The Merida One-Sixty 800 had us at the spec sheet, after triple-checking the price it was confirmed; this bike is kick arse value. But money doesn't buy you friends, just like all the best parts won't ride themselves. So, with a slightly sceptical approach, we took the One-Sixty to the trails it's aimed at, for a good hard look at where it shines and where it doesn't.
The not-so-minor details
Merida One-Sixty 800
Crazy value spec.
Efficient pedaller despite its size.
Short reach and sharp angles feel nervous at speed.
Linear suspension needs attention for heavier riders.
Writing about Merida bikes, we find ourselves defending them from being called dull or boring, but they should be able to do that themselves, they are big enough. What we will say is that in our experience, the smaller travel One-Twenty and One-Forty have been fantastic bikes for nearly a decade, but the earlier One-Sixty models have traditionally been a little lacklustre in the hands of a confident pilot that watches enduro racing on YouTube. This new generation One-Sixty appeared to buck that trend and is garnering a lot of attention in the core riding community for its smart looks and fantastic value.
Look at me!
We have the new One-Sixty 800 on review, with an aluminium frame, 160mm of bounce in the rear and 170mm up front; this bike could be an enduro master for someone on a limited budget. It’s built tough, sells for $3999 and comes in at 14.3kg when set up tubeless.
Merida’s new lineup of suspension bikes are killing it this season, just have a look at the One-Sixty’s smaller brother, the One-Forty. With less travel and huge 2.6″ tyres, it’s a killer all-day trail bike, worth a look if you don’t need all the travel of the One-Sixty.
Geometry number wonders?
As we mentioned in our first impressions piece, Merida has gone against the latest industry trend and made the One-Sixty shorter and steeper than the 2017 Merida One-Sixty 5000. From the 2017 model, Merida has steepened the seat post angle to 75 degrees, this has shortened the reach by 5mm, and a massive 12mm has been taken off the wheelbase.
Perhaps Merida has decided to shorten the One-Sixty in an attempt to have it feel more accessible to a broader range of riders. Bikes with super long reach can feel a little dead and lethargic on all but the fastest on the descents, and take more effort to whip around a tight corner.
But fear not! If you like your bikes long, then the top-shelf carbon 2018 5000 still keeps those long dimensions from 2017 but has the same steeper seat angle like the One-Sixty for a more efficient seated climbing position.
Keen on racing big mountain enduro? Going up one size would be an option, with the standover height not too tall, so added reach can be gained without too much height.
That SRAM Smorgasbord.
Running a full groupset on a budget-oriented model tends to be quite rare, take a look at the Giant Reign 2 for example with a mixture of Shimano/Praxis/Sunrace parts in the drivetrain. Merida is pushing the boundaries of price and making it hard for other companies to hide behind dollar saving lesser known parts. We have seen more expensive bikes have much lower spec than this bike and we are very impressed.
The SRAM GX Eagle drivetrain is excellent, with a fantastic gear range to climb and descend pretty much anything. Merida has also has upgraded the cranks to the robust Descendant over the GX to show us what this bike’s real intent is.
The impressive RockShox Super Deluxe RCT handles the rear suspension. Why is it so remarkable? Ah, the low-speed compression adjustment, rejoice! The dial has 12 clicks of adjustment, and we played around with it over the course of the review. We appreciated how we could tune it in for each track we rode, from anywhere between firm and supportive to buttery smooth.
The RockShox Yari was a great performer. Every time we ride this fork we’re reminded how good entry level suspension is these days. It worked well in conjunction with the Super Deluxe.
The new SRAM Code R brakes have now set the standard for what a price point brake can be; we were blown away by how good they are. They have a smooth action with a dependable feel, from the top to bottom of a descent they felt great with no pump up and loads of power.
Commonly seen on bikes around this price is the KS E10 dropper post which feels a lot slower in comparison to the top of the line KS Lev found on this bike, another excellent spec item that impressed us. This post can have the return speed adjusted by adding or removing air pressure and is fully serviceable. If we were to be super picky, maybe a 150mm drop over the 120mm would be better.
Anything we changed before riding?
We tried hard to fault the spec out of the box, but we couldn’t. Even the Merida branded grips were super comfy, and people that ride gloveless should enjoy these. We just converted the wheels to tubeless like we do with every bike, and started shredding!
How did it handle on the trail?
Oh my, this big enduro bike doesn’t mind pedalling and climbing! We’re not going to say anything outlandish like it ‘climbs like a cross-country bike’, but we will confidently say it climbs like something smaller and hides its size well. When standing out of the saddle, the bike feels firm with minimal pedal bob and motors along well, helped by the low-speed compression adjustment on the Super Deluxe shock.
The One-Sixty thrives in tighter tracks, feels very nimble and is quick to respond to your inputs. Even though it has 160mm out back, the bike does feel like it has less travel with the way it can play about on the trail.
The rear suspension on the One-Sixty feels smooth and controlled, but it is very linear, and perhaps it’s a little to easy to get full-travel for a bike like this. To balance the suspension front and rear, we would have liked to experiment by removing Bottomless Tokens from the Yari fork to help the front end match the rear’s linear feeling suspension.
After a few rides, we couldn’t work out why the Merida felt so short, and why we couldn’t get comfortable on the steeper descents, or at high speed. On paper, it was longer than the Norco Range A3 which we had on test at the same time, and we loved that bike – click here for the Norco Range review – but the Merida still felt short to us. Then we noticed the One-Sixty had a 30mm stem while the Range had a 50mm.
With a quick stem change the Merida transformed, and we became a lot more comfortable. The 50mm stem allowed us to find the middle of the bike and get our weight evenly over both the wheels. The best bit was we were able to get more weight onto the front wheel which helped us to stop understeering.
Heavy rider? How to get the most from the suspension.
When we set the bike up, we started with 30% sag in the rear but found it blowing through its travel too easily. We increased air pressure until we had around 22% sag, and could have still added more. As we did this, we lost some of that sweet small bump sensitivity.
The next step for us (and heavier riders) would be to look at adding Bottomless Spacers to the Super Deluxe (simple and straightforward, just ask SRAM on YouTube) to reduce the air volume. We did inspect inside the shock and were pleased to see there is room for two more spacers to make the shock more progressive.
Is it ‘Enduro’ enough?
So will it be at home on an enduro race course? Well as that old Kiwi expression goes “Yeah… Naa… Yeah”
Yeah – It pedals fantastically, and on flatter courses with the odd huck, this bike would fly.
Naa – It just tends to blow through its rear travel on significant impacts, and we know the enduro crowds would want more frame length or a longer stem for more stability at speed.
Yeah – Just go a size up or get a longer stem. For heavy hitting riders just pop a volume spacer or two into the rear shock for more ramp up and bottom out control. Presto!
Would we recommend it?
Yes, we would. Merida may traditionally be as exciting as cabbage for dinner, but even cabbage can be made more tempting when prepared with butter, garlic and onion.
The spec is so impressive, how can we not recommend it? It also pedals better than most smaller travelled bikes we have ridden. We’d recommend looking at going up one frame size if you’re keen to go super-fast. Spend the time getting the suspension dialled to your riding style, and you’ll be stoked on this thing, like we were.