Last year in the US, 29ers took over the cross-country race scene. 2011, however, may be the year for 29in wheels on the world stage. Scott brought their Scale 29er to the SwissPower team late last year, Christoph Sauser has been testing and tweeting about his Specialized 29er throughout the off-season, and now Multivan-Merida — along with current world champion José A Hermida — have introduced a 29er called the Big.Nine Carbon Team.
“Probably now is the moment to update my software for a 29 bike,” said Hermida, at the team’s 2011 launch in Mallorca. “I think it’s going to fit in my philosophy, because hardtail and big wheels, that’s going to help a lot in technical courses… let’s see, maybe I’ll try to be the first world champion pn a 29.”
The new bike is built using Merida’s Nano Matrix Carbon and ‘double chamber’ molding technology. It features a BB30 bottom bracket and flex-stay seatstays, which employ use of Spectra and Vectran fibers for greater compliance, mated with asymmetric chainstays; all designs carried over from the team’s O.Nine Carbon 26in-wheeled hardtail.
As per team requirements, the frame is said to be stiffer torsionally to account for softer 29in wheels. It also employs a 12mm rear through-axle for additional stiffness, which Merida say is 20 percent greater than the 26in bike in the bottom bracket area. The frame accepts SRAM’s narrowest 156mm Q-factor crank; also an important feature for the Multivan racers.
The Big.Nine’s top tube mirrors the O.Nine model for length, and employs a very short X Taper head tube, according to Merida, to keep the front end down and make the fit of the two bikes as similar as possible. “I was surprised that it was so comfortable to ride it, both going up and down,” said Gunn-Rita Dahle-Flesjå. “For me it’s a really interesting bike, since I’m a little bit old-time, like Jose, staying on the hardtail.”
A direct-mount front derailleur helps to keep the chainstays short and tire clearance to a maximum. The frame internally routes derailleur cables, while the rear brake line remains externally routed. The package is finished with a 150g Merida branded seatpost, which is tuned for flex and meets all current EN test requirements. Merida claim a sub 1,100g weight for a 17in frame.
“The 29er is in all of our minds everywhere,” said Ralph Näf, a former marathon and U23 world champion who spends most of his time on the Ninety-Six Team Carbon full-suspension bike. “I’m a little bit confused because I was in South Africa for a long time — six weeks — and I was trying the 29er and I really felt comfortable on it. But on the other hand we'll present a new full-suspension in May, which is still top-secret, and I know that will be a really fast bike. So I think I need to see how the season goes and how the test goes on the fast cross-country courses, then I'll decide which bike to use.”