For many years, Merida manufactured bikes for other companies behind the scenes, but these days it sells them under its own name. The S-Presso I8-D is at the top of Merida’s 700C urban hybrid range. The ’08 model shown here has vertical dropouts, which explains the derailleur-style tensioner; the ’09 bike gets forward-facing dropouts instead, which is better.
- Frame and fork: Decent and not-too-heavy hybrid frame with all the ﬁttings you’d expect – and some you wouldn’t. But wait for the ’09 model for its improved dropouts.
- Handling: Crisis-style cornering courtesy of the awful CST tyres undermines everything else. Change those and you’ve got a good medium-pace ﬂat-bar commuter.
- Equipment: The Alﬁne hub is the business for an urban bike, with a good range and slick operation. Hydraulic disc brakes are nice and the positioning of the rear rotor is good.
- Wheels: Acceptable hoops – it’s just a pity the front is way out of dish.
The aluminium frame uses a top tube and down tube that have what Merida calls a ‘shotgun’ proﬁle, looking from the underside like two smaller tubes side by side. Merida claims this provides ‘better energy absorption’. We’re sceptical, though it does help tidy the cables out of the way.
Frame ﬁttings include the usual rear carrier rack and mudguard eyelets. Additionally there’s a ‘K-Mount’ – a dedicated frame ﬁtting for a Hebie kickstand. The rear disc brake mounts have been moved forward onto the chainstay, which prevents the brake calliper fouling a rear rack.
The Merida’s standout component is its Shimano Alﬁne eight-speed hub. Gear ratios are the same as the Nexus 8, which it evolved from: 0.53, 0.64, 0.75, 0.85, 1 (oddly, not direct drive – you’re going through spinning hub internals to get it), 1.22, 1.42 and 1.62. With the 20-tooth sprocket ﬁtted, that’s approximately the same range as an 11-32T cassette.
The Alfine's internal gears turn on ball bearings rather than bushes for better efﬁciency, and they are smooth and quiet thanks to a double roller clutch. Its seals are good, and it can be ﬁtted with a Center Lock disc rotor.
In use, the Alﬁne hub feels more egg whisk than pepper grinder. You can shift when pedalling, although too much pressure delays the shift, particularly between fourth and ﬁfth. If you want to alter the gearing, you can get sprockets from 16-23T (but only 18 or 20T if you use the Alﬁne tensioner, as on our test bike).
A downside to using the Alﬁne hub is that it’s harder to get the wheel out. You’ll need a spanner and you’ll have to disengage the gear cable. But that means it’s harder for thieves too, so less worry about your back wheel going walkies.
The front wheel on our test bike was true but signiﬁcantly out of dish – the rim wasn’t centred between the dropouts. Your dealer could ﬁx this at point of purchase, and you could ask him to change the CST tyres while he’s at it.