Wil Reviews The 2020 Merida eOne-Sixty
Introduced partway through this year, the 2nd generation Merida eOne-Sixty hit the market in a big way. And really, it could not have come a moment too soon. The competition in the e-MTB market is rapidly heating up, and there are some terrific bikes out there – the Specialized Levo and Norco Sight VLT being two of our current favourites. The good news is that after three months of testing, I can confirm that the new eOne-Sixty delivers – this bike is a big step up.
Version 2.0 – What’s Changed?
Flow’s Oli Smith went to the launch of the 2020 Merida eOne-Sixty earlier this year, and his first impressions story is a good place to get clued up on all the changes with the new bike. As well as improving stability and suspension performance over the old model, the goal behind the new eOne-Sixty was to create a more visually-appealing frame design by moving to an integrated battery layout. To do this, Merida utilised carbon fibre to construct the eOne-Sixty’s mainframe. This allows for a large, open cavity in the downtube to houses the clip-in Shimano battery pack.
The straight downtube and big 1.5in headtube help to achieve the stiffness values that Merida’s engineers wanted to hit, without copping a big weight penalty like you’d get if you built the same structure out of alloy. Shielding the battery is a clip-on armour plate that’s lined with rubber on the outside for deflecting rocks and debris flicked up by the front wheel. With the cover off, a 4mm hex key (there’s one hidden inside the rear thru-axle lever) unlocks the battery should you need to remove it. Otherwise a neat charging port sits just in front of the lower shock mount.
Big Travel & Mullet Wheels
Suspension travel is similar to the old bike with a 160mm travel fork up front. However, rear travel has shrunk 5mm down to 150mm, and it’s also been made more progressive to enhance bottom-out control.
In a very on-trend move, the eOne-Sixty has also shifted to a 29/27.5in mullet combo. There’s a 29in wheel up front with a huge 2.5in wide tyre, while the rear wheel stays 27.5in with a big-but-not-quite-plus 2.6in wide tyre.
Given the mixed wheelsize thing has been a hot topic this year, including on the World Cup DH and EWS race circuits, the sceptic in me thought Merida might have just shoehorned the big front wheel in. As it turns out though, while the eOne-Sixty project began back in December of 2017, the Stuttgart-based R&D team had already been riding the original alloy model with a 29in front wheel and fork before that. Having been impressed with the results, they committed right from the very beginning to build the new eOne-Sixty as a purpose-built 29/27.5in mullet bike. So humble pie I shall eat.
Now before we get stuck into the review, if you’d like to know more of the nitty-gritty details on our long term test bike, be sure to check out the first look story on the 2020 Merida eOne-Sixty 9000 here. And if you’re after more of a broader look at the full lineup, including pricing and spec info for all six e160 models coming into Australia for 2020, check out our range overview article here.
Let’s Talk Setup
Compared to the previous eOne-Sixty, the new bike is available in four frame sizes, with a new XL added to the range. At 175cm tall, I’ve been testing the Medium.
While not as outrageously long as some others, I reckon the 440mm reach is bob-on. The 780mm riser bars and 40mm stem give a roomy, comfortable, though fairly upright riding position. I’ve slammed the stem down as low as it goes, since the eOne-Sixty’s stack height is quite generous at 637mm. Compare that to the 612mm stack on the Norco Sight I’ve also been riding, which also has a big 160mm travel fork and 29in front wheel.
Regarding contact points, Merida’s own lock-on grips deserve a mention, with their subtly tapered profile and angled traction grooves giving exceptional feel. And while pretty firm and flat, I’ve no complaints on the stock saddle either. It also houses a stealthy multi-tool, which is well nifty.
As for tyre pressure, I’ve been able to run pretty low pressures due to the voluminous tubeless tyres, – 20psi for the front and 24psi in the rear.
