If you value stiffness above all else, and your budget is limited, Merida is here for you with the 603-27. As an added bonus they’ve thrown in a triple chainset to get you up the hills, auxiliary levers for cruising and lots of nice detail that make this a great value entry-level road bike.
Ride & handling: stiff & quick
While it’s not as ‘pure race’ in its handling as, say, the Cube Peloton, the 603-27 is still tight and accurate, thanks to the sheer rigidity of its frame. Of course, that means you do feel every quirk of the road surface.
If you have plans to take on the longer rides that the auxiliary levers and triple chainset encourage suggest the 903-27 is ready for, you might want to swap out the otherwise fine Maxxis Xenith 23mm tyres for slightly comfier 25mm rubber
Frame/Chassis: lots of well-thought-out details
The 903’s frame doesn’t attempt to set new standards for low weight but it’s top of the pile for attention to detail.
This is the same frame as Merida’s top aluminium road bike, the 905 and it shares that bikes same sloping frame geometry, carbon/aluminium fork and weight-saving butted down tube. The remaining tubes are plain gauge and it’s all very tidily welded and ﬁnished to a high standard.
The seatstays and top-tube form a continuous arc, which strengthens the area and improves the appearance of the joint.
There are four sizes available, S, M, L and XL, and though the range is commendably lacking any gaps, riders requiring a frame with a shorter than 53cm top tube should look elsewhere.
While it’s at least £50 cheaper than many similarly-equipped machines, Merida hasn’t compromised with the detailing. There’s a stylish and chunky looking gear cable stop attached to the head-tube. Mounting them here, and in a separate component that carries both stops, means Merida eliminates a possible weak point where the stops are usually welded to the down tube. That’s a spot where bike often crack in a frontal impact. The omission of cable adjusters is an annoyance, thogh.
The CNC-machined alloy seat-tube clamp is far neater than expected on a bike of this price and the seatpost is a nice ﬁrm ﬁt in the seat-tube, which is always good to see.
Equipment: not the lightest, but lots of gears & intriguing auxiliary levers
The total component spec is a shade on the heavy side, but you get a triple chainset instead of a weight-saving compact double, and it’s £100 than the equipped-with-light-stuff Raleigh Airlite U6 Comp. A lighter seatpost would be on our list of upgrades though.
Opinion was divided on the auxiliary brake levers. These were ﬁrst seen on cyclocross bikes where they enabled the rider to keep their hands on the handlebar tops over rough ground. The beneﬁts are harder to see on a road bike unless you’re one of those many riders who rarely if ever move their hands from the top of the handlebars.
Wheels: impressively light
The 903-27’s wheels are the relatively new and fresh Shimano R500s that are highlighted by attractive black spokes and red anodised nipples. They look expensive and their performance exceeds expectations on a bike at this price point.
They’re a highlight of the 903-27 and help to make it one of our favourite bikes in its class.