This is the 2016 Merida Ride Disc 5000, and at £1,950 (we'll add Aus pricing as soon as we have it) it's a bike that sits near to the top of a line of endurance road models from the Taiwanese firm. It's a bike that blends much of the features and versatility of recent gravel bikes but is still very much optimised for its time on tarmac. Let's take a closer look.
The carbon frame of the 5000 appears to have remained unchanged from last year, and so there's the same endurance specific geometry, which pairs a lengthy front triangle and tall head tube to a relatively compact rear end.
The tall head tube, short rear end and relatively steep angles amount to a relatively compact wheelbase
Compare it with the BMC Granfondo Disc, our benchmark in this category, and you’ll find that size for size both bikes will share the same 16.2in (412mm) rear end but the Merida offers longer reach figures up front. The seat and head tube angles of both bikes only vary by half a degree too, but this along with other differences in geometry mean that the Merida has a shorter overall wheelbase. The 500 frame is paired to a carbon fork with a 15mm thru-axle which, just like the seatstay bridge at the rear of the frame, has concealed mudguard mounts.
Sneaky practicality: the Ride Disc gets concealed 'guard mounts at each end
Both the carbon in the frame and fork are made with what Merida calls its 'Bio-Fiber Damping Compound'. This means more flax fibres are used in the carbon structure at specific points such as the seat and chainstays or fork blades – the idea being, as the name suggests, to dampen vibrations. Similarly, Merida also has chosen to spec an own-brand 27.2mm seatpost to further enhance comfort. All cable and hose routing is internal – including the brake hose, which tucks in nicely at the crown of the fork and emerges at the lower leg.
For 2016, the 5000 Disc also debuts Shimano's freshly introduced RS505 shift/brake levers. These non-series components pair 11-speed mechanical shifting and hydraulic braking at the most affordable level to date – and are very much big news in their own right.
Shimano's distinctive looking RS-505 shift levers pair hydraulic braking with 11-speed shifting at the lowest price point to date
Rather than use the new, flat-mount standard Shimano calipers, the Merida uses the previous generation RS785 models. That's hardly a problem though, particularly as the brake is already contained neatly at a post mount at the rear triangle. Merida also uses 160mm brake rotors borrowed from Shimano's mountain bike line – not a problem there either, in fact they're a great choice.
The compact transmission of the Ride 5000 consists of two Ultegra derailleurs but is fronted by the rather clunky looking RS500 crankset. It's nowhere near as pretty as any of Shimano's four arm offerings and does knock the overall looks of this machine but in truth and from a practical perspective it's not a bad place for Merida to have saved money.
You have to remember that – despite fitting the rather ugly RS500 crankset – most of the transmission is at 105/Ultegra level
As well as a full hydraulic setup for 2016, the new 5000 also enjoys a wheel upgrade over the 2015 model. That means you go from Merida own-brand rims to Racing Sport Disc hoops from Fulcrum. Off the shelf the Fulcrums come wrapped in 25mm Maxxis Detonator tyres but but generous clearances at both ends mean that Merida gives the green light to 28mm rubber – and that's with guards fitted, so larger rubber should squeeze in there for those who run without.
Fitting larger tyres would edge this bike into the adventure road category, and maybe Merida has missed a trick by not cashing on that whole hype/movement right now. After all, it might not be as slack as say GT's Grade or as long in the wheelbase as a Norco Search but with its thru-axle fork and hydraulic discs it's prepared via a similar recipe to such bikes.
Merida is a much bigger and more important firm than many outside of the bike industry realise, and its buying power reflects this, so you'll find quality finishing kit from the likes of Controltech and FSA throughout. Our sample bike weighed in at 8.85kg, which is competitive at this price point.
So, look past the garish crankset and it seems you've got a solid-value carbon disc road bike with familiar geometry. Those generous clearances mean that further versatility should be available for those who stump up for wider rubber, too. It'll soon be tested by our sister publication Cycling Plus magazine, so stay tuned for a full review.