26 Jun 2019

Merida's original eOne Sixty was a barnstormer, but in the past three years the eMTB space has blown up and the bike was beginning to lose its edge. How does the latest version shape up and has it addressed some of the concerns we had about the earlier bike?

The not-so-minor details

Product

Merida eOne Sixty 10K

Price

11999

Weight

23000

Positives

All the fun of the old bike, but way sexier.

Negatives

Wish they'd made the battery a little higher capacity.

 

The top of the line new eOne Sixty. The model name is the 10K, but it’ll set you back close to 12.

The bike that changed a brand forever.

Merida’s explosion into the eMTB scene was a huge turning point for the brand in Australia. Their reputation in Oz was previously for being very XC-oriented, but the eOne-Sixty changed this forever, with a combination of big travel e-bike tech, in a user-friendly package with very affordable pricing. Suddenly eOne-Sixties were everywhere; only the Specialized Levo could match their prevalence on the trails.

In the past couple of years, other brands have quickly caught up; new motor systems, sleek carbon construction, plus better battery and systems integration had begun to make the Merida look a little dated. Well, the latest version is here, and as you’d expect, it’s getting a lot of attention.

We spent six months with the older Merida eOne Sixty, and it’s interesting to see if the tweaks we made carried over to the new version of the bike.

Our previous experience with the eOne-Sixty.

We spent a full six months riding the previous eOne-Sixty 900, and you can watch and read our various updates about the bike’s performance below.


Long-term test introduction.

Long-term test update.

Long-term test update 2.

eMTBs mean adventures. The eOne Sixty opened our eyes.

Our big takeaways from our time on the previous eOne-Sixty were that it was a superbly reliable bike and exceptionally priced too. But most importantly, it rode very similarly to a ‘normal’ mountain bike, which is a quality that so many eMTBs lack. Personally, we want our eMTB to feel as close as possible to a regular bike, just with some help on the climbs. And more than anything, this the characteristic we most hoped the new version would retain.

During our long-term test period, we made several tweaks to improve the ride quality and get the attributes we wanted from the bike, and so it’s interesting to see how the new model has evolved and whether the alterations we made are reflected in the latest version.


 

A quick overview of the new bike’s features.

The new eOne-Sixty is an exciting mixture of the familiar and the brand new, so let’s jump in for a rundown of the key features.

With the battery tucked away, the new bike really is sharp.

New Shimano integrated battery.

Firstly, and most obviously, is that the battery is now integrated into the down tube. It’s not fully internal and can be removed with an Allen-key in a few seconds for charging or travel. From an aesthetic point of view, this internal battery a big win, but it also has handling benefits too, lowering the centre of gravity. Another plus is that you’ve now got a water bottle mount too.

With the new battery system comes a push-button on the top tube to fire things up.

The battery itself is the first in-tube battery from Shimano. The project was a real collaboration between Shimano and Merida; the octagonal shape allows the frame tubes to really wrap closely around the battery’s profile so that the frame can be as sleek as possible. Capacity is still 500W/hours, which is the same as the previous Shimano battery. In a market where we’re starting to see more batteries with 600 or even 700W/hour capacities, will 500 be enough to satisfy consumers?

Integrated batteries can degrade from heat build-up, which Merida have attempted to counter with some venting around the head tube (Focus use a similar setup) to allow excess heat to escape.

Details of the Thermagate venting system.

Carbon front end, identical rear end.

The mainframe is now carbon, which allowed Merida more freedom in terms of battery integration, better aesthetics, as well as making for a stiffer front end. The move to carbon was not about saving weight in this instance, with the new bike coming in at the same weight as its alloy predecessor.

The rear end is alloy and identical to the previous model, which is fine with us! We never had an issue with the construction of the back end on our eOne-Sixty test bike, and carrying this frame element over helps reduce costs and manufacturing complexity.

While the rear end retains a 27.5″ wheel, up front, you’ll now find a 29er.

Mixed wheel sizes: business up front, a party out back.

Yep, the ‘mullet bike’ (it should be frullet) is a thing now.  The Merida gets a 29er wheel up front with a 2.5″ tyre, and a 27.5″ wheel out back with 2.6″ rubber. The concept is that a bigger wheel up front gives you the confidence, grip and roll-over you want, but a smaller wheel out back preserves manoeuvrability. With World Cup downhill racers proving that the concept works, expect to see more bikes mixing it up.

Shimano motor system.

Shimano’s e8000 motor needs no introduction, and it gets the nod once again from Merida. Some of the lower-priced eOne-Sixty models get the new, cheaper e7000 motor too.

The neat new charging port.

Still the same travel, but geometry is slacker

Merida hasn’t given the new bike any more travel, sticking to 160mm at both ends, but the geometry is a little slacker and a little lower to improve descending stability and confidence. To help keep your pedals clear of the ground with the new lower bottom bracket height, Merida has specced 165mm cranks across the entire range. Good call.


We made several tweaks to our eOne-Sixty with the tyres, geometry, cockpit and suspension tuning.

How does the new bike reflect our own alterations?

It’s somewhat validating to see that a lot of the changes we made to our Merida test bike have been implemented on the new model!