Up front the Fox 36 GRIP2 fork has all of the bells and whistles, though luckily the setup chart has gotten me pretty close to my preferred settings. To support my 68kg riding weight, I’ve got 72psi inside the air spring with the three stock volume spacers. All the damper adjustments are all set exactly as Fox suggests, though I have boosted the low-speed compression damping to just two clicks off the firmest setting (12/14) to keep the fork riding higher in its travel.
Merida recommends 30% sag for the rear shock, which equates to 19.5mm on the stanchion. To hit that number, I’m running 165psi inside the Fox Float DPX2. As I’ve found with other DPX2 shocks, the damping can feel a bit sticky, so I’ve got the rebound damping set only four clicks from the fastest setting (10/14).
There’s a blue, three-position compression lever that provides on-the-fly adjustments between Open, Medium and Firm settings, and you can separately adjust low-speed compression damping via a 3mm hex key located in the eye of the blue lever. For maximum plushness, I’ve left the shock in the Open position for riding off-road, with the low-speed compression wound all the way open.
And plush this bike is! From the get-go, I’ve been thoroughly impressed with just how comfortable the eOne-Sixty is, and how well the chassis floats over the roughest of terrain. This is one seriously smooth performer.
Merida’s latest full suspension designs are dialled, but the back end shines even brighter on the eOne-Sixty thanks to that big volume EVOL rear shock and the favourable sprung-to-unsprung mass ratio. The result is a calm and composed demeanour that sees you and the mainframe hovering in a steady trajectory down the trail, while the front and rear wheels jackhammer all over the place.
Thumbs up to the product manager for spec’ing the excellent GRIP2 damper in the Fox 36 too, which affords astounding control on the front of the bike. It also uses the stiffer e-MTB chassis, which when combined with the robust carbon mainframe, gives the eOne-Sixty a hugely solid front end that inspires plenty of courage for ploughing into the chunk.
Though I’ve made good use of the 150mm of travel out back, I am still yet to detect a single bottom-out event. The shock O-ring always seems to have a few mm spare before it hits full-straps, highlighting the vastly improved control from the new bike’s suspension design. It isn’t obscenely progressive though – Merida doesn’t recommend running a coil shock on the eOne-Sixty, which is also due to potential clearance issues.
The shock’s Large Volume (LV) EVOL air can comes fitted with the grey 0.4³ volume spacer from the factory, and it’s worth noting that this is the biggest volume spacer that Fox recommends for this particular shock size. If you desperately needed more support, running a touch less sag will help, and there are also 10 clicks of low-speed compression damping available for firming up the back end.
As well as the uber-plush suspension, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the straightforward handling of the eOne-Sixty. It’s solid and competent at speed, but it’s also a very easy to ride bike that’ll appeal to a wider range of riders and trail types.
In Merida’s press pack for the eOne-Sixty, the bike is described as being able to “shine away from the enduro tracks“, and I’d wholeheartedly agree with that sentiment. While Merida has lobbed a degree off the headtube over the old bike (65.5° vs 66.5°), the designers haven’t made it so long and slack that it requires crazy-steep and fast descending trails just to wake it up. It’s actually a load of fun to ride on non-alpine singletrack, and you don’t have to exaggerate your riding style to get the most out of it.
In this sense, I’d say it’s more comparable to all-rounders like the Levo, Sight VLT and Trance E+, rather than full-throttle freeride rigs like the Kenevo, Range VLT and Reign E+.
As for the uphills, the 2.6in wide Minion rear tyre and active suspension design ensure there’s dollops of useful traction on tap. Merida has also steepened the effective seat tube angle (75.5° vs 75°), which helps to push your hips further over the cranks. Along with the roomy cockpit, ascending on the eOne-Sixty is a thoroughly enjoyable experience. The 17.5mm BB drop is middle-of-the-road compared to the competition, and paired to the stubby 165mm crank arms, there’s reasonable ground clearance to minimise tech climb-crushing pedal stalls.
