Merida’s new One-Sixty enduro bike uses flex stay suspension, straight out of the XC race bike playbook.
Merida hope the new One-Sixty will propel it into the ranks of the best enduro mountain bikes. You know what? It’s got a pretty good chance…
Need to know
- Two new bikes from Merida, the One-Sixty with 162mm travel and 170mm fork, and the One-Forty with 143mm travel and a 150mm fork
- Both bikes use the same new frame technology, with flex stay seatstay replacing a pivot
- 29in wheels throughout, but the One-Sixty can be a mullet bike, with suspension travel rising to 171mm
- Size-tuned suspension, meaning each of the five sizes has a different suspension progression rate to account for heavier riders
- Big step up in sizing and geometry over the last bike, 20mm longer reach, with an effective seat angle of 79°
- All sizes come with 30-230mm travel, infinitely adjustable Merida Team TR dropper post
- Downtube storage, Fidlock bottle, bashguard and chainguige, saddle-mounted multitool
- Three carbon models, from £9,000 down to £4,600, and two alloy bikes stopping at £2,750
Flex stay bikes are not new, most XC race bikes use the technology in 2022 while Cannondale and BMC have been using it for three decades on their trail bikes.
What is new is that the latest Merida One-Sixty uses flex stays – so that’s a 162mm travel enduro bike using short-travel tech. Why is that out-there? Well, with more suspension travel on the bike than your average 100mm XC whippet that’s a whole lot more flexing for the seatstay to accommodate. Add to that the intended use of an enduro bike – smashing through gnarly terrain – and there’s going to be a whole lot more stress on the stay.
Merida isn’t worried though, it says the bike has been more rigorous tested than any model to date, with more than 250,000 compression cycles of the back end and shock in the lab to ensure the frame will go on indefinitely.
What’s better than a new bike?
Two new bikes, of course. The new One-Sixty is a 162mm travel 29er with a 170mm fork, with suspension travel growing to 171mm when you set it up as a mullet. There’s also a new One-Forty trail bike with 29in wheels, using the same flexstay suspension design – it’s got 143mm travel and uses a 150mm fork.
Why flex stays?
Most brands use the concept on their XC bikes to shave off weight. That’s arguably less important on a heavier enduro bike, where a few hundred gram saving makes less of an impression. Merida has used flex stays for a different reason here though, the tech has come across from the brand’s P-FLEX system used on Merida’s Ninety-Six XC bike.
The idea is the stays are of course maintenance free, while the other pivots should need servicing less frequently too. Merida also says this leads to a stiffer rear triangle.
Size tuned suspension
There are five sizes of both the One-Sixty and One-Forty bikes: extra short, short, medium, long, and extra long. Merida has tuned the suspension to increase the wheel rate progression in line with the sizing, the logic being taller riders are generally heavier and so need more support on the biggest bikes, while shorter riders are lighter so need less support while still wanting to access all the travel available.
It’s a clever idea and one that Cannondale tried with the excellent Habit a few years back. There are a few problems with this approach however, not least because it’s impossible for me to feel and prove – I’d need to lose or gain some 10kg to let me try out a different size and compare how each model rides. Most importantly though, if you’re tall but light, or short and heavy the progression will be all wrong for you.
The approach also relies on getting the right tune in the first place. We’re not saying Merida has got it wrong, but plenty of brands have when switching between different shocks and different price points.
And then there’s the sizing and geometry…
The One-Sixty and One-Forty have short stack heights on front and low standover heights on the rear. This stays pretty much the same as you go up and down the sizing from XS-XL, and the upshot of ‘Agilometer sizing’, as Merida calls it, is that tall or short riders could jump on any bike and get a good fit. Short riders can choose a super long bike for stability if they so please, while taller riders could opt for a short wheelbase for jibbing and all that jazz.
It’s a great concept, although it does blow the size-tuned suspension model out of the water.
We were big fans of the old One-Sixty and One-Forty bikes, but they were let down by conservative sizing. You won’t be let down again, the new bikes are thoroughly modern, with a big reach measurement of 498 in the long size and a 1275mm wheelbase. Step up to size extra long and you get a 525mm reach and 1308mm wheelbase, large enough for the biggest of humans. The head angle is reasonably slack at 64° while of most interest is the super-steep 79° seat tube angle, designed to make the bike a killer climber.
How is this possible, you ask?
By way of the new 30-230mm travel, infinitely adjustable Merida Team TR dropper post that comes on every size. This is the key to it all, Merida has developed a post with Limotec you can adjust on-the-fly to your preferred saddle height, restricting it from extending its full length. This lets Merida build the seat tubes very short while still having all of the dropper post inserted.
No adjustable geometry… deliberately
It feels like a long time since I’ve said this, but there’s no adjustable geometry with the One-Sixty or One-Forty. That’s because Merida reckons it’s got it bang on, with no need to tinker with anything. We’ll get to the details in a minute.
There are no size-specific chainstays either, something that’s common on bikes from most of the big brands now. Merida is the second biggest bike brand in the world, incidentally, after Giant, and its thinking is that shifting the length of the chainstay a few millimetres makes no difference to the balance of the bike.
I can’t speak for this bike as I didn’t ride all the sizes, but I’d argue that it does make a big difference. The short chainstays Merida has built onto the size large are going to become relatively long when you get down to the size extra short and the front of the bike shrinks.
What the bike does get is the ability to run as a 29er or a mixed wheel size bike with 27.5in at the back. You can have the same BB height and head angle switching between them too, thanks to flip chips. Merida insists this is not a way of tweaking the geometry though, because the BB will be insanely low.
