Merida has certainly reinvented itself in recent years with enduro bikes and hardtails that show a distinct change in direction from their XC heyday. This eOne Sixty is a further move from their traditional roots and has taken the e-bike market by storm. Very quickly this bike has secured itself as potentially one of the best e-bikes out there.Buy Electric Bikes on
This model in the 900E is a no-expense-spared build and the blueprint for the bike is the impressive 'One Sixty' enduro bike that has proven itself to be a fantastic performer in its own right. Rather than design a completely new e-bike, Merida has chosen to keep as close to the original as possible and simply make a bit of space for a battery and motor. We don't get a carbon frame, but other than that it is very similar.
Looking at geometry the eOne Sixty, it's had a few tweaks from its enduro sibling. It's one degree steeper in the head angle, a little taller on the headtube and a little shorter reach. None of these makes a huge amount of sense to me, but they are subtle changes rather than a rework. They do, however, manage to only add 10mm on the chainstays which keeps the bike compact, this is in part thanks to the Shimano Steps system that keeps things tidy.
The bike runs on plus tyres, 2.8 inches to be precise and thankfully they are Maxxis Minions which offer huge grip to go with the huge power output. It has 160mm of travel front and rear and is ready for big mountain and enduro adventures. The spec is top end, with XT Di2 running the shifting and powered from the main battery pack. The suspension is Fox Factory, but this is the 2018 versions rather than the recently featured 2019. DT Swiss cover wheels and big Shimano Saint discs (200mm) slow things down with a Reverb to keep your seat in the right place.
Merida's own brand finishes off with a few components, and overall the build leaves little to be desired. One thing I would desire though would be an XL size, as the Large with a 460mm reach won't cut it for the very tall.
This is the first e-bike that has had me coming back for more, lots more. It is an e-bike that so closely mimics a normal bike that the transition is seamless and the handling familiar and fun. The review could be over there, but I will tell you more.
So rather than designing a new bike, this is effectively the One Sixty with a motor. The compact Steps motor and battery mean it's heavy, but not excessively so, giving the bike a manoeuvrability I have not experienced before on an e-bike. The geometry, although not perfect, feels like a good enduro bike and therefore gives great confidence on descents and the short back end gives a playful and nimble feel to something that could be cumbersome.
The power from the Steps motor is predictable and reassuring. No impulsive surge or wild acceleration, it simply adds to your own power and keeps pushing. Eco, Trail and Boost are available, with Eco feeling a little under-gunned and Boost slightly too much, it's Trail mode that gives the best combination. The Etube App from Shimano allows for some tuning of the power modes, but the app failed to work on my phone, and I decided I would rather ride a bike than spend hours trying to get it to connect to Bluetooth. The App needs some development but will be a useful addition when it works.
Climbing is where e-bikes have to shine, and it's easy to just assume they are simply amazing due to the increased power which obviously helps. The Merida does indeed climb well, but this is where the geometry could do with a few tweaks to make it really perform as an e-bike. A steeper seat angle with a longer reach would allow for a more forward position on the bike and keep that front end down. The short chainstays may well be playful, but they cause the front to wander when things get super steep. This is exacerbated in the large size with a tall seat post that puts the rider's weight too far back.
It's not that climbing was at all bad, the deep and controlled suspension gives tonnes of traction and the Minions grip brilliantly. It's just that an e-bike pushes a rider to find steeper and harder climbs, which then, in turn, highlights any geometry issues. For fire road winching and trail centre duties obviously this is not important, but knowing the type of climbing you require from your e-bike will be a key factor.
My geometry complaints during climbing were generally forgotten in descent, the rear end is tight and short, making it easy to get the front wheel up and over obstacles. I would happily have a degree slacker, but I never felt over vulnerable. The low position of the weight, big tyres and great suspension means it corners exceptionally and tracks the ground carrying momentum everywhere.
The silence was golden, and during descent the lack of rattle is superb. The bike is quiet and calm, a far cry from the original e-bikes with bone-shaking noises coming from the battery. No duct tape needed here.
The Merida obviously lacks the fancy in-frame battery, but for me, this is not crucial for e-bikes. Being able to have a spare battery in your pack for a long day is definitely the way to go and a worthwhile addition to any e-bike if you want to go far!
The range has been good, but pushing height gain above 1200m is tough. You can eek out extra life with Eco mode, but the real performance comes with additional power and thus shorter life.
The Di2 shifting is pretty good, but not life-changing. On the one hand, it makes sense as you have a battery already installed, but the expensive rear mech is vulnerable to all that power. Just a little knock under power or some serious mud and chain suck could kill it. I would rather protect the contents of my wallet and run a standard cable and an SLX mech.
Fox suspension really makes this bike. E-bikes need travel and lots of it. The Factory set up on this allows for well composed long travel suspension that makes the bike feel lighter and keeps traction for longer.
This is an e-bike that makes the transition for riders super easy. It feels and rides just like a normal bike. No wacky e-bike specific geometry, just a great enduro bike with power. That said, if you want to maximise climbing potential then the geometry may hinder a little especially for the tall as there is no XL size. The 900E is a no-expense-spared build with little to complain about and blistering downhill performance.
This review was in Issue 54 of IMB.For more information visit Merida Bikes
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By Ewen TurnerEwen Turner is a self-confessed bike geek from Kendal in the Lake District of England. He runs a coaching and guiding business up there and has a plethora of knowledge about bikes with an analytical approach to testing. His passion for bicycles is infectious, and he’s a ripper on the trails who prefers to fit his working life around his time on the bike.
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