- Merida Transmission Elite
- Merida UK
- 0845 600 8218
Despite being an enormous company, Merida can’t be accused of not being the first bike manufacturer to come to mind when choosing a bike. But with successes on the XC scene and sponsorship of the hugely popular MTB Marathon series, they are gradually making a name for themselves in the UK.
We tested a Trans Mission Comp last year and generally liked it, so we jumped at the chance to try out the range-topping Trans Mission Elite at the first round of the MTB Marathon in Rhayader.
Frame and bits
The Elite has the same frame as the Comp, so if you want to know more about it, read back over that test.The 2005 Comp is essentially the same as the ’04 model tested.
The Elite gets some substantial upgrades over the Comp, as you’d expect for an extra 700 notes. Most noticeable, and surely essential for this bike’s intended use, are disc brakes, with superbly powerful Magura Julie FRs stepping up to the braking plate. We thought the lever shape was less than perfect, and will divide opinions. On the stock bike you’ll get an excellent wheelset comprising DT Swiss Freerider Disc hubs laced to Mavic XM819 UST rims – our test bike had a different setup.
A more capable Manitou Minute 1 replaces the relatively weedy Manitou Black on the Comp, complete with the very neat Rapid Travel Wind Down dial on the top of the left leg. Travel can be adjusted anywhere from 100 to 130mm of travel, though we tended to leave the fork in the full-fat setting. Looking at the rest of the spec, most of the money appears to have gone into the wheels and suspension components, although there’s enough left to get largely XT transmission, with the FSA Afterburner chainset the only departure from Shimano.
The 18in test was a little shorter than the 20in Comp we tested, with a 23.6in top tube rather than a 24.2. That’s still pretty long, although a rather more fashionably-short FSA stem kept things from being ridiculously stretched-out. The bars were nice and wide too, and altogether the whole bike fitted this tester nicely. The Fi’zi:k saddle is a love-it-or-hate-it item, though.
Big rides in big hills are obviously the style of riding the bike was designed for. Right from the off we felt at home on this bike. Out on the road the chunky 2.35 Maxxis tyres made the whole bike feel slow and unwieldy, but once properly off-road and rolling at some speed it seemed to wake up. On fireroad climbs the Transmission demonstrated why it’s little brother the Mission has won so many races: it goes like a train. The SPV damping keeps the bike firm and taught, just waiting for some juice through the pedals. Our fork initially had too much SPV platforming going on preventing the fork from taking out the small bumps – on fast but rocky fireroad descents it almost felt like a rigid fork. On bigger lumps it worked flawlessly, providing a full 130mm of buttery smooth travel. Make the time to work with the fork settings.
We were pretty happy with the 2004 Comp’s descending prowess, but over a year on and through the lens of a lot of very capable long-travel XC bikes the same design isn’t quite doing it for us. As with the front, it took a fair bit of shock tweaking to make the rear suspension more compliant, and even then we still felt the suspension struggled on rough and fast descents, clattering and pinging of ruts and lumps. We were getting all the travel, so maybe it just needs a bit more of it…
On smooth flowing singletrack the Elite railed with the best of them, and coped pretty well when the trail turned overtly technical. Though not the most nimble bike we’ve ridden, it wasn’t particularly a handful on steep technical sections. It could happily be chucked into a corner and would confidently rail through. You need to get it right on the way in though, it’s not a fan of changing its mind mid-corner.
Positives: Solid ride, goes like a train on smoother terrain, looks good, powerful discs
Negatives: Less nimble and playful than others, pricey, takes a lot of fiddling to extract maximum performance
The top-of-the-range Transmission stacks up better against the opposition on pure spec terms than last year’s cheaper Comp model, but with key bikes from other manufacturers getting significant upgrades (Specialized’s Stumpy FSR with more travel, Marin’s TARA bikes with new shocks) it’s starting to look outfaced on the performance front. It’s perfectly competent, but lacks spark – if marathon and enduros ridden at high pace are your thing, this bike should certainly be on your list of bikes to check out. But if you want a bike that’s more playful and which you can have more fun on the downs, we think there are better options.