The Taiwanese company Merida is one of the world’s biggest bike manufacturers, and second at home only to Giant. Like Giant, it has a background in producing bikes for other people – making machines for Raleigh back in 1972 – but it now makes them only under its own name, Centurion’s and Specialized’s. The former is big in Germany, the latter is huge just about everywhere. The Ride 94 is part of Merida’s massive road bike range.
It’s not necessarily the most aesthetically pleasing bike around, and can at first look a little like a mash-up of other brands – BMC’s dropped seatstays, Giant’s white, blue and black livery and the arched top tube of Specialized among others. But you’re getting quite a few features rarely seen at this price – at least not on bikes you can ride away on from your local bike shop, rather than arriving boxed from an online retailer.
True, internal cable routing isn’t that rare now, but the alloy frame is accompanied by a full-carbon fork and a carbon seatpost, which are both less common at this level. Kit consists of Shimano 105 levers and derailleurs, a compact Shimano Sora chainset and 12-30 Tiagra cassette; other nice touches include Jagwire cables and a chain catcher. The wheels are budget Shimano items, while the brakes are own-brand Merida with non-cartridge calipers. The move to cartridge calipers is an obvious and inexpensive upgrade.
The 12-30 Tiagra cassette should provide gears for virtually all circumstances
But somehow the Merida rises above its slight component limitations. The combination of a slimline top half, with hefty head tube, widish down tube and torque-defying chunky chainstays is a winning one. It results in super-smooth acceleration – you just gradually get faster without putting in any more apparent effort.
It does this with superb comfort too. The dropped seatstays, 25mm Continental rubber and carbon seatpost and fork make this as comfortable as any like-for-like bike we’ve tried; if your only memory of aluminium is of a punishing ride from a decade or more ago this plushness may come as a total revelation. It climbs superbly too – in the saddle and out – aided by a sensibly wide range of gears and the great poise and control of the tapered steerer.
Merida describes the 94’s geometry as ‘endurance’, which pretty much means classic race-like 73-degree parallel angles (if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it), a 100cm wheelbase and a tallish head-tube – 19cm on our medium/large 54cm model (compared with 16cm for Trek’s 54cm Domane). This is actually a tad larger than a lot of companies’ 54cm bikes, so do check the sizing. That, of course, is one of the big advantages of being able to buy from your local bike shop – you’ll get the right size machine.
The Merida doesn’t have quite the kit package some of its peers do – though based around Shimano 105 it’s still very good – or the carbon frame it is possible to get at this price, but the balance of handling, performance and comfort is formidable, and as it stands the Ride 94 represents excellent value. If you’re on an even tighter budget Merida’s Ride 90 has the same frame, and though it doesn’t get the carbon seatpost, it does have the full-carbon fork.