At a glance
Having tested a couple of Merida bikes in previous issues it came as no surprise to see that the Big.Nine Carbon is a striking looking bike that gives off an air of speed. The black, white and blue livery in complimented by the handsome DT Swiss forks.Buy XC Bikes on
It is not all about good looks however, the bike has to perform too, with this in mind a break in the weather afforded me the chance to give the Merida a good blast on some reasonably dry trails.
At the heart of the Big.Nine Carbon is the frame, a full carbon affair that sports a large tapered head tube, a beefy down tube that slopes to meet the somewhat skinny seat tube, a threaded bottom bracket is used over a press fit unit. The chainstays are a solid, deep rectangular section and short by 29er standards for a shorter wheelbase. As well as this, the lower section of seat tube has a slight curve, again to create a shorter wheelbase. The top tube has a broad sweep of carbon that flows around the skinny seat tube and continues all the way back to the dropouts. The seat stays incorporate Merida’s Flex Stay technology which is designed to allow a little vertical give and thus calm the ride a little. The rear brake gets a post mount and the rear axle is a 12 x 142 thru axle.
Up front is a DT Swiss XMM 100mm w/lockout fork that runs a QR skewer, weighing in at just 1538grams thanks to a carbon steerer tube and magnesium coated outer legs. Brakes are Magura MT4 and the drivetrain is 3 x 10 Sram X9. Shimano XT hubs are laced to Alex XCD Lite rims via eye catching white butted spokes, Schwalbe Racing Ralphs round out the wheels.
Finishing kit is all Merida with a 80mm stem clamping 660mm wide bars.
Geometry for our large (19inch) frame
Big.Nine Carbon Large/19’’
Seat tube 483mm
Effective top tube 619mm
Head tube 110mm
Chain stay 440mm
Front triangle 662mm
Wheel base 1102mm
BB height 300mm
Head angle 70.5°
Seat angle 70.5°
Weight w/o pedals 24.7lbs
On the trail
The first thing I have to point out here is that this Big.Nine carbon is a large/19’’and I am a shade over 5’10’’ or 178cm so it was a little stretched for me. With this in mind I reduced the stem down by 20mm to simulate the length of a medium and that improved things greatly.
Fork set up is always important and I spent the best part of a day circulating on the same mixed terrain 15 kilometre loop to hit the ‘sweet spot’ on the DT Swiss unit. Whilst it was hard work it was time well spent as when you do get the pressure just right then it is a very capable fork.
Once on the trail the stiff lateral frame and fast tyres make spinning up to speed a simple task and with the fork just so the Merida carries momentum with ease. I had wondered if the fairly relaxed seat tube angle might be a problem on climbs but the bike felt good and the combination of a long top tube and short chainstays gave instant forward kick when pushing hard on the pedals. Add to this the Flex Stay characteristics and grip was good, the slight rear end compliance taking the edge off square edged obstacles.
Fire road and gravely trails are eaten up on the Big.Nine and I covered some huge distances on these kinds of tracks. Woodland trails are a real pleasure too and in dry conditions the added grip afforded by big wheels allowed me to maintain high speeds through sweeping singletracks. When things got tight and twisty the Big.Nine span up to speed nicely rather than exploding out of corners but it was never a drag.
One area I was pleasantly surprised in was heading downhill. No the Merida is not a ‘gnar’ ragging play bike by any means but it did handle some mild downward action without me feeling like the front wheel was underneath me. This was a combination of a well thought out head tube angle and a patiently set up fork.
Kit all performed as expected, the Magura brakes are good, the Sram X9 drivetrain never missed a beat. Tyre wise the Racing Ralphs are very quick rolling and added to the easy pace of the bike but the moment the weather turned sour they felt nervous and unpredictable.
The DT Swiss fork needs time and attention and is prone to change behaviour as temperatures change, this is due to the fact that just a few psi makes a large difference to its performance, get it right though and it is a decent performer but I would like to have seen it specced with a 15mm axle to give a sense of security up front when pushing hard.
It is the frame that really stands out in this package. It is stiff laterally yet forgiving in the vertical plain thanks to the Flex Stay rear end. The geometry makes it a pleasure to ride over long distances yet is ready to race and it looks blooming lovely.
If you are in the market for a carbon 29er hardtail that can be more than a race day weapon then the Big.Nine Carbon 1200-D would make a great trail companion.Buy XC Bikes on
This review was in Issue 18 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!