Merida s-Presso I8-D £729.99

Hub-geared hybrid

BikeRadar score 4/5

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.

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