Merida has been gradually increasing its profile in the UK, largely thanks to its involvement with the MTB-Marathon enduro series. But it doesn’t just sponsor hugely-popular enduro events, it makes bikes too. We’ve ridden a few Merida bikes in the past and have generally found them to be decent enough but not quite fitting UK tastes. Having had a good look at the 2008 range on home soil, though, it’s clear that that’s all changed.
There are some significant developments to the bikes – new lighter weight flagship bikes at the top of the range, more bang for your buck further down the range and somewhere in the middle, a new 150mm all-mountain bike. It’s also dropped some of the more, shall we say, eye-catching colours and graphics of previous years in favour of a more subdued approach. Let’s dive in…
Ninety Six Team
There’s increasing competition among the bike manufacturers for rights to the lightest production bike, and with its latest full susser Merida has decided to enter the fray. The all-new Ninety Six (named for the XC-friendly 96mm of rear travel) range is built around a 1.9kg (4.2lb) carbon fibre frame, with the top Team model dusting the scales at 9kg (19.8lb) complete.
The frame is all-carbon, right down to the rocker linkage and drive-side dropout. Not everything can be made of carbon, and the Ninety Six features titanium shock mounting hardware – all three bikes in the range run a DT Swiss XR Carbon shock with remote lockout lever. Merida has chucked a load of the currently in-vogue carbon nanotubes into its carbon fibre mix, boosting the material’s strength-to-weight ratio and thus allowing them to use less of it to achieve that impressively low frame weight.
The top of the range Team D gets you a Manitou R7 MRD 100 TPC fork, Avid Juicy Ultimate 160 brakes, Sram X9/XO and XO Twister shifters, FSA K-Force chainset, Eggbeater 4 Ti pedals, DT XRX 1250 carbon disc wheels, Maxxis Flyweight 330 1.95in tyres, and is available in four sizes from 16 to 21.5in. The 5000-D gets a DT XRC 100RL fork with remote lockout and the same rear shock as the Team. Shimano’s XTR groupset dominates, with Mavic Crossmax SLR wheels and Schwalbe Furious Fred Light tyres. The “entry-level” 3500-D has a RockShox SID Race 100 fork, DT XM 180 50 shock with remote lockout, Shimano XT groupset, DT XR4.2 rims on Shimano XT hubs and Schwable Furious Fred Light tyres.
The Ninety Six will be available sometime in the summer.
Until now Merida’s longest travel full suspension bike topped out at 130mm, with the AM range. While these bikes continue into 2008, they’ve been joined by the One-Five-0, a 150mm all-mountain bike. The front half of the bike is very similar to the existing range, but move towards the back and we find a lot has changed.
The design is still a fairly conventional swingarm/linkage driven shock arrangement, but a small linkage is both lighter and stiffer, the rear triangle is more compact while offering more clearance for wider tyres, and there’s a distinctive hydroformed BB junction named the Cobra-Head. The seat tube ends just above the shock, and a heavily-manipulated section bridges the distance between the bottom bracket and the shock mount. There’s a stub tube upon which to mount the front mech.
The £1,499.99 One-Five-0 is available only in S or M sizes, and comes specced with RockShox Domain 302 U-Turn 115-160mm forks, RockShox Monarch 3.3 Lo rear shock, Shimano LX/XT components, Alex Supra FRX disc rims on Shimano XT hubs shod with Maxxis Minion 2.35in tyres.
While looking broadly the same, the AM series has been on the receiving end of a few refinements. The range-topping AM3000-D bike has been updated with a new smaller, lighter and stiffer rocker arm while a new chainstay design will allow more space for bigger tyres. The weight of the frame drops 150g.
Meanwhile, at the other end of the range, the AM400-D has been under the knife, the price dropping to £699.99 – £100 cheaper than last year.
Matts TFS Trail hardtails
Merida’s new Matts TFS Trail range should be right up many UK riders’ street, being aimed at those looking for a long-forked hardtail for more aggressive riding. This is something of a departure for Merida, which has always tended towards the racy in its hardtails in the past.
The aluminium frame has a dropped top tube for extra standover clearance and a bracing strut to the seat tube, with a compact rear triangle. The top of the range £799.99 850-D gets a RockShox Recon Solo Air 120 fork, but the £649.99 550-D and £549.99 350-D both get a more versatile RockShox 302 U-Turn 85-130mm travel fork.
Matts TFS XC hardtails
Of course, Merida still has a bunch of race hardtails to suit your need for speed. The race-ready £999.99 Matts TFS 900-D is an altogether lighter and faster handling package, with steeper geometry and a 100mm fork. A Shimano XT/XTR groupset and FSA details make it look extremely good value.
We’ll be getting a few of these bikes in for test over the coming months – in the meantime, find out more at www.merida-bikes.com