laid-back feel the Equilink system
is very tolerant of different setups, so you can run the rear a little softer
without it all turning to mush. There’s bottom bracket height to spare, too.
There’s also the option to move the shock to different mount holes on the
rocker linkage to drop to 120mm of travel, but in practice the difference is
very slight.

The Felt has a full
tapered-steerer front end setup and 15mm through-axle on the fork. It makes a
difference – you’re never in any doubt that the Virtue is going where you point
it, and if you find yourself pointing it the wrong way then re-targeting is
easy. The Suntour fork’s not bad, either – smooth and controlled, reasonably
stout and without any of the seepage that’s unnerved us on other Suntour units
in the past.

While on paper some of the
spec is a little low-rent, from the saddle all that you really notice is that
the Alivio shifters feel a bit plasticky and the Tektro brakes are somewhat
wooden. They’re not short of power, but if you like your brakes with a bit of
squish you may not take to them.

Frame: Equilink joins upper and lower linkages
together to improve pedalling response

The Virtue has been
getting gradually stouter with each new incarnation – compared to this year’s
bike, the 2007 original looks like it’s made of drinking straws. Up front is a
short, fat head tube that takes a tapered steerer. This leads to a substantial
trapezoidal down tube and flared top tube.

The seat tube is kinked
part way down to accommodate a suspension pivot, which limits how far you can
drop the saddle. The back end follows the stout theme set by the front.
Clearance is merely adequate around the seatstays with the tyres fitted, which
aren’t as wide as their claimed 2.4in.

At the back is Felt’s
Equilink suspension system. There’s quite a lot going on here, with an upper
rocker linkage, a short link down behind the bottom bracket, a pivot on the
seatstays near the dropouts and the Equilink itself; a strut that links the
upper and lower linkages to force them to move together.

It all adds up to a lot of
bearings and bolts, although they’re not all as critical as each other – if the
Equilink pivots wear or work loose it won’t make the back end start waving
about. A RockShox Ario shock does the springing and damping.

Equipment: Chainset and shifters a notch below what
you’d expect for the money

With a transmission
relying on mostly Shimano Alivio parts, a nine- rather than 10-speed cassette,
Octalink chainset and Tektro Draco disc brakes, the Virtue isn’t a value champion
at this pricepoint. But everything on it works, and Felt have clearly devoted a
substantial proportion of their budget to the frame.

The Epicon fork has a
tapered steerer and a 15mm axle system of Suntour’s own design. This is kind of
like a RockShox Maxle but doesn’t thread into the fork – you just push it
through until it stops, adjust the tension on one side and close the lever to
lock by way of expanding wedges.

Through-axle forks are
unusual on budget bikes but have real benefits. The larger diameter axle and
closed fork ends tie the bottom of the fork legs together far more effectively
than a normal quick-release, making for a stiffer fork and more confident
handling. They’re also more secure, minimising the chance of the wheel shifting
in the fork.

This article was
originally published in Mountain
Biking UK