First Look | The all-new 2021 Merida Big Trail ain’t no XC hardtail

Merida has just announced its latest mountain bike for 2021, but as you’ll see, this one is mysteriously missing a rear shock. It’s called the Big Trail, and it’s designed to plug the gap between the brand’s existing XC hardtails and the One-Twenty full suspension trail bike. Fittingly then, it comes bursting at the seams with all the mod-cons and some spicy trail-oriented geometry. As you’ll see shortly, it’s also packing some serious value for money too.

2021 merida big trail hardtail
Merida has launched the all-new Big Trail, and it looks like an absolute hoot!

Full Suspension? Bah, Who Needs It!

Not everyone needs, wants or can afford a full suspension bike, and for those riders a hardtail presents itself as a simpler and more cost-effective option for getting onto the trails. In the past however, getting a hardtail usually meant climbing aboard something racy and twitchy, with narrow bars, skinny tyres, a short-travel fork and XC racing geometry. Urgh!

Thankfully times have changed. Geometry has improved, and with the adoption of dropper posts, wide tyres and 29in wheels, the hardtail is a whole lot more capable, and a whole lot more fun than it’s ever been before. While other brands have been on the wagon for a while, Merida is the latest to embrace hardtail simplicity with modern up-for-it trail geometry and components.

Geometry has improved, and with the adoption of dropper posts, wide tyres and 29in wheels, the humble hardtail is a whole lot more capable, and a whole lot more fun than it’s ever been before.

2021 merida big trail hardtail
You can think of the Big Trail has a hardtail-version of Merida’s existing One-Twenty. But it’s more modern overall.

The Merida Big Trail – What’s Cookin?

The Big Trail is built around a 6061 alloy frame, which uses mechanical forming techniques to bend and shape the round metal tubes into the finished form you see here. Up front is a 140mm travel fork, and the whole shebang rolls on 29in wheels, with the curvy seatstays providing clearance for up to a 2.5in rear tyre.

Geometry is thoroughly up to date, and it’s actually more progressive than Merida’s own One-Twenty full suspension trail bike that we reviewed recently. The head angle is slacker at 65.5° head angle, and that’s combined with a steep 75.5° seat tube angle, compact 435mm chainstays, and a nice low-slung top tube.

No, it isn’t the most raked out or DH-oriented, especially compared to something like the Norco Torrent. The geometry on the Big Trail is spicy, but it’s more Rogan Josh than Vindaloo, which no doubt makes it a more appealing dish for a wider range of riders.

2021 merida big trail geometry

2021 merida big trail hardtail
Double bottle centipede!

Dual-Bottle Ready

One particularly cool feature of the Big Trail frame is that it’ll fit two water bottles inside the mainframe. You’ll also find two additional bolts underneath the top tube, which are primarily there for mounting an integrated bolt-on tool storage system, though you can fit a water bottle cage up there too if you’re an especially thirsty type.

There are loads more nice details to be found on the Big Trail chassis, including a tapered and semi-integrated headset, internal cable routing, a good ol’ fashioned threaded bottom bracket shell, and a post-mounted rear brake calliper that tucks in neatly inside the frame.

It’s also the first Merida frame we’ve seen to adopt SRAM’s fledgling UDH (Universal Derailleur Hanger) standard, though we suspect it won’t be the last. The dropouts are then brought together with a 148x12mm thru-axle, which cleverly integrates a 4/6mm hex key into the end of the removal lever.

2021 merida big trail hardtail
New-school integrated tool storage is cropping up, and Merida has made sure the Big Trail is ready for such an accessory.
2021 merida big trail hardtail
The frame is nicely finished with semi-internal cable routing, and shapely tubing that’s been mechanically formed at the factory.

The 2021 Merida Big Trail Lineup

Advance Traders, Merida’s Australian distributor, will be bringing in four Big Trail models for 2021. Pricing starts at a very competitive $1,249 for the entry-level Big Trail 200.

All Big Trail models feature the same alloy frame and will be available in Small through to XL sizes. Every frame size is optimised around a 50mm stem and 760-780mm wide handlebars. Regardless of price, you’ll be getting a 1x Shimano drivetrain, hydraulic disc brakes with bigger 180mm rotors, tubeless compatible rims and chunky 2.4in tyres.

Here’s a closer look at all four models;

2021 merida big trail 600
The top-spec Big Trail 600 features a Marzocchi Z2 fork and a Shimano Deore 1×12 drivetrain.

2021 Merida Big Trail 600

2021 merida big trail 500
In its stealthy nearly-all-black finish, the Big Trail 500 moves to a RockShox fork and a 1×11 Shimano Deore drivetrain.

2021 Merida Big Trail 500

2021 merida big trail 400
For well under $2K, the Big Trail 400 gets you an air-adjustable fork, hydraulic disc brakes, a dropper post, and tubeless compatible wheels.

2021 Merida Big Trail 400

2021 merida big trail 200
The Big Trail 200 is the only model without a dropper post, but that makes it even more accessible. And you can always upgrade to a dropper in the future if you fancy.

2021 Merida Big Trail 200

2021 merida big trail hardtail
We’re digging what Merida is laying down with the Big Trail – this is the type of hardtail that more riders should be on, and it certainly looks ready for some properly rowdy riding!

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