While Merida are extremely established in the world of XCO and endurance racing, with Olympic and World Champs titles to their name, they’re relatively new to the trail and enduro markets; but on this evidence, they’re set to stick around.
At a recommended retail price of R59999, the MeridaONE SIXTY 5000 is a carbon front triangle mated to an aluminum-rear-end frame, and is sleek and sassy in appearance. A ‘Float Link’ rear suspension system with a vertically mounted shock drives the single-pivot design, and none of the manufacturing appears over-designed or over-built.
In fact, we’d say it’s rather functional and sleek in appearance, with well-thought out, minimalist engineering on the rear alloy section. Very much on trend are the deep, sloping top tube (providing ample stand-over), a steepish seat angle to assist climbing, and a short seat tube.
Complete with RockShox Yari RC 170mm air fork, RockShox Super Deluxe R rear shock, 1x-drivetrain-specific frame design, Shimano stoppers, Maxxis Minion DHR2 rubber and a short stem, this bike is ready to be raced straight from the showroom.
At 1.74m tall, our test rider opted for a size medium, which has a reach of 445mm and a wheelbase of 1_201mm. The other geometrics worth noting are the head angle of 65.3 degrees, a low BB height of 344mm, and chainstays on the shorter side, at 430mm, which are all cutting-edge.
On to the trail; and the first thing we noticed is that the numbers combine well, enabling the rider to assume the attack position comfortably, with ample room to move about. Once we’d settled on the optimal suspension set-up – fork at 75psi, rear shock at 150psi, and tyres 26psi rear and 23psi front – we could really start to charge the trail aggressively. And the Merida responded well, obliging every request we made of it.
In the turns, we immediately noticed the exceptional cornering characteristics this bike has; it corners like it’s on rails, with minimal rider input. Holding a steady arc around a turn and squaring off a turn when the trail requires it are equally easily done. Acceleration and pick-up out of corners was impressive too, despite the slightly hefty wheel weight.
One thing we did notice is that we were penalized by a mildly choppy rear end when we left our braking too late on blown-out trails; but that’s not a train smash, and it’s easy enough to work around – just hitting the brakes a little earlier and more smoothly is the solution.
The wide inner-diameter rims coupled with decent rubber from the Maxxis stable provide good braking performance, rolling speed and bite in the turns – the Minion DHR2 is a reliable performer in most conditions. Additionally, we found the bike very easy to pull back on line if we drifted slightly.
The dropper post has a smooth feel and proved reliable; although, on a bike like this, we felt it could do with another 25mm of travel. But in the air the bike is confidence-inspiring, as well as forgiving – we came up short on a triple jump on one of our trails, and the 160mm rear absorbed the impact without blowing through all of the travel.
A huge positive is the pedaling performance; the Merida really lunges forward with every pedal stroke. Remarkable, for a 160mm bike. (And it means the old “One more run?” is never out of the question!) At this price point, the Shimano brakes are completely underrated – they performed exceptionally well.
Merida have also put some thought into the build, speccing a 200mm front rotor, which adds a welcome element of modulation to brake performance. Drivetrain-wise, the Shimano SLX derailleur and Sunrace cassette delivered ample range and reliability through every test.
The advanced geometry, faultless kinematics and clever build kit combine to make a playful trail bike that’s never out of its depth – on the world enduro circuit, or on your local gravity-orientated trails.