At a glance
Few companies have the pedigree that Merida boast when it comes to making fast XC mountain bikes. This fact is borne out by the fact that Jose Antonio Hermida won the XC world cup on one. So what can a company that has a history of making fast XC bikes bring to the 29’er table?Buy XC Bikes on
We got our hands on their Twenty-Nine Lite XT package to find out.
The frame is a traditional looking hardtail, which is quite striking in its black and silver livery. The top tube and down tube are joined to the head tube separately giving a neat clean look that is continued at the junction on the seat tube where a tidy finish sees the seat stays curving out from the seat tube before straightening out completely, there is no bridge. The chain stays have the usual S curve to allow ankle clearance.
The kit is all steady as she goes stuff, as you would expect from a bike of this price.
Rock Shox Recon Silver 29" 100mm poplock forks are the order of the day up front.
Shimano XT kit looks after the drivetrain including the triple up front and Shimano M445 brakes are deployed to handle slowing things down.
The wheels are a combination of Shimano M435 hubs laced to Merida XCD Lite rims. These are shod with Maxxis fast rolling Crossmark tyres.
The bulk of the finishing kit comes courtesy of FSA.
Numbers for the Merida in medium work out at 600mm effective top tube, chain stays are 445mm, the wheelbase is 1102mm and the bottom bracket is 65mm below the axle line.
The head tube angle is stated as 70º with the seat tube angle at 73º.
Weight for our 17’’ bike came in at 27.8lbs without pedals.
On the trail
It is worth noting that even at £1499 this is not a top end bike, the frame is an alloy affair and the kit is functional rather exotic. With this in mind I set out with curiosity rather than full blown excitement I sometimes get with some of the more exotic rides we have.
My preconceived concerns about 29ers were that they would be sluggish to accelerate, steering response would be similar to that of the QE2 and maybe be a little unstable at low speeds due to the high bottom bracket but in reality once on the trail it is not the negatives that come through.
Straight off the bat it was noticeable that the big wheels do smooth out the trail and this allows the bike to roll easily. It felt almost like cheating as I rolled effortlessly along the gravel tracks that lead to the woodland XC trails that I felt were the proper place to put the Twenty Nine through its paces.
Some effort is required to get the Merida up and running, it is not a lightweight racer and the additional mass at the wheel meant that it needed a bit of grunt to get things going, but once up to speed the bike really did roll nicely.
On open flowing trails the bike was a pleasure to ride but if the going got that bit more bumpy a couple of things came to light. Firstly the fork, I am a fan of some of the Rock Shox range but this particular model is sadly lacking. The 29’’ wheels to some extent reduce the impact of a below par fork but it goes missing just when you need it most. Secondly, the frame is a touch unforgiving when trying to maintain speed through rough pedally sections or when pedalling through a series of small compressions.
These are not unexpected issues, as I did not expect perfection at this price point.
The fact is that I truly enjoyed my time on the Merida, once running fast it takes the edge off general trail chatter and corners with confidence. Handling is sharper than I had expected and the overall speed at which this thing travels will leave your 26’’ wheeled mates struggling to hang on to your coat tails.
You will also be able to go further and stay fresher if you can keep the speeds up. I found that all the time I kept the pace up and kept the cadence high things were great, let it stall in a tight turn and you will have to crank hard or drop a couple of gears and spin it back up again.
On the ups the application of power is even and nicely controlled but the firm back end will bounce off square edges if not finessed properly.
Comfortable, generally fast and wonderful confidence enhancing grip in corners make this a fun bike that will take you that bit further than before.
It would have been lovely to have a slightly more capable fork but that is an upgrade for the future.
Whilst not as harsh out back as many hardtails I feel like it has been left to the wheels to do the work and to be fair they do a pretty darn good job.
Overall I had a cracking time on this bike, it even got me out riding long XC rides that were more about the countryside and the views than the radical nature of the trails.
That said when the time comes to really ramp up the speeds this thing really does crack on and there were plenty of smiles along the way.
If you are looking to give the whole 29’er thing then get yourself a go on the Merida, it is fast, smooth, fun and only really shows any signs of faltering when ran on trails it was not really designed for… All for a darn sight less than some frames would set you back.Buy XC Bikes on
This review was in Issue 12 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!