Short & Sweet
Of note is the alloy sub-frame, which has actually been brought over directly from the previous eOne-Sixty. No doubt has this saved on some of the production costs, but it also means that the bike retains its short 439.5mm chainstay length. This is quite compact for a big 160/150mm travel e-MTB. It’s nearly as short as the class-leading Pivot Shuttle (436.9mm), basically identical to the Norco Sight VLT (440mm), considerably shorter than the Specialized Levo (455mm), and a whole postcode shorter than the gargantuan Giant Trance E+ (470mm!).
The result of the compact back end and 27.5in rear wheel is plenty of agility through the corners – certainly a lot more than I was expecting given the 22kg weight. The mass feels well distributed through the chassis, with the battery sitting low in the downtube.
Another influencing factor in the eOne-Sixty’s upbeat handling is the 51mm fork offset, which quickens the steering compared to a shorter (and currently more trendy) 42-44mm offset. That makes it nice and responsive on more natural trails, and it’s intuitive to corner. It also means the front end isn’t quite as planted on the steep descents though, and occasionally the front wheel can feel a bit light on really loose trail surfaces when riding at warp speed. However, the bike’s weight, the stiff fork chassis and the aggressive Maxxis Assegai front tyre go a long way to keeping it glued to the ground when you’re really gassing it.
Still, purely out of interest, I asked Merida about fitting a reduced-offset fork to the eOne-Sixty, and was met with a firm ‘NO!’ As it turns out, clearance is pretty tight with that beefy and straight downtube, enough that a shorter offset would see the front tyre contact the frame at full compression – yikes! So whatever you do, DO NOT fit a shorter fork offset to your eOne-Sixty.
Speaking of the fork, I also asked about running more travel. While Merida doesn’t recommend it from a handling perspective, the frame has been tested and verified with 170mm up front. I wouldn’t want to jack up the bars any more though, and really, I think it handles bloody marvellously as it is. I’ve certainly not found the eOne-Sixty lacking in the stability stakes, not even while racing at the Harcourt Gravity Enduro a couple of months back.
What’s The Battery Range Like?
As is always the case with an e-MTB, how much riding you get out of a single battery depends on a variety of factors. Rider weight, tyre choice and pressure, gradient, and which assist mode you’re using will all influence how many km’s you can eek out. In my case, I’ve had a few 50km rides where I’ve arrived back home having only used three of the five bars on the battery indicator.
To get some more concrete results of a worst case scenario though, I spent an afternoon self-shuttling up Mt Tarrengower in Maldon, VIC. There are some pretty rowdy old-school downhill tracks there, which these days are a great test for a 150mm travel enduro bike.
The road climb is only 2km long, though the average gradient is close to 10% with 188m of elevation from bottom to top. I rode the entire climb on the most powerful Boost mode, and also soft-pedalled to make the motor do as much work as possible.
By early evening, I’d racked up 1 hour and 42 minutes of riding with eight laps in the bag. Total distance was 30km, with just shy of 1500m of climbing & descending. I was pretty beat physically from all the descending, since those rough and rowdy trails are so hard on both bikes and riders.
Of note is that on the second last climb, the battery indicator dropped down to the final bar, and the STEPS system automatically switched to ECO mode in order to preserve the remaining juice. I finished the climb, made one more descent, and then in the spirit of science, completed a final climb to see how much more I’d get out of this ‘Emergency ECO’ mode. Turns out it was just over half the climb (about 100m of elevation), with the assist switching off completely for the final kilometre. Ooph!
While the Shimano 504Wh battery is notably smaller than Bosch’s latest 625Wh pack, or the huge 700Wh battery used in the Levo, there’s enough range in it to accommodate 95% of the rides that I’d take the eOne-Sixty on. There’s always a balance between battery size and weight though, so it’s personal preference as to how big you want to go.
The Shimano E8035 battery itself weighs less than 3kg and is reasonably compact, so it wouldn’t be totally out of the question to carry a second one in your backpack if you were planning an all-day epic. That battery will cost you $999 though, so you might even want to consider the top-end Merida eOne-Sixty 10K model, which includes a spare battery and an EVOC backpack to carry it. While we’re on the battery, it’ll take up to 5 hours for a full recharge, and it’s rated for 1000 cycles over its lifespan.
