A fun and playful e-bike
With the new Merida EOne-Sixty 900E they’ve done an amazing job. It has a fun, playful ride quality that few e-bikes can match.
Merida EOne-Sixty 900E review
While other brands kick-start their long-travel ebikes around the £5k mark, Merida has adopted a different approach; the 160mm travel EOne-Sixty 900E is the top-end bike.
It gets a full aluminium frame, Shimano Steps Motor and 500Wh battery back that’s semi-integrated into the downtube. It’s the exact same frame as the entry-level EOne-Sixty 800, and while that bike doesn’t get Shimano XT Di2 gears or Fox suspension, it looks like an absolute bargain for £4,000.
One of the main advantages of using the compact Shimano motor is that Merida can maintain a regular 441mm chain stay length and a similar suspension layout to its 160mm travel non-ebikes.
In fact, all of the numbers on the EOne-Sixty are pretty close to the best 160mm enduro bikes, the exception being the head angle. At a hair under 67 degrees it is too step by modern standards. The size range on the Merida is also limited, so if you’re 6ft or over, you’ll need to take a closer look at the Trek Powerfly or the Rocky Mountain Altitude Powerplay to get an ebike that fits.
When Merida launched the EOne-Sixty earlier this year the Fox ebike optimised suspension forks didn’t exist. So the EOne-Sixty comes with a regular Fox 36 RC2 without the thicker wall upper tubes and stiffer crown. Not that we’re complaining, as it’s the top-end Factory level fork so it benefits from the best damping money can buy.
Combined with the Fox Factory Float X2 rear shock, you have ultimate control over the 160mm travel. And it’s one of the reasons you can charge so hard on the Merida.
The other reason is that it has the best tyres in test. The 3C compound of the 2.8in Maxxis Minion DHR II is super predictable in a wide verity of conditions, while the rectangular centre knobs provide unparalleled braking traction. Something that’s pretty handy when it comes to stopping a 49lb bike.
Which is why we’re a little confused by Merida’s choice of a 180mm rear rotor. Yes, Shimano Saint brakes have tons of stopping power, but we’d still prefer a 203mm rotor on the rear to match the front.
Because the sizing, geometry and handling on the Merida is so close to a regular 160mm bike, you begin to notice the little things that affect ride quality that sometimes get over looked on ebikes. Like the conical headset top-cap that makes the handlebar position feel too high, and the fact that the 760mm handlebar feels narrow when you normally get 780mm bars on equivalent travel non-ebikes.
We never really got used to the Shimano Di2 shifting either, even when we reversed the action of the shifter with the E-Tube app. Also it doesn’t offer anything like as positive a shift as SRAM EX1, and it’s sounds like the chain could snap at any moment. Which, it did. To be fair to Shimano though, it was a KMC chain.
Shifting issues aside, there are some great features with Shimano Steps. For starters, the display is crystal clear and because it’s neatly tucked behind the handlebar, it’s very well protected. Also, by using a L-hand shifter to toggle between the three power settings, the remote is more robust that the other designs too.
Having a full size 34t chain ring is also a big advantage for UK riding, as it will clear mud much better than the 15/16t driver cogs found on the Bosch system. It’s not all rosy with Shimano Steps though. The battery life indicator isn’t linear, so in a very short space of time you go from having two bars (there are 4 in total) to one, then all of a sudden it’s flashing red and next thing you know your out of juice and pedalling through treacle.
A more pressing issue is that on the time climbs and acceleration tests that we conducted the Merida was by far the slowest bike. And that was after we swapped the tyres for faster rolling 60a rubber. Not that this stopped us from having a total blast riding the Merida, but it meant that it got dropped on every climb.
Merida has done an amazing job with the EOne-Sixty 900E. It has a fun, playfully ride quality that few ebikes can match, and the price is simply unbeatable. It’s also the only sub 50lb bike in this test, and that’s without a single strand of carbon. It could be even better though. With a two degree slacker head angle and a little more power from the Shimano motor the EOne-Sixty would be able to keep up on the climbs, only to drop the competition on every descent. The biggest issue though, is actually getting hold of one.