At the heart of this gun metal grey bike lies one of the most beautifully constructed alloy frames you'll find, and every tube is perfectly formed.
Alas the Euro-bikers plan the Merida bike specs and turn them into machines that are more suited to the German market. Bright logos, flat bars, Dual Control levers and a relatively budget Judy 3 fork with cable remote lockout. This follows the theme of efficiency and speed over comfort and control, which is often the complaint levelled against race oriented bikes.
In the saddle it feels lively, stiff and well balanced, but on more technical terrain you'll notice the harsh ride of the forks, but then something had to give to make this bike so cheap.
For expedition use we'd always be worried about Dual Control levers - just too much can go wrong with one crash - and we'd rather see a riser bar and shorter stem to take the overall ride position up to something more comfy for full days out. On the plus side the Deore disc brakes are still reliable, and although they've gone for mid-budget Shimano Deore hubs they have paired them up to decent rims.
With better forks and more trail-ready setup this bike could become one of the best sub-£1k hardtails on the market, and since this is what Merida are planning for 2007 this could be one to watch.