STEPS E8000 Performance & Tuning
We’ve ridden plenty of STEPS systems over the past couple of years, and it’s proven to be a smooth and reliable performer – we’re yet to encounter a problem. Directly compared to the competition, the Shimano system is quieter than a Bosch motor, and pretty close to the Brose motor used in the Levo. It’s only in Boost mode when you’re really pushing the motor at a higher RPM where the whine picks up over the Levo.
As to power delivery, it’s pretty darn smooth, though the 25km/h limit is pretty noticeable when the motor cuts off – certainly moreso than the Levo. Flick the power assist back into Trail mode with the compact left hand shifter though, and everything feels smoother and more subtle.
You can also utilise the Shimano E-TUBE app to tune the power assist levels of each setting. Pairing your phone to the display unit via Bluetooth isn’t particularly intuitive, and the app doesn’t seem to possess any diagnostics functions or information – something I discovered out on the trail when the display unit flagged a ‘W013!’ error and the motor wouldn’t turn on. I had to use my phone to Google a troubleshooting page on the Shimano website to work out what that code meant and how to rectify it.
(Turns out ‘W013’ is an error related to the initialisation of the torque sensor, which can happen if you’re pushing on the pedals as the system is turning on. For any new Shimano STEPS owners out there, be sure to give the bike a good few seconds to initialise and allow the display unit to come on, before jumping on and pedalling away.)
Having finally connected my phone to the STEPS system, I’ve since been able to drop the Trail mode down to the lowest assist level, which is my preferred setting for riding along singletrack and up technical, traction-poor climbs. Boost is hilarious fun up road climbs and firetrails, but it’s too aggressive for actual off-road riding. De-tuning the power output also throws more of the work over to me to improve total range. I’m hoping to head away on some longer adventures over summer, and I reckon with careful management I should be able to get closer to 60-70km out of the eOne-Sixty, depending on the elevation.
Big Brakes, Crispy Shifting
As for the rest of the eOne-Sixty 9000, I am really impressed with the build kit Merida has curated with this bike.
The 4-piston Shimano XT brakes are absolutely superb, particularly when they’re matched to those huge 203mm rotors. There’s terrific power on tap, but it’s the modulation that the 4-piston callipers offer over their 2-piston counterparts that is most appreciable.
Shimano’s 1×12 XT drivetrain has been similarly flawless. The robust and fast shifting of the Hyperglide+ cassette is even more pronounced when there’s a 250W motor delivering 70Nm of additional torque on the chain. Shifting under load produces some pretty snappy cracks and bangs, but it still changes gear quickly and effectively every single time.
Any Problems So Far?
Not really. Aside from a quick lever bleed on the brakes, and a few turns of the barrel adjuster on the shifter, the eOne-Sixty hasn’t needed a lot of attention during the three months we’ve enjoyed together. There have been no issues with the own-brand dropper post, which has been slick, fast and slop-free.
There are a couple of small annoyances, like the rear thru-axle lever that fouls on the dropout when you try to unwind it. It’s very neat the way it houses both a 4mm and 6mm hex key inside the pull-out lever, but removing the axle requires you to work in 180° turns at a time.
*Update: Merida contacted us after this review was published to inform readers that the rear axle design has changed on later production versions of the eOne-Sixty. The head of the axle is now taller, which means the lever sticks out a little further so it doesn’t foul on the dropouts quite as much. You’ll still have to pull the lever out a fraction to allow for a full 360° rotation, but we’re told it’s much easier to use than the current design found on our test bike.
I also like the included front and rear mudguards, but the rear guard does contact the back of the saddle at full compression. On a particularly dramatic landing, the guard got sucked in underneath the seatstay bridge by the tyre. It’s a nice idea, but I’ll be removing that guard shortly.
