The new Shimano EP8 motor has just hit the market and Merida's new eOne-Sixty is the first e-bike to get it
The new Shimano EP8 e-bike motor has just hit the market and the new Merida eOne-Sixty 8000 is the first e-bike to get it.
It’s a shock when a bike as capable as the Merida eOne Sixty 8000 turns up with mudguards, a front light and a kickstand mount, but that’s the reality of the e-bike market. Where a new breed of customer thinks nothing of walking into a shop and dropping £6k on a 150mm travel full-suspension bike with soft compound tyres for commuting to work, or cruising around the local park with the family at the weekend. We guess it’s no different to seeing a fully kitted-out Land Rover Defender, looking like a refugee from a Bond film, on the school run, but it doesn’t make it any easier to get your head around.
Aside from the generous extras, Merida’s eOne Sixty 8000 gives you a carbon front triangle, Shimano’s latest EP8 motor and 630Wh battery (cooled by vents at the head tube, no less), mullet wheels and a Shimano SLX/XT 12-speed drivetrain. The Shimano EP8 motor is seriously light and compact, and the carbon frame must be pretty minimal too, as despite all the accessories and heavy duty Double Down tyres front and rear, the Merida is the second lightest bike here.
Merida eOne-Sixty 8000 review
To turn the power on, there’s a prominent switch on the top tube. This fires up the discreet black and white display tucked out of harm’s way behind the handlebar, while a slim remote next to the grip gives you control over the power modes.
Instead of a key, the internal battery releases with a 4mm hex tool. Better still, Merida has helpfully provided one on a multi-tool under the saddle, and another on the end of the rear axle QR. Where Merida has dropped the ball, literally, is with the battery cover, which fell off several times during the test. Luckily we managed to find it on every occasion, but fixing it to the battery would solve this problem.
Shimano’s new EP8 motor gives a very natural power output, with no surging, but it prefers high revs, so if you get caught out in too high a gear, you’ll get bogged down. It’s exceptionally quiet in operation, but there is an annoying rattle from the internal gearing when you’re coasting along. Having said that, the bottom bracket on our Merida had slight play in the bearings, which didn’t help, and we’ve also tried another EP8 motor that rattled a lot less, which will be down to manufacturing tolerance.
What’s not in doubt, is that Shimano’s latest unit doesn’t pack as much of a punch as the Bosch motor or the Brose/Specialized 2.1. That doesn’t mean it’s lacking in power, but it does mean you have to switch modes more often if you’re taking on technical climbs, and the lack of overrun when you stop pedalling can really interrupt the uphill flow if there are ledges or steps in the way.
Although we only measured just over 140mm travel (Merida claims 150mm) we never felt shortchanged by the suspension on the Merida eOne-Sixty 8000. The Fox Float DPX2 shock tracked the ground really well, but never felt saggy or wallowy. We also found that moving the compression lever to the middle position would help prop us up when loaded in turns or ploughing rough descents without compromising the small bump performance too much.
In isolation the Marzocchi Z1 suspension fork performed well, soaking up the hits without leaving our palms feeling punished or collapsing our arms into deep compressions, but in back-to-back runs with the Whyte’s Fox 38 it lacked composure, spitting the front wheel back from big bumps and hitting a bit of a wall deep in the stroke. We could still ride the Merida really hard, but the Z1 definitely got a bit lively if we tried to keep up with the Whyte E-160 or the Trek Rail. We also found that the axle would unwind slightly over time, which is definitely something we’d recommend keeping an eye on.
With proper reinforced Double Down Maxxis tyres and a Maxx Grip compound Maxxis Assegai up front the tyre choice dominated the ride experience on the Merida eOne-Sixty 8000. Allied to capable geometry and decent sizing, that super sticky front tyre delivered incredible grip levels and allowed us to push past the limits of the fork on rowdy descents. We could run lower pressures, thanks to the sturdier sidewalls, and still slam turns without folding the tyres. On the other hand, the slow rolling front tyre reduced the range by around 25 to 30 per cent. So for all-round duties, a switch to our Maxx Terra control tyre would be a sensible choice up front and save the Maxx Grip for days at the bike park. Finally a note on the wheels; all the spokes came loose on the rear wheel, and needed retensioning after every ride.
And we can’t move onto the performance without commenting on the accessories. While they feel like a generous gesture by Merida, in reality the front light is not powerful enough for off-road night riding and you can’t actually tilt it down far enough with the stem slammed because it hits the head tube. And you can’t remove it easily because it’s wired to the Shimano battery. The mudguards are too short and flimsy to be really effective, and the underside of the saddle is just about the worst place to put a tool, even if it is inside a case.
With a 457mm reach, the Merida eOne-Sixty 8000 is certainly not progressive in terms of sizing, but being an e-bike, the extra mass helps the high-speed stability, and this is further aided by the nice low BB. The 27.5in rear wheel really helps initiate turns, while the 29in front wheel gives mid-corner confidence, so it loves to rail corners. Fitting 2.6in rubber amplifies that effect, while avoiding the erratic squirming that can sometimes arise with a full fat 2.8in tyre. It’s also one of the most agile bikes at slow speeds too, so it never feels unwieldy and is relatively easy to manual and bunny-hop.
If you relish technical climbs, then the way the motor cuts when you pause pedalling will really cramp your style. And on big rides you’ll need to manage your power levels, because the front tyre really eats into the range, and on one ride the battery went from two chunks, to one chunk, to empty within the space of about 200m and we had to be towed home by the Trek.
We loved the handling of the Merida. It was seriously fun to ride, with a great balance between slow-speed agility and high-speed stability. We felt comfortable and confident at all times, and the Maxxis tyres let us get away with moves and hold lines that simply weren’t possible on the other bikes in stock trim. But the Merida’s abilities eventually highlighted the shortcomings of the fork and the Shimano EP8 seemed to burn through its battery quicker than the similar capacity Bosch-equipped bikes. But the Merida’s abilities eventually highlighted the shortcomings of the fork. For a better shot at the top spot, Merida would have been better off saving money on lights and mudguards and investing that budget in a better fork damper or stronger wheels.