Merida have a great deal of manufacturing knowledge, which largely comes from their experience of building of bikes for many other companies. It means they’re able to pour knowledge and resources into the build of their own-branded bikes, such as the RaceLite 904.
The RaceLite 904 sits in Merida’s alloy road bike range, occupying a spot in the highly fought sub AU$1,999 market.
Ride and handling: racey, without being too aggressive
The 904 has clear race influences, with its relatively short 16cm head tube (for our size 57cm), 73 degree head angle, 73.5 seat angle and shortish 405mm chainstays. This gives handling that requires some degree of alertness, without being so twitchy that every ride is a test of nerves.
The short, tapered head tube and deep drop bars enable you to get low over the front for more aero efforts, especially if the spacers have been removed, but also pave the way for an efficient position while up on the hoods. If you don’t want such a racey position, then keep the supplied spacers in there to lift the front end a little.
Merida have plugged in a tapered carbon fork, which takes some of the sting out of the road. The tapered head tube provides plenty of front end stiffness, certainly for a bike of this price, further bolstering the 904’s confident handling and improving its steering accuracy.
The 50/34t compact chainset is coupled with a 12-28t cassette, which gives a wide range of available gears, ideal for hillier areas. However, those living in flatter areas may benefit from a closer range cassette, to achieve a smoother transition between ratios.
Despite the short rear triangle giving a snappier feel to the bike, the 32 spoke wheels on the 904 aren’t particularly light, which takes some of the spring from its step, and while we felt the wheels didn’t perform as well as we’d expect in cross winds, with a little more buffeting than perhaps ideal.
Frame and equipment: reliable, if not overly exciting
Merida have clearly used their frame building knowhow on the 904, with the 6066 aluminium frame featuring a number of nice features.
The rear brake cable is internally routed along the top tube, keeping the lines smooth and the cable more protected from the elements. Tube profiles have been manipulated through hydroforming, where oil is forced through the tubes at high pressure, shaping them into more effective shapes – the down tube, for example, is shaped to increase stiffness and weld areas. Finally, the tapered head tube adds stiffness to the frame as a whole.
Merida have used dependable Shimano 105 for the shifters and derailleurs. The shifting therefore has been impeccable, crisp and light. This is matched with a non-series Shimano compact chainset and cassette and a KMC chain.
Merida’s own brakes provided reasonable power, but their performance doesn’t match that of 105 callipers for example. The Merida callipers have a touch of flex in them.
With an aluminium frame, it’s trickier to add compliance, and it’s good to see Merida adding a carbon post to the bike. This takes away some buzz from the road. It’s topped with a Selle Italia X1 saddle, which we found comfortably throughout the test. Merida also provide the stem, which attaches to the FSA Gossamer Ergo OS bars. It took a little while to get the bars set up well for our tester, thanks to the deep drop and slightly funny shape on the drops. We’d perhaps look to swap it for a shallower bar at some point.
As previously mentioned, the wheels are a 32-spoke affair, with Merida’s own rims and Shimano 105 hubs. The wheels aren’t particularly light, and didn’t hold up great in cross winds, but their 32 spoke construction and reliable 105 hubs should mean they’ll still be spinning for a good few years.
The standard Vittoria Rubino tyres are favourites of BikeRadar, and the Slick versions found on the 904 impressed us too, although their wet weather performance isn’t quite up there with the standard.