I have to admit that it was some time ago when I last rode a 26er mid-level mountain bike, but nonetheless, it brought back some memories, and gave the notion of handling a new meaning, especially after all the 27.5 and 29ers I dealt with. I think it’s safe to say that riding downhill on a 26-inch mountain bike is much more fun than on a 29er, but I could also identify the leap forward that this latter concept brought. Is the good, old 26er still up to the job?
Frame/On the trail
Nothing is left to be desired in what regards Six 40’s frame, the craftsmanship of a premium manufacturer leaving its marks all over it, starting from the welds, and finishing with the quality paint used. Handling of this bike turns out to be a key point in Felt’s philosophy, as the bike is stable when compared to fellow 26ers, this resulting from a head tube angle of 69 degrees, more common on all-mountain full-suspension bikes than on hardtails. Nowever, the bike quickly responds to commands, jumps over obstacles with ease, lands with precision, and has absolutely no problem in tackling turns at high speed. With these feats scored, and considering the 680mm handlebar and 75mm stem, suggesting that Felt Six 40 comes within touching distance of the enduro segment is by no means an overstatement.
This impression gains momentum after climbing with the bicycle, because like a true trail-ripper, its front wheel will constantly lift off the ground on steep hills, in the same the rear one failing to provide the needed grip, giving you the chance to practice some more push bike. At least you have a trace of solace in the 73 degrees of the seat tube, and keeping in mind that it’s hard to compete with the wide feature list of 29ers, the Felt’s achievements are bound to please its rider.
As for figures, they don’t stray from the average of the range, Six 40 having a weight of 13.3 kilograms, and a stiffness value of 88.6 Nm/degree, while a luggage rack mount brings into discussion the sporty spirit of the bike.
Putting the specs and price side by side, joy didn’t exactly flood my soul and mind when using the Rock Shox XC30 suspension fork, and Avid DB1 brakes. An entry-level air-cartridge fork would have made a lot more sense, in particular in relation to the price tag of the bike, but at least the 100mm of travel do offer a nice experience, and the lock-out remote, and preload setting add value to it. The brakes work decently as long as you don’t ride steep downhills, but overheating caused by prolonged braking will, in the end, substantially diminsh their power.
The 3×9 drivetrain saves the day, being centered around a Shimano XT rear derailleur, which works fast, silently, and accurately, and a Deore front one, wich almost matches it, the two components being actuated by a pair of the same Deore levers, that include the 2-way-release function. We mustn’t overlook the crankset either, which belongs to the Deore set as well, that manages not to bring such a big amount of grams to the overall weight thanks to its hollow arms.
With all the components mounted, the wheelset tips the scale at 4.881 grams, a value that could have been lower considering that the 26-inch size implied less material. The Continental X-King (26×2.2) tires provide good traction and grip, not as much as the higher level version though, but you can also count on the fact that they have a decent rolling speed. And at least you get something durable in return of the weight figure, a WTB pair or rims to be more accurate, which feature a double wall for increased strength.
So, what does this bike do best? It feels at home in the mountains, where it can be the source of a lot of hours of fun, mainly thanks to the frame’s angles and cockpit configuration. Well, it feels at home in the mountains is a way of saying it, because it loves that terrain when descending. Uphill is a whole different matter, one where the Six 40 has some catching up to do. The specifications chart is a Dr Jekyll/Mr Hyde type of a situation, with the fork and brakes in the not-so-good part, and the drivetrain representing the forces of good (and quality).
For riders on the hook with 26ers, this mid-level specified model is an option worth considering, even more so if you have to have a premium name written all over your bike. It can also do well in recreational competitions, and as long as the trails are not that demanding, the Felt Six 40 can handle whatever you throw at it.