At A Glance
The Merida One Twenty is a striking looking bike that just looks fast. That may be something to do with the company’s name blazoned along the downtube as they are very much a brand that puts low weight and high speed high on their list of priorities.Buy Trail Bikes on
The oh-so-fast Schwalbe Racing Ralph tyres that will doubtless suit the bike in the summer had me chewing my bottom lip nervously as I watched the rain tipping down outside.
Weather aside I was looking forward to getting out and having a blast on the One Twenty to see if it was just a speed demon or a little more capable of general trail abuse.
Very much the heart of the One Twenty is its frame and the carbon version we tested was made of the same HM nano matrix black stuff as Merida’s World Cup winning XC frames, this give a claimed frame weight of under 2kg without a shock.
The carbon version that we tested keeps last years suspension characteristics which are truly propulsion bias whereas the alloy versions have a slight change that makes them a little more trail friendly.
Suspension duties are taken care of via a Fox Float RP2BV at the back and a Fox Float 32 RL 120 QR up front.
Transmission is Shimano’s faithful workhorse XT 3 x 10s throughout.
FSA carbon 31.6 seatpost, 100mm stem and 680mm bars all do their job and look good.
The wheels and brakes are possibly the point where compromises were made to hit a price point. Brakes are Shimano M596 with 180mm rotors, steady but not inspiring kit. Wheels are Shimano M595 hubs laced to Merida XCD rims and these are shod with Schwalbe Racing Ralph tyres.
Geometry wise the angles are pretty much what you would expect on a bike in this category, the head tube angle is 69º and the seat tube angle is 73.5 º.
A comfortable effective top tube length of 590mm gives room to breath, chain stays are shortish 423mm, this is some way shorter than the alloy versions chain stay length of 435mm.
Our medium test bike came in at 26lbs without pedals.
On The Trail
Getting comfortable on the One Twenty was easy, the 590mm effective top tube is just right but the 100mm stem was a little long for me so that is something I would probably swap out. The bars are a sensible width and the overall first impression was that of feeling just right.
I set the suspension a touch firm as I was worried about using all of the rear wheel travel too easily but it soon became clear that the rear shock tune was quite progressive so bottoming out was not really an issue on XC type terrain, The fork worked well and had a sprightly feel but the fact it was a QR did make itself felt when driving the front end hard into corners.
As expected the drivetrain was flawless but the brakes were sadly lacking. For most occasions they were fine for trimming my speed but as the speeds picked up their performance did not.
So what about the ride? Well I had expected it to be a touch on the harsh side but it actually felt comfortable and well balanced with a playful nature.
The bike is light and pedals well, going uphill is a breeze and stamping on the pedals brings an instant surge of speed, handling was pleasantly amiable too which was a surprise as I had thought it might be twitchy and nervous. It was certainly fast once I had installed a shorter stem but not to the point of being scary. Twisty singletrack is a blast.
Heading downwards was great fun and popping off small lips and roots made me smile, I found myself having a pretty good time.
The One Twenty carbon took me by surprise, I tend to do most of my riding on slightly more gnarly orientated machines so it was something of a shock to find myself having so much fun on a shorter travel bike that has an xc bias.
What made it fun I hear you ask…. Well it is hard to pin point exactly what makes a bike fun but I think that a combination of comfort, light weight and balance all came together in one easy to ride package.
It is always hard to find fault with a bike I have enjoyed riding but as usual nothing is ever perfect so I will give it a shot.
The number one fault I will level at the Merida is those brakes, they simply have no place on a bike of this spec, performance wise they do a job but not to the same level as say an XT brake set which would have been right at home alongside its brethren in the transmission department.
By now you will have worked out that I like the Merida One Twenty carbon, I make a point of calling it that as the alloy versions for 2012 have a different suspension characteristic and longer chain stays which in theory should make the bike more stable and reassured.
Back to the carbon model, I found the One Twenty to be a fast, balanced, accurate, lightweight machine that I would be happy to ride for fun on my local woodland trails
and would make a cracking enduro xc bike or flat out xc racer for those, like me, that like a little comfort.
The frame is available separately and would make an excellent start point to hang some truly uber kit on that would turn this thoroughly enjoy bike into a superbike…. Umm, goes off to price up some carbon wheels… and some bling brakes.Buy Trail Bikes on
This review was in Issue 15 of IMB.For more information visit Merida Bikes
By Nigel GarroodNigel Garrood was one of the instigators of the IMB project and has been with us since the very beginning. This loveable rogue has more stories than the Bible and is known to enjoy a beer or two. On the bike, he’s fast and loose and often puts younger riders to shame. Equally he’s been known to suffer from the odd crash and carries the scars to prove it. He was once referred to as being a robot sent from the future to save us all!