I really like the versatility and traction of the stock tyre combo, though I did manage to put a fatal cut in the rear EXO+ Maxxis tyre after descending a notoriously punishing trail with the rear tyre 1-2psi lower than it should have been. A few Stan’s NoTubes DART plugs helped me to get home, but they blew out on my first run down Mt Tarrengower, so I replaced the tyre with a 2.4in Dissector, complete with a DH-casing.
While tougher, there’s less squish and less traction compared to the stock 2.6in Minion. If I go back to a non-DH rear tyre, I’d definitely consider throwing a tubeless insert in the back wheel for the inevitable punishment it’s likely to encounter over its lifetime.
That said, the DT Swiss wheelset is mint. It’s the heavier HX 1501 Spline One e-MTB wheelset, which is basically a beefed up version of the EX 1501. Thicker spokes, thicker alloy rims and reinforced hub internals see the total weight clock in at 2,017g (confirmed), but they do create a very strong and reliable wheelset.
Even with that horrid tyre-ruining pinch flat, the rim only has the mildest of dings in it, and is still running tight and true.
Flow’s Final Word
Having already spent a couple of months aboard the eOne-Sixty, I have been really impressed at the ride quality and versatility of this go-anywhere e-MTB. The suspension is stupendously plush and well-controlled, and the geometry has been carefully considered to provide a comfortable and confidence-inspiring riding position.
The mullet wheelsize combo also works exactly as intended. The back end is usefully short with the 27.5in wheel, allowing for great agility through the turns, while the big Fox 36 and 29in front wheel ensure plenty of ploughability on the descents.
The 504Wh battery doesn’t afford the same kind of range in as some of the bigger packs out there, but it is lighter and more compact, and that presents its own advantages in terms of packaging and handling. Merida has made full use of those weight savings by spec’ing reinforced tyre casings, burlier wheels, a proper piggyback shock, and a heavier e-MTB fork chassis without creating an absolute pig of a bike. The rest of the combat-proven parts spec certainly leaves very little to be desired, and there’s really nothing on here that I’d want to upgrade personally. You’d have a very hard time trying to justify spending the extra $3K going to the next model up.
As to what’s next? I’ve got a few ideas for our eOne-Sixty 9000 test bike, along with a few big rides I’m hoping to get in over the summer season. But I’d love to hear from you guys. What would you like to know about this e-MTB? Are there any places you’d like us to take it to, or parts you’d like to see us test on here? Let us know in the comments below!
And if you’re after more reading on the eOne-Sixty, check out Oli’s first impressions story here, our detailed test bike intro story here, and the full range overview here.
2020 Merida eOne-Sixty 9000 Specs
- Frame | CFA Carbon Fibre Mainframe & Alloy Swingarm, 150mm Travel
- Fork | Fox 36 Float, Factory Series, GRIP2 Damper, 51mm Offset, 160mm Travel
- Shock | Fox Float DPX2, EVOL LV, Factory Series, 205x65mm
- Drive Unit | Shimano STEPS E8000, 70Nm
- Battery | Shimano E8035, 504Wh
- Wheels | DT Swiss HX 1501 Spline One, 30mm Inner Rim Width
- Tyres | Maxxis Assegai EXO+ 3C Maxx Grip 29×2.5in Front & Minion DHR II EXO+ 3C Maxx Terra 27.5×2.6in Rear
- Drivetrain | Shimano Deore XT 1×12 w/Deore XT 34t Crankset & 10-51t Cassette
- Brakes | Shimano Deore XT w/203mm Rotors
- Bar | Merida Expert eTR Alloy, 20mm Rise, 780mm Wide
- Stem | Merida Expert eTR Alloy, 40mm Length
- Seatpost | Merida Expert TR Dropper, Travel: 125mm (XS), 150mm (S/M), 170mm (L/XL)
- Saddle | Merida Expert CC
- Available Sizes | S, M, L, XL
- Confirmed Weight | 22.09kg (Medium size, setup tubeless, without pedals)
- RRP | $8,999
Mo’ Flow Please!
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