Merida’s new trail bike, the One Twenty picks up some considerable revisions for 2015. This honest, no-frills ride skips all the mumbo jumbo marketing spiels, and delivers a fun and efficient ride, and for a very fair price.
This shiny blue Merida was our companion for a couple solid rides on the absolutely incredible trails of Alice Springs where the terrain around town is brimming with fun, scenic and challenging singletrack. Riding out in the red centre of our big continent is harsh on body and equipment, so if your bike is not up to the task you’ll know about it. Suffice to say, the Merida came out the other side with two big thumbs up.
Yep, as the name clearly suggests the One Twenty has 120mm of bounce out back, with a 130mm FOX fork leading the way up front. The number 7 denotes the 27.5″/650B wheel size, and this is all an attempt to simplify the names of the Merida models for 2015.
The aluminium welders had a field day with this one, there is plenty of neatly finished joints and shapes adorning the all-alloy frame, so there is no doubt the fans of the material or carbon skeptics will find their happy place with this one. New for 2015 is a completely re-designed rear suspension system. The big visible difference to its predecessor is the way the lower shock mount is of the same section of the frame as the chain stays, so when the rear shock compresses the whole shock shifts downwards. This is said to aid the process of tracking the desired suspension curve, for a supple but supportive ride.
A Shimano quick release rear axle holds the rear wheel in very nicely, and mirrors the fork’s super easy quick release axle system. When we see so many different axle systems on bikes these days, especially at the rear wheel, it’s nice to find one that not only matches the quick release axles both front and rear, it’s also the easiest to use making wheel removal quick and painless.
The paintwork may be a little bit 90s with its sparkling dark blue, and the Merida decals not really attract many oohs and aahhs, but it’s clean and we like the way there isn’t 100 acronyms or fancy engineering names painted all over it.
With a refreshing lack of marketing gadgets and acronyms the Merida seems to skirt around the pressure to dazzle potential purchasers, instead they offer a bike with no proprietary suspension parts or specific components. Whether or not this was going to be a good or bad thing, we were to find out when the ride time came.
Merida took most of the Shimano XT on offer here, with a full kit of Shimano’s workhorse component group fitted to the One Twenty 7.900. We all know how much the mountain bike world loves a pair of Shimano XT brakes, more reliable than a Toyota Corolla and in this case with 180mm rotors, more powerful than a Toyota Hilux. Shifting is Shimano XT, too with a double chainring setup delivering 20 gear options in a huge range, wider than a 1×11 setup.
FSA handle the cockpit with a nicely finished handlebar in good width and a short stem for zippy handling. We were delighted to see the RockShox Reverb Stealth post fitted to a bike of this value, and the internally routed line for the seat post helps to reduce the already very cluttered bike. Mind you, our seat post wasn’t 100% bled properly, and whenever there is hydraulics involved, a quick fix is simply not that quick so we had to put up with a spongy feeling seat post during our testing period. We lamented the simplicity of a cable actuated seat post in Alice Springs.
FOX handle the suspension, front and back with both the fork and shock controlled remotely with one thumb lever. This will most certainly appeal to the rider who locks out their suspension a lot during climbs or on tarmac jaunts, but on the flip side it makes for a mighty busy bunch of cables up at the handlebars. With a bit of time and attention, you could certainly minimise the cable mess by trimming any excess length of cable down.
The stock wheels aren’t going to float if you drop them in the dam, they’re pretty weighty, but super tough and suit this bike’s sting vibe. There’s always going to be room for upgrades to a $4k bike, and perhaps a lighter set of wheels would be a good item for the Christmas gift list.
The real highlight of the One Twenty’s spec is the high level of gear you get for the bucks. The value in this one is high, and in true Merida style.
It’s a calm and comfortable ride, with a nice and stretched out top tube to open up your position on the bike. With a fairly upright geometry you sit up and over the centre of the bike, creating a suitable body position for climbing and flowing through the singletrack. We quickly became comfortable on the Merida. After spending the days prior to testing on the Trek Fuel EX, the Merida felt a little firmer in the suspension tune and sharper/upright in it’s seating position.
We dropped the stem down as low as it could go on the fork steerer tube, but with the headset’s big cone shaped upper spacer, we couldn’t go as low as we would have liked to suit our aggressive riding style, but that’s an easy one to remedy with a raiding of a bike shop workshop parts box.
For a 120mm bike, the suspension felt super controlled and smooth with a firm feel that resisted wallowing and unwanted pedal bobbing. With a quick flick of the lever by your right thumb the FOX CTD (climb, trail and descend modes) fork and shock switches to Trail Mode, which is like a ‘half lock’, good for climbing or smoother trails. One more click to Climb Mode and both ends lock out almost like a rigid bike.
When the trails got faster and wilder we found the limits of the tyres, the tread pattern and compound were fine, it was because we couldn’t run low enough pressures at risk of a pinch flat on the super rocky trails of Alice Springs. If tubeless is not imperative to you, the tyres will be totally fine but we always strongly recommend a tubeless setup on any mountain bike.
Merida have matched the geometry to the suspension travel amount perfectly, when bigger travel bikes tend to be slacker and aimed at handling steeper terrain, and shorter travel bikes are for the cross country race track, this 120/130mm travel bike is all about just getting out on the trails and enjoying them in comfort and control.
The big range of gearing served up by the double chainring was a highlight, especially after riding a lot of bikes with SRAM’s 1×11 drivetrain. This will appeal to the rider without years of riding in their legs, or steep climbs at their door. We found ourselves using gears in both the high and low range often, and after a few hours in the saddle those lower gears were a bloody blessing.
It’s not an overly flashy ride, with loads of over the top fancy talk, this Merida gets the job done in a calm and honest manner and we respect that. We flowed through the trails in Alice for hours on the One Twenty comfortably and carried great momentum up and down the steeper sections easily. We would have preferred to do away with the remote lockouts in favour of a less cluttered cockpit, but otherwise this well-handling bike is specced in a way that will have it last for years without any fuss or bother.
It’s pretty impressive how much you get for your dollars these days with an aluminium dual suspension bike from one of the biggest brands in the business, don’t look past this one as a genuine trail bike for summer and beyond.