There's always been something really pleasing about the way Merida insert their rear suspension without barely disturbing a pure hardtail frame layout. Fault free parts spec also lets the frame's proven potential shine through.
Merida's Transmission bikes have always had a lot of potential to deliver a very efficient mile-eating ride, but parts or suspension spec has often let them down in the past. Thankfully though, that's certainly not the case with this bike, as the transmission feels like a quality bike even when you're zipping down the road to the first trail section. Layout and handling feel welcoming immediately, while climbing and descending performance are very efficient.
The typical clipped control of SPV 'platform' damping is great over mid-sized hits and landings, but it won't Hoover up the small comfort crumbs. There's no rebound adjustment either, which could be a problem if you're lighter or heavier than average.
The U-Turn fork is perfect for tuning handling to exactly the fast and low or taller and slower pitch that you want, though - we eventually settled around 115mm. Fork performance is also dutifully workmanlike once they'd bedded in. In fact, once we'd finished the initial fettling, the bike soon vanished from the riding radar, letting us get on and enjoy the trails without any serious interruption or intrusion.
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Merida are one of the leading tube formers on the planet, so no surprise there's some real manipulation work in evidence here. Big square-headed main tubes taper back from the head, with an extruded 'M' section piece buttressing the extended seat tube above the sloped top tube.
The neat forged linkage tucks in behind the seat cluster, with the long 'mini pump' style shock running the full length of the seat stay. You only get a single shock mount position this year, but asymmetric chainstays help to reduce chain slap, while big circular sockets house the large diameter cartridge bearings on the seatstays.
Mud clearance is adequate, but standover is excellent and an 'empty' mainframe means it's an easy bike to shoulder up the steep slopes. Sizing is slightly short in length though, so racers may want to size up.
We were more than a bit surprised to only find a budget Recon fork on a bike at this price, but it works dutifully well once you've put a few hours in. The instantly engaging Poploc remote lever is perfect for smooth climbing or road sections, too.
While they do add weight, the massive brake discs are perfect for relaxed control on long, high-speed Alpine marathon descents. The fast rolling Maxxis tyres are a good race/ speed choice too, and we've no complaints about the function of the transmission or Maxxis cockpit and seating gear. Overall weight reflects the extra travel and allrounder nature of the bike, but it will put some hardened racers off.
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Merida's Transmission bikes have always had potential and this one finally delivers on that. Kit value isn't as impressive as other bikes here, but if you're after a solidly efficient all-rounder with a natural appetite for speed, then you won't go wrong with this one.