At A Glance
The Merida 120 sits in that middle ground of bikes that have become collectively known as “trail”, which covers seemingly everything from around 110mm-150mm of travel in a wide variety of combinations and indeed wheel sizes. Being neither cross-country nor enduro machines, they are realistically intended to do the sort of riding most people do, most of the time.Buy Trail Bikes on
Like other models in the Merida line-up, the One Twenty comes in different wheel sizes throughout the size range with 27.5’ wheels up to a size medium and 29’ above that. The bike comes as a neat, whilst not particularly flashy looking, package with a carbon front end and aluminium rear. 140mm of travel up front is taken care of by the now ubiquitous Rockshox Pike, and 120mm at the rear courtesy of a Monarch RT3, both well known and proven units doing exactly as expected, but still allowing tuning for anyone who feels the need.
Gearing is taken care of with SRAM X1 throughout with a 10-42 cassette out back, and a well thought out 28-tooth chain ring for the three larger sizes in 29” guise or a 30-tooth in the smaller wheel sizes. Braking duties are courtesy of SRAM Guide R’s, a good workhorse brake, with 180mm discs, they certainly drag you to a halt in fairly short order. The wheels are a DT Swiss straight pull offering, nice and stiff with the reliability that can be expected from a DT wheelset. Contact points are a mix of FSA bars and stem, Reverb Stealth post and Prologo saddle.
On The Trail
The frame looks good, not flashy, understated even, but certainly purposeful. The carbon front end helps to keep the weight down and internal routing keeps it all nice and neat, the hose on the seatpost did come up a little short for myself and another tester, preventing us from getting the seat as high as we would have liked for optimum pedalling. Basically, everything does what it should by and large, as would be expected of any new bike of this standard.
The SRAM brakes did an admirable job, easily the best from that particular stable that I have used in some time. It would be nice to see how they cope over a long time but appearances suggest that some of the reliability issues of old have been dealt with. Gears, likewise, performed well, the shifting did feel a touch stiff, but maybe that was down to weak thumbs! As the particular bike we had to test was a medium it came with 29” wheels so had a 28-tooth chainring to help overcome the inherent inertia of bigger wheels, which was a very nice touch. The Rockshox components all held up well, as expected for the time we had together. One slight niggle was the positioning of the lever on the shock, if approached whilst in motion at the wrong time it felt a very real possibility that your fingers could be squashed in between the shock and supplied bottle cage. Tyres were a mix of a Hans Dampf up front and a Nobby Nic out back, I assume the intention of this is to provide a fast roller out back with plenty of grip in the front where it is really needed, and that is exactly what it did. Contact points are, admittedly, all a matter of preference, but they all played their part happily. The saddle may be a touch racy for some, but was comfortable enough for long days out. A couple of people commented on the length of the stem at 60mm, and whilst many bikes are going as short as possible, in this instance, to those of us who rode the bike it felt well suited. It is after all a trail bike and should be reasonably balanced, it certainly isn't the 80mm or more that not long ago would be standard on a bike of this type.
The Merida is certainly aimed more at the trail market than XC with its 140mm Pike up front. The big wheels keep it rolling well once up to speed and the relatively lightweight frame and build certainly helps to get it there. Once rolling along the bike does a great job of dealing with technical sections whilst maintaining both poise and momentum. Pointing downhill was confidence inspiring and fun, dealing with anything it could reasonably be expected to. It was so good when descending that an avowed cross-country racer found himself questioning himself for more than a few minutes when he realised that descending can actually be fun, even on a short travel bike! The same impression didn’t come across when climbing, however. Despite its relatively light weight, the Merida was fairly hard work once the climbing got steep and challenging; fire road and trail centre climbs were fine, but once it was released into the wild with steep technical climbs it began to feel out of its depth. This can mostly be attributed to what felt like a high front end, which necessitated a lot of forward shift and muscling around to get it to behave, but was still possible. It may be a short travel carbon 29er, but it's not a mountain goat - its talents shine in its versatility, and it’s penchant for descents.
All in all, the One Twenty is a light and fun bike to ride. It's really great for general trail use and enjoys hammering down hills with aplomb. The 120mm rear travel and 29-inch wheels give the impression that climbing would be its strength, however on the really steep technical sections, it can get a little light on the front end and become a handful. It's a well thought out build with some sensible components and great touches that should make it last for some time. It may not be outwardly very ‘in-your-face’, but that doesn't stop it doing what it is made for, which is a quality do-it-all bike. In terms of the whole package, it's a well designed and built example of what a modern bike of the 'trail' genre should be.
This review was in Issue 41 of IMB.For more information visit Merida Bikes
By Matt MartindaleMatt Martindale is a rare breed, capable of riding for days on end without sign of fatigue and still able to navigate the steep and technical with style, simultaneously putting both Enduroists and XC types to shame. As comfortable on a single-speed 29er as a 160mm full bouncer, his breadth of knowledge and experience give him fantastic insight into what really makes a great bike.