Merida is a massive bike company with much competition-derived road and off-road experience. It may not have the in-your-face presence or shouty marketing of some brands, but the bikes share some very European roots, with German design and extensive continental development.
An all-carbon, high-quality frameset with hydraulic discs, 1x drivetrain and purposeful design that’s just under 9kg for just over £2,000 is not to be sniffed at in the current economic climate. In line with the times, there are thru-axles at both ends, universal internal cable routing, and a 1 1/8 –1 1/5in tapered steerer.
The bike features asymmetric rims and chainstays, plus a pronounced asymmetric bias of the lower down tube and seat tube to the non-driveside to equalise pedalling forces through the press-fit 86.5mm bottom bracket shell.
Huge rear dropouts include inserts for the disc caliper bolts, thru-axle and mudguard mount, and while there’s good fork/tyre clearance, it’s limited on either side of the rear tyre, particularly between the flattened, wide seatstays, and the mudguard bridge may be an issue in truly filthy conditions.
SRAM Apex is the first rung on the 1x drivetrain ladder, but provides positive shifting and no unwanted chain derailments. There’s a front mech hanger in case you feel the need to add a double chainset, a shifter and mech.
The Apex 1 rear mech ensures crisp, clean shifting Robert Smith Photography
With a 40-tooth chainring and 11–42 cassette, the Cyclo Cross 5000 can scale pretty much anything — a feature we were regularly glad of when testing in slippery terrain when the conditions conspired against swift forward motion.
The geometry of my 56cm/large model is very road-like, with good reach, a 150mm head tube and the added chainstay length contributing to the bike’s 1,012mm wheelbase. Add the 72.5-degree head tube angle, and it’s perfectly stable at all speeds on all terrain where a 33mm tyre is reasonable, with scope to get a position as low as anyone would wish to off-road.
Merida’s Expert CC wheelset has 32 J-bend spokes and shallow aluminium rims, which like the Maxxis tyres aren’t tubeless compatible. They are a decent 25mm wide, opening the Mud Wrestlers out to a handy 35mm for extra comfort and grip. The tyres’ relatively low-profile, well-spaced angular tread blocks roll fairly well on tarmac, but are great all-rounders in the dirt, gripping surprisingly well in both loose, dry conditions and liquid mud, and clearing muck quickly.
Together, they’re not the most responsive combination though. They can be hustled up to speed, and spin nicely, but they’re not so racy.
A switch of the tyres would put the 5000 in better shape for road duties Robert Smith Photography
Hours of dodging trees and roots on leafy singletrack confirmed how well the Merida’s poise and agility ensure accurate line control, and it’s composed over the bumps, although the frame’s front-end is slightly less compliant than some of its most recent, and more costly, peers.
The frameset is easily good enough to race, although racier wheels with a less gappy cassette would really improve its competitive performance.
That road-like position works perfectly away from the tarmac, but for anyone wanting their ’crosser to pull double duty, front and rear mudguard mounts mean a simple tyre swap to slightly narrower road rubber gives you an ideal all-weather trainer or commuter too.
Merida Cyclo Cross 5000 specifications
Weight: 8.84kg (L)
Frame: Cyclo Cross Disc CF3
Gears: SRAM Apex 1, 40 chainring, 11–42 cassette
Brakes: SRAM Apex hydraulic, 160mm Centreline rotors
Wheels: Merida Expert CC
Tyres: 33mm Maxxis Mud Wrestler
Bar: Merida Expert 6061 aluminium
Stem: Merida Pro
Seatpost: Merida Expert carbon
Saddle: Merida Expert