Merida has quite a high brand profile in the UK thanks to its sponsorship of the eponymous enduro series. But its actual bikes have yet to make substantial inroads into the UK market – indeed, we overheard a comment recently along the lines of, “I didn’t know Merida made bikes…”. It’s a massive company, second only to Giant in terms of volume – Merida recently clocked up $40million in revenue just in August. But most of that is making frames for other companies – Merida owns a big chunk of Specialized, so that’s a lot of frame-building business coming its way for a start.
So historically Merida has been big on manufacturing know-how – hydroforming, forging, robot welding, all of that – but had little need of in-house design knowledge. But over recent years its been trying hard to establish itself as a brand in its own right, a shift that Giant managed with some success quite a while ago. There are many strands to this – those prominent event sponsorships, the all-conquering World Cup racers, and so on. But in the end, success all comes down to the bikes, which brings us to Merida’s 2009 offerings.
The 150mm travel One-Five-O debuted last year, but the 2009 bikes (for now there are two) have new frames. The general profile is similar to the 2008 models, but aside from the unusual split seat tube the frames are all new. Merida has put its hydroforming kit to work on an almost square-section tubeset, with a unique “fatter in the middle” headtube boosting weld area up front.
Most interesting, though, is the floating rear brake mount that comes as standard. A rotating post-mount caliper mount is linked to the main frame via a rather elegant strut and promises to keep the bike on the level under heavy braking. A DT Swiss RWS 10mm through-bolt holds the rear wheel in place.
There are two bikes in the 2009 line-up – pictured is the One-Five-O 3800D (£2,749) and there’s an 800D with the same frame, a RockShox Domain fork and mostly SLX kit for £1,899.
The shorter-travel Trans Mission range also gets the floating brake setup on its top two models, with the top-flight Carbon 3800D also getting a carbon fibre main frame and a £3,499 price tag. The lowlier bikes feature a frame very similar to the 2008 model, with the entry-level Trans Mission 300D coming in at an agreeable £800.
2008 also saw the debut of the spectacularly light and even more spectacularly expensive carbon fibre Ninety-Six. The top of the range Team D comes in at £7,499 for 2009, although the carbon framed bikes start at a slightly more accessible £2,999. New for 2009 are a pair of aluminium Ninety-Sixes, both sporting 2.1kg (4.6lb) hydroformed frames (not including shocks) with one-piece carbon seatstay construction. The 1000D is £1,599 and the 3000D £2,349.
Thanks to its hugely successful XC race team, Merida is probably best known for its race hardtails. The Carbon FLX range has been revised with lighter (1.2kg) frames and a front end design that reflects the look of other Merida frames. Pictured is the cheapest carbon bike, the £1,849 Carbon FLX 1000D.
There are also, of course, aluminium frames, with the pricier ones (this is the £1,349 Matts HFS 3000D) having 1.4kg hydroformed frames and the cheaper Matts TFS bikes having slightly heavier frames using mechanically-formed tubing. Running alongside the race-style bikes is the Trail range, with lower-slung, shallower frames designed around 120mm forks. These are largely unchanged from last year, but we enjoyed the 2008 bikes so they certainly didn’t need much attention.
Of course, Merida has a whole bunch of road, commuting and other sorts of bikes, including an expanded three-bike cyclocross range that we mention here as they clearly fall within our off-road remit, and also because CX bikes are great. Pictured is the top of the range CC5 at £1,099, but the entry-level (and excitingly red) CC3 comes in at a very reasonable £699.
Full details of all these bikes (and more) at www.merida-bikes.com.