Some brands just ooze excitement and desirability. Yeti, Santa Cruz, Cannondale, Mongoose (ok, not Mongoose)…. We think it’s fair to say that Merida does not have the same sex appeal. While the brand’s image is drier than the silica sachets you get in your tortilla packet, the bikes are generally incredibly good, and very decent value as well. The new Merida One-Forty 800 certainly gives the old cage a rattle – it’s a genuine contender as the best trail bike we’ve ridden at this price point.
No mess, no fuss.
There’s a nice utilitarianism to this bike. It’s 100% alloy, no carbon anywhere, and the frame layout is clean and robust. All the cables are managed securely, using chunky alloy clamps to hold them tight where they enter the frame. You can fit a water bottle too (though it is tight on a medium sized frame). We wouldn’t call it a ‘no-frills’ bike, but it’s very purposeful in its build. We think that’ll appeal to a lot of riders.
Bottomless, and in a hurry.
The One-Forty is built on the same Float Link suspension design found on the One-Twenty and One-Sixty platforms. It’s a very good system – the suspension feels bottomless, like there’s more than the 140mm travel, and it carries speed exceptionally well. That was a real highlight of this bike’s performance, it just didn’t get caught up or bogged down in the rough.
The grip to back it up.
We think it’s fair to say that the Plus-sized format is going to die a death pretty soon (excluding on hardtails and some e-bikes). In its place, we’re starting to see a lot of 2.6″ rubber, which delivers a better balance of grip, stability and durability than 2.8″ or 3.0″ Plus rubber.
The Maxxis combo found on the One-Forty, with the wide 30mm rims, is a pearler. There’s a huge amount of braking, cornering and climbing grip on tap.
And the geometry to rip.
We love the geometry of this bike. The head angle is the 66.3-degrees, which is slacker than most of its direct competition, and the chain stays are short. It’s precise and jumps like a champ, but still very confident when you point it down those tech sections that want to stop your front wheel dead and shoot you out the front door. The reach measurements aren’t overly long, so if you’re sitting on the borderline between sizes we’d suggest going larger rather than smaller.
Perhaps the only downside to this bike is the very low bottom bracket, which saw us clipping pedals more than usual, especially when climbing. The flipside is that the low centre of gravity gives you a nice feeling of being ‘in’ the bike, rather than on top of it.
On-point spec choices.
It’s fantastic to see SRAM Eagle appearing on bikes at attainable price points now! Big points to Merida for going with Eagle – the 500% gear range and quiet performance makes this groupset a winner. SRAM’s whopping four-piston Code brakes might seem like overkill, but they give a good of signal this bike’s descending capabilities and they’re very powerful.
Other options under $4K?
There are a number of comparable bikes on the market you could consider. YT’s Jeffsy 27 AL at $3699 looks great (we’ve ridden the 29er Jeffsy and loved it, review here), Canyon have just released an all-new Spectral and the AL 6.0 version also comes in at $3699. Giant too have their ever popular Trance available at $3699 as well, for the Trance 2.0 (read our Trance review here).
We knew we’d like it.
From the moment we first saw this bike, at the Merida dealer show last year, we knew we’d enjoy our time on it. It just looked right – the right angles, the right components, at the right prices. It’s nice to know our gut instinct about this bike was correct: it’s a bloody hoot to ride.
If you’re looking for a tool to dismantle the trickiest trails, and you don’t have bundles of cash to throw around, then this bike should be right up there on your test-ride list. Merida, hey? Who’d have though it?!