A thoroughly modern bike that simply gets on with it, balancing all the traits most riders want from one mountain bike for all types of riding
If first impressions are anything to go by, Merida’s latest logically-named One-Forty trail bike, looks like the kind of do-it-all rig you’d expect from a mainstream brand – with a well-finished, smooth-lined carbon frame and fancy big-name kit. Dig a little deeper though, and Merida’s latest creation kicks any conservative ideas to touch faster than you can say ‘Rishi Sunak’. With real attitude and some of the most radical trail bike geometry around, the new One-Forty is seriously cutting edge.
Need to know
- The new One-Forty shares the same frame with the One-Sixty, which means it’s a little ‘overbuilt’ as a trail bike and subsequently heavier than some.
- Merida’s ‘Agilometer’ sizing sees super long frames extending to a massive 535mm reach in size X-Long
- Thankfully the 80º seat tube angle is not as steep as claimed
- Fully Mullet compatible and gains 10mm more travel (153mm) with the smaller rear wheel.
- Low standover heights are paired with the brand’s own adjustable dropper post that extends up to 230mm.
While most brands have scaled back the leaps in frame length that have revolutionised sizing over the last decade, Merida has gone full throttle. The mid (medium) bike here has a 480mm reach, a near vertical 80-degree effective seat angle, which we’ll get to in just a minute.
It’s so long in fact, that the 535mm reach on the X-Long frame makes it the same length as an XL Nicolai Geometron – one of the pioneers of the longer frame philosophy.
Merida’s new ‘Agilometer’ sizing system goes on frame length rather than seat tube height, so all five sizes come with very low seat tubes with stacks of standover clearance. This leaves tons of room for the rider to be dynamic on the bike and lowers the centre of gravity.
But let’s get back to the 80º effective seat tube angle. It sounds crazy steep, right? That’s because Merida measures it with a saddle height that would correspond to the top of the head tube, not very useful for seated pedalling. Raise the saddle to something normal, say 740mm, and the effective seat tube angle decreases to 78º or thereabouts. Which is spot on.
Choosing your optimum saddle height isn’t an issue either, thanks to Merida’s clever adjustable dropper post with a maximum 230mm of drop. Bigger frames also get a different suspension tune with more damping and support for heavier riders that typically opt for longer sizes.
Now, part of the explanation for the progressive geometry on the One-Forty is that it shares its frame with the new One-Sixty enduro bike. By fitting a shorter stroke (57.5mm) shock (rather than 65mm) travel is limited to 143mm. It also gets a shorter travel 150mm fork, which steepens the angles, drops the BB and increases the reach over the One-Sixty.
To compensate for the steeper seat tube angle, Merida fits a 10mm lay-back head on the dropper post. Yes, it seems to have thought of everything.
The full carbon frame employs flex stays to replace the seat stay pivots, where Merida’s hardware is super clean. There’s also a flip chip to convert to a smaller wheeled mullet set up, that adds 10mm more rear travel (which I didn’t try).
Factor in the skinny internal storage area accessed from the bottom of the (threaded) BB shell, where you can fit a tool roll and pump, and Merida has ticked all the boxes. Granted the storage is not really big SWAT-style storage, so don’t expect to stash a jacket and lunch inside the frame.
Another key difference between the One-Sixty and the One-Forty is that the latter comes as a full 29er, with parts more suited to trail riding to differentiate it and save some weight. It also packs a finish to justify the special edition tag with a stunning metallic green chameleon paint job.
All of the bling finishing kit here adds up to an eight grand price tag, but compared to many carbon rivals, Merida’s value is still decent considering it’s dripping with top-tier kit. Fox suspension is Factory level at both ends, with a 150mm travel Float 36 fork with its best-in-class 4-way adjustable GRIP 2 damper. You don’t get the same degree of adjustment with the inline Float DPS shock, but again it helps differentiate the One-Forty from the One-Sixty.
Merida has nailed the rubber too, with a Maxxis EXO front in a wide/grippy Minion DHF 2.5in and tougher EXO+ rear casing with the faster-rolling 2.4in Dissector tread out back. These tyres come tubeless on Reynolds Black Label carbon wheels with Industry Nine hubs.
They are certainly bling, but also overly stiff. Carbon wheels not actually being an advantage is a common theme on top-end builds, but not an issue on the cheaper Merida One-Forty bikes with alloy wheels, where I also preferred the more damped and supportive RockShox shock over the Fox DPS feel here.
Merida was one of the first brands to champion the internally-routed headset. Threading cables through the head tube looks clean and means no structural adaptations or cable rub on the frame, but it’s a contentious issue for some in terms of maintenance and serviceability. Merida is at least already ahead of the game in terms of sealing and user friendliness, using double seals and a bigger upper bearing for longevity here.
Somewhat more surprising is the own-brand alloy bar; not what you might expect on a £8k bike, especially next to the Shimano XTR brake levers squeezing powerful 4-piston brakes and a snazzy electronic paddle shifter for the flawless SRAM X01 AXS gears.
How it rides
Despite being derived from, and sharing a frame with, an enduro bike, the One-Forty feels like a real trail tamer. I used it for three days to compete in the mega-mileage/climbing Ex Enduro in Devon and got on great with it.
Plenty of test bikes start to reveal flaws and niggles with extended riding, the One-Forty is one of the select few that kept getting better. Stages rolled by with consistently good results and I never seemed to make any big mistakes. That’s probably because I could confidently place the One-Forty wherever I wanted to on the trail and at a moment’s notice.
As such, there’s great balance between stability at speed and nimbleness through tight twisty singletrack. It’s also really fast rolling on flatter, jagged ground as it doesn’t get snagged on square-edge hits.
There’s great balance between stability at speed and nimbleness through tight twisty singletrack
This saves energy, as does the way smuggling effective cranks in maintains pace and urgency without the suspension being energy sapping. It’s also exceptionally efficient uphill, maintaining shape and stability under high pedal loads. Each hard pedal stroke drives the bike forward, and with continuous traction at the rear tyre, it never feels stuttery under power. In fact, only the Scott Spark and Genius spring to mind as recent rivals that I’ve ridden that are as urgent and effective in this department.
With the steep 78º seat angle and 10mm of lay-back on the post, you’re in a balanced position without having to inch forwards to the nose of the saddle on the steepest sections, but it’s not so steep at to impact pedalling position on flatter terrain, and never gives you the feeling that your hips are too forward of the BB, like on some bikes. So ignore the 80º seat tube angle listed on Merida’s geometry chart.
On this pricier 10K version, the stiff Reynolds carbon wheels give the illusion of the rear suspension not being the most sensitive at damping vibrations from small rocks and webs of roots, but I switched out to alloy wheels from a cheaper model as an experiment and the bike became noticeably smoother and less sharp edged.
There’s a stable and supportive feel to the suspension (I’d argue the previous generation Merida had ‘floatier’ suspension and slightly more grip and hyperactive tracking downhill), but this new One-Forty is rapid across the ground and dips and pops through turns with ease, so you can carve and cut berms without getting ‘stood up’ mid-corner like on some other rigs that exhibit the same degree of efficiency. Also, it’s never too fatiguing on your hands or legs even when working the bike through continuously rough sections of trail.
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- Best mountain bike tyres: all-rounders and terrain-specific rubber
Combine the great suspension with the heavy dose of stability, thanks to the stretched geometry, and a head angle that’s not so overly slack, and the Merida One-Forty maintains a nimble and easy to steer feel for a dynamic and engaging ride. Ultimately, Merida’s new One-Forty is a thoroughly modern bike that simply gets on with it, balancing all the traits most riders want from one mountain bike for all types of riding.