Merida is one of the few names in cycling that can boast of their own manufacturing. Setup in 1978, Merida started as a bicycle manufacturer for key brands, and it wasn’t until 1988 that the Taiwanese name became it’s own bike brand. The company now produces upwards of four million bikes per annum (for itself and others), spread amongst its four factories.
Most interesting is that despite these mass-production capabilities; Merida doesn’t produce any of its own carbon fiber frames, instead relying on nearby specialist manufacturers for the task. With that, Merida is the self-proclaimed master of aluminium manufacturing; it can sometimes be difficult to distinguish between metal and carbon when looking at the flowing lines of many Merida frames.
For 2017, Merida claims that it has some 338 models of bike available throughout international markets, and that’s not counting the E-bikes. With such a staggering number, we break down what’s new to Australia in mountain bikes for 2017.
Big.Seven and Big.Nine
Director of products at Merida, Juergen Falke, told a room full of Australian Merida dealers that hardtails remain the largest mountain bike segment for the brand globally. With that in mind, it’s surprising to hear that the Big.Seven and Big.Nine hardtails had remained unchanged for nearly five years. That changes for 2017.
The new carbon frames (TFS Alloy continue mostly unchanged) sees updated geometry, especially the 29er which gets a longer reach, shorter rear end and generally more modern angles.
Flattened carbon seatpost adds comfort (left), while a boxy downtube uses the full width of the pressfit bottom bracket shell for stiffness (right).
The new frame claims to be designed with aerodynamics in mind, while stiffness, weight and comfort have all been improved too. Where other brands commonly use 27.2 or thinner seatposts on hardtails for comfort, Merida instead went with a 30.9mm size and a special ‘S-Flex’ flattened seatpost. This was done to achieve vertical compliance without inducing all-round flex, and also for easier dropper post compatibility, as 27.2mm versions are scarce.
The top-tier Big.Nine Team frame is said to weigh just 900 grams in a medium, with all the little extra parts such as the rear thru-axle bringing that figure to a still impressive one kilogram.
Looking to the rear and the Big.Nine pictured shows incredibly thin seat stays. We’re told these sit at a height of 12mm, and that the UCI limits Merida from going further. The new frames feature Boost wheel spacing, which has allowed for increased tyre clearance and shorter rear ends.
With its ‘murdered out’ gloss on matte black paint scheme, the Big.Nine 7000 E (AU$5,499) is the model that stole our interest. It also happens to be one of our first sightings of a full Shimano XT Di2 groupset. Perhaps most interestingly is the configuration of this gearing, with Merida choosing to not supply a left hand shifter and instead rely on Shimano’s clever ‘Synchro’ shift feature, which automates the gear choice at front. With the shifter gone, the left hand is free to control the front fork’s remote lockout.
Continuing the hardtail theme, Merida has dipped its toes in the promising Plus-sized waters for 2017. The new Big.Trail hardtail rolls on 27.5 x 2.8in rubber and features an aluminium frame seemingly built for a thrashing. Merida pitches this as a ‘all mountain’ hardtail, and the build kit is a clear sign of that.
For Australia, it’s the Big.Trail 800 (AU$2,599) that you’re likely to find on dealer floors. This model features a 130mm RockShox Yari RC fork, a Merida-branded dropper seatpost and a 1x11 Shimano SLX drivetrain with an enormous 11-46T cassette out back.
Built for the cross country and marathon racer, the Ninety-Six dual suspension platform went through an overhaul for 2016 and so needs little changing for 2017.
Pictured is the new Ninety-Six 9.6000 (AU$4,499) with a carbon front end, race-ready RockShox front and rear and a SRAM GX 1x11 drivetrain.
High in the value, the recently updated 120mm-travel One-Twenty continues for 2017 with a few component tweaks to make it even better on the trail. Featuring Merida’s ‘Float Link’ suspension system, the One-Twenty is available in either 27.5 or 29in wheel variants.
Pictured is the One-Twenty 9.800 (AU$3,699). Built on 29er wheels, the bike is more capable than ever with a stiffer 34 (diameter of stanchion tubes, compare to 32mm of past) FOX Performance 130mm fork, 2.4in width Continental tyres and Merida dropper seat post. A SRAM GX 1x11 drivetrain, tubeless-ready rims and Shimano brakes complete the package.
The One-Fourty continues without major changes for 2017 and stays with Merida’s VPK suspension system. The design works, but looks dated compared to the Float Link design found on the One-Twenty and new One-Sixty platforms.
With a 150mm fork up front, and 140mm at rear, the 27.5-wheeled One-Fourty sits squarely in the popular trail bike category. At AU$3,999, the alloy-framed One-Fourty 700 looks to be a high value option. FOX Performance suspension features front and back, while a full Shimano XT groupset rounds out the package. The specification of front shifting may seem odd, but much of the European market still demand wider range gearing which makes sense for those looking to tackle some serious mountains.
And lastly, Merida has wholly updated its One-Sixty platform, which sits within the booming ‘Enduro’ bike category. Rolling on 27.5in wheels, it now features longer and slacker geometry, plus a complete rear suspension linkage overhaul.
The One-Sixty now features Merida’s ‘Float Link’ suspension design, something first introduced with the One-Twenty platform. Additionally, the One-Sixty offers a new truncated rear shock mount (similar to the new Giant Trance), which allows the use of a longer shock within the same space.This effectively reduces the leverage ratio of the suspension system, allowing a lower pressure to be used and therefore letting the shock’s dampening do more of what it’s designed to do without having to fight against the air spring.
On display was the One-Sixty 5000 which at AU$4,499 looks to be a hot ticket item for 2017. Packing in the value for money, the bike features a carbon-fiber front end, RockShox Yari RC 170mm fork, RockShox Super Deluxe R rear shock, SRAM NX 1x11 drivetrain, Merida dropper post and some serious trail rubber from Maxxis. The basic Shimano brakes seem a little out of place, but our experience shows these perform well above their pricepoint.
Above is a brief highlight of what’s to come. Full range pricing and details will be released soon.