Merida’s carbon-framed 29er is a mileage- rather than madness-focused machine with the spec to suit. The Shimano XT transmission gets a double chainset with particularly small 34, 24 tooth rings that’ll spin up the steepest hill.
Merida has really worked hard with clamps and internal tunnels for smooth, suspension-independent shifting and the front mech uses the latest front-pull Side Swing design.
The Continental X-King SL tyres are a cheaper, hard-compound ‘Race Sport SL’ version, which naturally roll fast, and the Merida-rimmed wheels are relatively light and easy to convert to tubeless running.
The 2x11 transmission weight is offset by the slim-tubed, nano-reinforced carbon mainframe and lack of dropper post, for a reasonable if not remarkable weight, which helps acceleration and climbing.
The ‘Float Link’ rear suspension mounts the shock between the rocker linkage and extended tips of the chainstays. That creates a supple but efficient pedalling rear end that’s easy to set up and sucks up root ripples for traction, but still handles drops and big hits well for only 120mm of rear-wheel travel.
The 29er wheels flatter speed sustain on smaller bumps and the XT hubs will last for ages if correctly maintained. The Fox Rhythm is also smooth and consistently controlled over small-to mid-sized trouble, with a remote lockout for smooth climbs and sprints. The 750mm bar should provide plenty of leverage for keeping the bike on track and the 70mm stem is a decent match for the 69-degree head angle.
While the back end is reasonably stiff for efficient power transfer and a keen turn of speed, the slim mainframe doesn’t have the same degree of tenacity when it comes to holding a line. Add the steep head angle, hard-compound tyres, flexy wheels and skinny-legged forks and the front end soon rides out of its comfort zone on more demanding trails, even if it feels like the back end still has plenty left.
This article was originally published in What Mountain Bike magazine.