Words: David Arthur
Despite a relatively small presence in the UK, Merida is one of the biggest bicycle manufacturers in the world, and it looks like their 2014 range could be their best yet. We’ve been rifling through the 2014 catalogue, a glossy hardback book (yes, seriously) and have picked out a few highlights for you that we reckon are worthy candidates to be on any bike shortlist.
And would you believe it, Merida has jumped aboard the 650b train, with a handful of new bikes built around the on-trend wheelsize. Perhaps the bike that will appeal to most UK mountain bikers is the Merida One-Forty 650B, a 145mm full-susser.. It’s a smartly packaged bike with their own VPK (Virtual Pivot Kinematic) suspension platform, with two short stout linkages connecting the swingarm to the main frame. The numbers look good too, with a 67 degree head angle and 73 degree seat angle.
There are two build options, the One-Forty 5-B at £1,500 and the £3,000 One-Forty 1-B. Both use the same frame and get specced with 150mm forks. Cables are routed internally, all sprouting out of the downtube by the bottom bracket so replacing cables should be easy enough, as well as hopefully ensuring adequate sealing.
The cheaper of the two looks a cracking bike, specced as it is with a RockShox Sektor fork dishing out 150mm of travel married to a Monarch RLT rear shock. It’s got a Shimano Deore groupset with Deore hubs laced to Alex ESD23 rims with Nobby Nic 2.35in tyres. Both bikes are specced with 60mm stems – it’s good to see companies really starting to get the message about shorter stems on long-travel trail bikes – and a 730mm riser bar.
There are seven brand new 650b hardtails called the Big 7, priced from £550 to £2,750, so everyone can get a piece of the new wheelsize no matter your budget.
Born from the same genes, the One-Sixty uses the same VPK suspension design but sticks with tried-and-tested 26in wheels. This is a new bike they introduced last year, in fact I got an exclusive first ride on a prototype ahead of its release, you can check out here. It’s a prime candidate for 650b wheels so we imagine it might get an update for the 2015 model year. It gets 160mm from the rear shock with a hydroformed frame and dropper post routing.
The key changes for 2014 to this bike include internal cable routing for the gear cables and dropper post, only the rear brake hose is routed externally. There are two models priced at £2,600 and £3,200. The latter gets a Pike 160mm PCT3 fork, SRAM XO 11-speed transmission, Sun Ringle Inferno rims on DT350 hubs and Hans Dampf 2.4 Evo tyres, with a Reverb Stealth post completing the package. That has ‘Enduro’ written all over it.
Don’t despair if you’re a 29er fan, Merida hasn’t ditched the big wheels. The Big Ninety-Nine is their cross-country/marathon offering, with 106mm from the rocker driven shock. It’s now an all-carbon affair, as befits a bike used regularly in World Cup XC races. The front triangle, chainstays and even the rocker linkage are woven from the black stuff.Frame weight is a claimed 1.9kg, so building a very light full build shouldn’t be too difficult. If you’re cut from a race whippet mould, the top-end bike comes with a 100mm fork, while the rest of the bikes in the range get a healthier 120mm up front, making it a bit more trail friendly.
We like the look of the Big Ninety-Nine Carbon Pro XT Edition, with a Fox 32 Float CTD 120mm fork and Fox Float CTD shock with a Shimano XT groupset and brakes. To keep the cost down a bit the bike swaps the carbon rear triangle for one made of 6066 hydroformed alloy. This one costs £3,000.
So there you go, some really nice looking new bikes from Merida. They’re building some good form now, with well designed bikes finished well both in terms of specification and paint and graphics. Head over to Merida’s website if you want to see the full range.