Merida Bikes E160 2021 Mountain Bike Review

Merida Bikes E160 2021

Reviews / Electric Bikes

Merida Bikes 262,383

At A Glance

Merida have long held acclaim for the eONE-SIXTY, one of the first proper e-MTB’s to have sorted geometry and a real enduro feel. It’s won plenty of awards over the years, and rightly so. By today’s standards, it’s perhaps not the longest, lowest or slackest enduro focused e-MTB on the market, but that doesn’t detract from what is an exceedingly capable bike.

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For 2021 the bike gets the EP8 treatment, the latest motor from Shimano; it’s also rocking a 29er up front and a 650b out the back, giving it the mullet makeover. There is also a Thermo Gate in the head tube area of the carbon frames; this allows warm air to escape from the frame to keep the internal battery at the optimum temperature.

Along with space for a full-size water bottle, there is some updated componentry with a few interesting additions. First up, BOMBERS! The fork that became a meme all those years ago is back, and Marzocchi are on point with this Z1 EBike+ version. The rear is controlled with the popular FOX Float DPX2 Performance shock; as the name suggests, you get 160mm of travel front and rear.

Braking is taken care of by the very capable Shimano SLX set up, with a Shimano drive train with the excellent Shimano XT RDM8100 Shadow+ 12 speed derailleur and XT shifters. SLX hubs are paired with Merida’s own Expert TR hoops for the wheels, and they are shod with a Maxxis Assegai out front and a Minion DHR on the back.

On paper, the spec looks incredible for the pricing; perhaps our only raised eyebrow was the Lezyne STVZO E115 light on the bars. This is coupled with a small USB light in the saddle, we’re not sure if this was to appease some EU regulations, but at 310 lumens, the light is only really useful in traffic if you get caught in a pinch on your way to the trails.

Other than that, it’s hard to find fault here, and the orange and black colourway had a few of the testers frothing. Hats off to Merida for offering this bike in 8 different versions, too, with high-end carbon models lining up next to entry-level spec bikes, which will be a gateway for many to get into the joys of riding e-MTBs. In addition to the eight models, there are at least two colours in each bracket, meaning there is plenty of choice for your dream steed.

On the Trail

Out of the box, the eONE-SIXTY is a lovely bike; first impressions were of impressive build quality and some very clean lines. The new Shimano EP8 is very small, and that’s allowed Merida to really tidy the lines of the bike up. I’m sure as battery tech advances in the coming years; we’ll start to blur the lines between a non-powered and powered MTB.

Good looking is one thing; the ride is what really counts, though. The new engine is quiet, eerily so (although we’ll get to more on this later) when pedalling compared to the Bosch Gen 4 we were testing at the same time; there really is no comparison; the EP8 is near silent when it’s engaged and running. Heading uphill, the power delivery is smooth and feels exceedingly refined. On the way up the mountain, I can’t think of another engine I’d rather have. Sadly, and let’s get this out the way now, coming down the mountain, Shimano missed a trick. The EP8 rattle is sadly real; at first, I thought a cable was loose, I checked and checked, and nothing seemed to be the culprit; you get near silence on the ups and a slightly annoying rattle on the downs.

This won’t bother many of you; in fact, Shimano have sold tons of these, although, to my mind, I can’t quite fathom how it ever got out of the factory. Most discerning mountain bikers have a near fit when they hear a squeak or a rattle and will hunt around to find the issue and fix it. Equally, we all know someone who hoons around sounding like a bag of spanners.

For me, the motor was a bit of a disappointment, which is a shame as the eONE-SIXTY is such an incredible bike. It’s fast, nimble and really fun to ride. Let’s talk about the good bits because there are plenty, starting with those Bombers! Marzocchi have hit it out of the park here. It’s a lovely fork offering a reasonable amount of tuning and a very plush feel, especially on the initial stroke.

Almost no stiction and a lively ride with good feedback for the rider, the big 29er wheel was tracking the trail with ease and offering plenty of grip in the corners. Some reviewers have had a pop at the weight of the fork, and the price, which would be a consideration as an aftermarket option, but e-bikes are heavy, so arguing over a few grams is like asking Boris where the PPE billions went, pointless. While it might not have the draw of RockShox or Fox, don’t be put off here, it’s a very capable fork, and we felt it added to the ride of the bike.

The rear end with the 650b wheel is very nimble and, dare I say playful for an e-MTB; it feels like an oxymoron using those words in the same sentence, but the eONE-SIXTY is keen to please on every corner, and it’s easier than most to flick around, the shorter chainstays are helping here.

Headed downhill into rough terrain, the bike eats it up with aplomb, it’s a pleasure bouncing over the rough stuff, and the bike tracks well and feels planted. Point it where you want, and the stiff fork takes the lead, and the rest of the bike follows through in a well behaved and confidence-inspiring manner.

Climbing up the hills, you do need to shift your weight forwards a little to keep the noise down, but with slackish angles and long travel, that is to be expected. On really tight twisty climbs, it can feel a little like a blunt tool, but that isn’t what this bike was made for. This is a machine to get you to the top and then ignite your fire on the way down.

Some EP8 motors rattle less than others, apparently, some bikes are quieter than others apparently. We’ve tested a few, and sadly if you want a silent ride, it’s probably not the motor for you. However, if you’re after a smaller, lighter, smoother and quieter when running motor, then the EP8 is for you.

Overall

On reflection, did the rattle really bother me? Arguably once I knew it was just the engine and not a wayward cable or loose bolt, then I kind of forgot about it. I guess with this motor, we got so close to perfect, and to find out it’s not quite what we expected is a bitter pill to swallow. Would it put me off owning the eONE-SIXTY? Definitely not; the bike is fast enough and fun enough that you soon forget the noise and settle into the job at hand.

With sorted componentry that works well, numbers that seem to be fairly standard for e-bikes these days and one of the quietest* smallest and smoothest motors, there is a lot to like here. While the numbers might not please the geometry hounds looking for the most radical digits, the eONE-SIXTY is a well-specced, exceedingly fun and capable machine. If you can get your hands on one, you won’t be disappointed.

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This review was in Issue 65 of IMB.

For more information visit Merida Bikes

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By Jarno Hoogland
Jarno's life has revolved around two wheels ever since he swung a leg over his first BMX at age 4. After a BMX and DH racing career, he moved on to work for bike shops, distributors and brands before ending up in the editors seat at IMB. Based in the ultimate testing ground in the Swiss mountains, he runs his guiding operation and makes sure every IMB issue is filled with top notch content.

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