Merida's Cyclocross 4 is a fun ride that could use a few more bosses and braze-ons to make it a truly versatile runabout.
We're always harping on about the versatility of cyclocross bikes and the way they merge light but strong frames with generous clearances and robust, day-in-day-out parts, so it's good to see another model join the muddy fray – Merida's Cyclocross 4.
Ride & handling: fun & balanced
A good crosser that could use a few more braze-ons to make it really versatileHandling is well balanced – it's stable over uneven cycleways with the 35c Maxxis Larsens fitted, fun to blast around town, and with a change of tyres a surprisingly good climber out on the open blacktop.
Given the price, the CC4's reasonably light on the scales too – a touch lighter than the pricier Kona Jake the Snake and Pinnacle Expede 1.0 featured in the recent cyclocross bikes grouptest (Cycling Plus 205).
Braking is good and extra levers on the flats of the broad drop handlebars are great for cycleway cruising – there's a little fore and aft chatter from the carbon forks on sharp descents.
I've been pummelling the CC4 round the local woods and back and forth to work, and Mavic's CXP22 rims have held up well, as have Shimano's silky smooth 105 hubs.
Frame: tough and good-looking too
As well as its striking looks and lustrous finish (the 07 model looked even better), there's plenty of thoughtful detailing too.
The flattened top-tube for shouldering the bike comfortably over obstacles and steep climbs will keep dedicated 'crossers happy.
A generously oversized down-tube where it meets the bottom bracket contributes to a hugely stiff and responsive aluminium frame, while tidy little open-ended gussets on the top-tube pep up strength.
Equipment: sorted spec does the job
The drivetrain combines an FSA 50/34 compact chainset with a wider-than-average 12-27 cassette, providing a good range for honking up grassy embankments as well as general hilly road riding too.
Shimano 105 shifters and rear mech are a classic 'cross combination and offer reliable, robust gear changes come rain or shine.
As I fall between the 55cm and 58cm sizes, the Euro-style 130cm stem felt a touch on the reachy side for longer rides, even if the 57cm effective top-tube felt spot on.
Verdict: could be more versatile
Merida touts the bike for all-round use, though we know the cyclocross scene is hugely popular on the continent, where it's designed.
In the UK, where 'cross bikes often double up for commuting, winter riding and sometimes even light touring duties, the lack of extra fittings on the frame is an oversight, given its non-exclusive price point.
Sure, the generous clearances ensure there's plenty of room for mudguards but you'll have to limit yourself to the clip-on variety, like SKS's Race Blades.
For the ultimate in all-round appeal, I'd like to have seen rack eyelets too, as with Kona's Jake the Snake.
But if you're happy to forgo some extra versatility, the Cyclo Cross 4 promises a stiff frame with a responsive ride, and is a well thought out package for the money.