Downtube storage… sort of
Merida came up with a clever way of easily accessing the internal cable routing. It cut a door in the bottom of the down tube where it meets the seat tube, making fitting the rear brake, dropper and shifting cables easy, it says. Incidentally, the cabling runs directly through the main pivot, so you’ll have to remove the cabling if you’re servicing the pivot hardware.
Then it dawned on the brand it had created a great storage area, and built a tool wrap and tools to fit in. It’s very definitely an afterthought though, because there’s not a lot of space in there and I had trouble fitting a pump, tyre plug and tyre levers while still getting the bolt-secured door shut. A place for your jacket, it is not.
More details please
Like a well prepared conjurer, Merida has surprises hidden up its sleeves, with a mount for a spare tube dangling inside the front triangle, Fidlock mount and 600ml bottle on all sizes, built-in rear fender (and a dorky looking long version as an add on if you want), moulded chainstay protector, down tube protector, and dinky little ISCG05 chain guide. There’s even a multitool stashed underneath the saddle.
The One-Sixty range
The 10k, 8000 and 6000 all share the same full-carbon frame. The top end 10k costs £9,000 and gets RockShox Flight Attendant suspension with a Zeb fork and Super Deluxe shock, and Sram X01 Eagle AXS drivetrain. The 8000 at £6,600 uses a RockShox Zeb Ultimate fork and Super Deluxe shock and GX Eagle AXS drivetrain. And the 6000 for £4,600 gets a Rock Shox Zeb Select fork, RockShox Super Deluxe Select+, and Shimano SLX/XT drivetrain.
There are two alloy models, the 700 with Marzocchi Z1 shock, Fox Float X Performance shock and Shimano SLX/XT drivetrain for £3,300. While the 500 at just £2,750 uses a RockShox Yari RC fork, RockShox Deluxe Select+ shock and Shimano Deore drivetrain.
How the One-Sixty 8000 rides
Merida spent a long time bringing the new One-Sixty to market. It was well spent. The adjustable length dropper is a brilliant idea – I’m pretty tall at 6ft 1in but could still get the post fully inserted into the frame and high enough for perfect pedalling. It’s not often I’ve been able to say that. It’s easy to set the height once you’ve figured out the process, and my initial fears I’d catch the adjuster on my thigh proved ill founded. It means the bike has brilliant standover height, and a clean look too.
It’s the same story with most of the other Merida accoutrements, the multitool is useful and easy to get at, the Fidlock bottle is a boon because it’s so easy to click on and off, and the chainstay protector and chainguide kept the bike quiet. Carrying a spare tube is essential if you’re racing, so it’s neat that the One-Sixty comes with a mounting point installed.
My only quibble is with the in-frame storage, which really isn’t very useful, despite Merida’s best efforts. OK, so they didn’t design it primarily for your lunch, but I’m not sure it fulfils much purpose, besides the initial goal of easier cable routing. I struggled even to fit a pump inside the wrap and still get the door closed.
The top spec 10k model obviously features the best (or should that be, most expensive) suspension from RockShox, and one of the top-tier AXS drivetrains, but it comes at the eye-watering price of £9,000. I’d argue the 8000 here is the best option for riders then, because it gets RockShox’ Ultimate level suspension and AXS shifting all for ‘just’ £6,600. That’s still pricey, but you keep the same suspension performance descending, and the compromise is you miss out on some pedalling efficiency. Honestly, I think it’s pretty good value.
With Maxxis Double Down sidewall protection front and rear, the bike isn’t the speediest uphill. Judging by the range reduction you get from an e-bike running these tyres, I reckon you’re probably using something like 20% more energy over the EXO+ variant, and the sensible solution would have been to spec the lighter tyre on the front and save your legs. Which is exactly what Merida intended to do, and but for the neverending supply chain problems would have specced. Never mind, it pays off on the descents.
It does pedal well going up though, the steep seat angle shunts you forwards over the BB and brings you closer to the bars, making steep climbs more manageable. It also has the quirky effect of making the bike feel small when you’re sat down pedalling, despite its big sizing.
Bounce on the bike in the carpark and you can feel just a hint of faster rebound just at the top of the stroke as the shock re-extends. Whether this carpark feel is down to the flex stay design or just the shock is hard to tell, but it’s pretty irrelevant because you can’t feel it when you’re actually riding.
Instead, going downhill the One-Sixty 8000 feels plush and comfortable right off the top, and well able to eat up chunky ground. It’s a very fun bike to ride because of that, easy to load into the ground and round corners and good at providing grip over rooty sections. The chainstays are pretty short and that helps make the bike easy to manual and wheelie, and quick to snap around tight corners. I felt confident right from the off on the bike, happy to take the high lines or gap over rougher sections of trail. The Merida bar, stem and grips are good, and that added to the sense of control.
It got better too, when I took the spacer out of the fork and dropped the shock’s sag down to 30%, as per Merida’s recommendations. On paper the BB height could be considered a shade too high, at 340mm, but running the shock this soft actually gives it a lower footprint when you’re riding. However, if Merida had built in adjustable geometry I’d probably have raked the head angle out a degree for the steepest of tracks and dropped the BB height too.
Strange to say, the One-Sixty 8000 is the first bike I’ve tried with the illustrious Zeb Ultimate fork on, and it’s a good match for the Merida suspension, holding the bike up well on the steepest of tracks we rode. That said, I’ve spent a lot of time on the Fox 38 Factory and missed the latter’s sensitivity right off the top of the stroke.
The overwhelming impression I have of the One-Sixty is just how enjoyable and easy a bike it is to ride, with plush suspension that delivers a truly engaging ride. The sizing is cutting edge, while the geometry is good but not ground-breaking, and the component choice and finishing is first rate. Add that up and you have a rollicking good bike.