Tyre choice:

One of the first changes we made to our bike was to get some more supportive and precise rubber fitted – we found the big 2.8″ stock tyres too soggy for hard riding and a bit vague. Ultimately we used 2.6″ tyres. Merida seems to be thinking the same thing, and the switch to 2.5/2.6″ rubber on the new bike should deliver more support for hard riding.

We ditched the big volume tyres for 2.6″ rubber, a move that Merida has echoed on the new version of the eOne Sixty.

Slacker head angle:

With a head angle of 66.5 degrees, the old eOne Sixty was on the steep side for an eMTB of this travel, and we found the steering wanted to ‘tuck’ at high speeds sometimes. Our solution with the previous bike was to increase the fork travel to 170mm while simultaneously changing the headset top cap to get a lower bar height. The improvement was drastic.

Merida seems to have come to the same conclusion; they’ve kicked back the head angle to 65.5 degrees on the new bike, which in combination with the larger 29er wheel should make a big difference to the bike’s handling at a high pace.

New mode shifter.

In our review of the old eOne-Sixty, you’ll have heard us moaning about the mode shift lever. The Shimano e8000 mode shifter was a continual source of frustration for us, as it prevented the use of an under-bar dropper post lever. Thankfully the new bike comes with the smaller e7000 mode shifter and a properly located dropper lever.

Perhaps the most significant change we made to our long-term test bike was fitting a longer fork in order to slacken the head angle a little.

More progressive rear suspension.

Getting a more progressive rear suspension spring curve was a priority for us on the old Merida, and so we fitted the maximum number of volume reducers to the rear shock. Thankfully the new bike comes with a more progressive suspension tune from stock which will please hard riders.

A note on pricing.

If you’re wondering how the new carbon frame and all these improvements will affect the price, well there has been an increase across the board. The top-of-the-range 10K model we’ve been riding sits at $11,999, a price point we’re not accustomed to from Merida, especially considering that bargain pricing was what helped the brand secure so much market share in the past few years. But we’re not convinced that it’s overpriced – in fact, when you stack it up against the competition at this price point, it delivers a lot, with 12-speed XTR and DT carbon wheels, plus Merida throws in a spare battery and a backpack to transport it too.

There are three other carbon models to choose from too, with pricing at $6699, $7999 and $8999 for the 5000, 8000 and 9000 models respectively.


The rocks of Girona, Spain, provided a remarkably ‘Australia-esque’ trail surface to test the new bike.

On the trail with the new eOne Sixty 10K

Hooray! It still rides like a regular mountain bike.

Our tester put it best – “within 10 metres of heading down the trail, I’d forgotten I had a motor.” In fact, the new bike has an even more natural feel to it than its predecessor, thanks in part to the increased precision offered by the 29×2.5″ front tyre/wheel combo. The overall lower centre of gravity that has been achieved with the integrated battery and 10mm drop in bottom bracket height means the new bike transitions between corners with a less ‘tippy’ feel too.

Because the short chainstay length of 439mm has been carried over from the previous bike, that playfulness we enjoyed on the earlier bike is there too; many eMTBs are reluctant to leave the ground, but the Merida manuals and jumps beautifully.

Merida stuck to a formula that we love – the short rear end might give up a little climbing traction, but it makes the bike a lot more fun than many eMTBs on the descents.

More descending confidence.

In terms of straight out descending performance, it’s no surprise that the new bike’s slacker head angle, lower bottom bracket and 29er front wheel bring some significant gains too. You’re more ‘in’ the bike than before, so straight line stability and confidence when rolling into butt-clenching chutes is improved.

Climbing is not this bike’s priority. 

It might sound stupid to say that a bike with a motor isn’t optimised for climbing, but that’s the case. This is an eMTB that relies unashamedly on the motor’s assistance to get you to the top with the tradeoff being the exceptional performance on the descents. The Merida’s suspension doesn’t offer much in the way of anti-squat, prioritising small bump performance instead. And while some eMTBs use longer stays to generate massive climbing traction, the Merida eschews this in favour of more playfulness.

Shimano’s XTR 12-speed is not only light, but it handles shifting under load very well, which is a big plus on an eMTB.

Mix and match.

The mixed wheel sizes, which we’d pinned as a potential oddity, didn’t even rate a mention once we hit the trail. There was no disconnect in terms of the feel from the different sized wheels at all. Makes us wonder why the industry has generally shied away from this configuration for so long!

Much quieter too.

Compared to the full alloy frame of the earlier model, the new bike is very quiet. The wavey chainstay protector and rubberised frame protection do a great job of absorbing the chatter in the rough, making for a distraction-free ride.

The textured chainstay protector helps keep things quiet.

How long do we have to wait?

We’re impressed, so much so that we’ve already locked in one of these bikes for a long-term test later this year. Yes, unfortunately, it’s still a few months before these bikes arrive in Australia – September or October is the ETA. We’re sure there’ll be a big queue too; even with the price increases, this is one of the most desirable eMTBs out there.

We’ve still got a few months to wait till the new bike lands here in Oz, but we’ll be locking it in for a long-term test as soon as it rolls off the docks.