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.
Merida eOne-Sixty 8000 need to know
- Merida’s enduro e-bike gets updated with new Shimano EP8 motor and larger 630Wh battery
- 160mm travel front and 150mm rear with mullet wheels
- Carbon front triangle mated to alloy stays
- Marzocchi Z1 fork is basically a Fox 36 in drag
- Full alloy bikes start at £3,200, while three bike carbon range starts goes up to £9,000
Rewind to 2016 and the original lime green Merida eOne-Sixty blasted onto the scene with a focussed spec and infectious ride that wiped away most of the competition and brought e-bikes one step closer to their analogue cousins in terms of handling dynamics. Until that point, most e-bikes had been blunt instruments – offering novelty value while blasting up hills or down rough descents, but about as maneuverable as cargo ships in the turns. The eOne-Sixty changed all that, and although it wasn’t perfect, it slashed corners and boosted jumps just as well as it devoured steep climbs.
Since then, the collective bar has been raised considerably in the e-bike sector, and – to varying degrees – most brands have figured out how to build an engaging, agile e-bike. So the new Merida eOne-Sixty, with its redesigned chassis that was launched last year, faces altogether tougher competition. Fortunately it has a few tricks up its sleeve. I would even go so far as to say Merida has chucked everything including the kitchen sink at its flagship e-bike. So has this tactic worked? For the most part, the answer is yes.
The first thing you’ll notice about the eOne-Sixty is that it is fully loaded with accessories. There are so many bells and whistles, from the front and rear lights and mudguards, to the under saddle tool, that it’s ironic that about the only thing missing is an actual bell. While I applaud Merida for its generosity, functionally I’m not a fan of the mudguards, as they’re flimsy and too small to offer effective protection, and while the supplied tool itself is decent, the rubber cover fell off every time I took it out, and your hands or gloves are going to get covered in mud removing it during the winter. Equally it annoys me that the front light is not easily removable (the cable is concealed within the frame) and it took me ages to figure out how to turn it on (you actually use the Shimano STEPS display). I’m sure it may be useful if you regularly ride at night – although I couldn’t get it to tilt down far enough – but I’d rather save the cash and source my own more powerful system, than be forced to run a light all year round.
Only a year into its product lifecycle, the eOne-Sixty chassis remains unchanged for 2021. Once again, there’s no shortage of features: internal 630Wh battery, Thermo Gate vent at the head tube to allow heat to escape, carbon front triangle, internal cable routing and hidden wiring, integrated fork bumper, mullet wheels, kickstand mount… yes, you get a kickstand mount. The shock is anchored to a rocker link at one end and a pair of ribs that sit just above the motor at the other. It’s an attractive design, and because it’s not enclosed at this point, it shouldn’t turn into a swamp in the winter. But, it’s also where Merida has located the external charging point, and, while the battery is easily removable, surely this is asking for trouble? Forget keys though (we normally do); to take the battery out you just remove the plastic/rubber Energy Guard by releasing the rubber tag, and unlock the battery using the 4mm Allen key from the end of the rear axle QR. Handy.
Inside the belly of the eOne-Sixty is the new 630Wh Shimano BT-E8036. With an extra 126Wh over its predecessor, it should bring a useful 25 per cent increase in range. Of course, that extra range brings additional weight, and the 630Wh unit is 550g heavier, at 3.46kg, than the 504Wh version. This has a small negative effect on agility, and as such, the Merida is not the easiest bike to manual.
The extra weight of the battery is offset slightly by the new and lighter Shimano EP8 motor. Bringing more power (85Nm compared to 70Nm for the E8000 motor), less volume, more efficiency, reduced noise and improved software, the new EP8 is a worthwhile step forward over the old Shimano STEPS E8000. It still has one of the cleanest and neatest interfaces on the market and the new motor is stunningly quiet, even if it doesn’t offer the same surge of power you get with the Bosch and Brose units. Crucially though, it lacks the addictive overrun feature found on the Bosch Performance Line CX that can deliver as many smiles on the way up as the way down.
Merida has formed a strong bond with Shimano over the years, so it’s no surprise to see the eOne-Sixty 8000 festooned with a mix of SLX and XT parts, right down to the hubs. Probably the only hubs on the market still using loose ball bearings, rather than sealed cartridge units, we’d advocate regular maintenance to keep them spinning sweetly. Special mention goes to the almost-silent SLX freehub that perfectly complements the quiet motor and effective chainstay protector. In terms of noise, only the motor clutch can be heard rattling slightly on descents.
Shimano also looks after the braking on the Merida eOne-Sixty 8000, and I’m pleased to report that they were strong and consistent throughout the testing, with plenty of power and no rattle from the non-IceTech pads. Merida has gone all out with the tyre spec, fitting burly Maxxis Assegai and Minion DHR II tyres with heavy duty DoubleDown casings and a putty-like MaxxGrip compound up front. Amazing in the corners and on greasy roots and rocks, the trade off is increased drag and more burden on the motor. If you want to rack up the miles, fitting a harder MaxxTerra compound up front is a simple change that will definitely enhance your range.
How it rides
It’s fair to say the Merida eOne-Sixty 8000 wasn’t as much of an instant hit with me as its predecessor. Like an old fashioned electric cooker compared to a modern convection hob, warming to it took a few rides. But once I did, every ride simmered with fun. Why such a slow burner? I came to it from the Vitus E-Escarpe VRX, a mullet-wheeled, Shimano-equipped e-bike with near identical geometry and travel, but a top end spec and a £1,000 saving on account of its direct-to-consumer sales model. Putting aside the price, my immediate reaction to the Merida was that the wheels were really heavy, the front end was too tall and the extra 1.5kg it was carrying over the Vitus could really be felt in sharp accelerations and direction changes.
Diving deeper into the minutiae of the Merida eOne-Sixty 8000 delivered the reasons behind my first impressions. The front end felt too tall because the fork has 20mm more travel and the head tube is 15mm longer on the equivalent size large. Hence, even with the stem slammed, the eOne-Sixty feels a bit lofty at the front. And while I’ve now adjusted to the higher bar height, I’d still prefer the head tube to be a bit shorter to give riders of average height more bandwidth when choosing their frame size. And the wheels are on the hefty side, which coupled with the reinforced DoubleDown tyre casings and slow-rolling MaxxGrip compound up front, brings Velcro levels of adhesion but does dull the bike’s response in certain areas.
These minor criticisms didn’t get in the way of having a blast on the Merida eOne-Sixty 8000. It’s a really capable e-bike that manages to combine the thick skin of an enduro bike with the quick-wittedness of a trail bike. The suspension has been judged perfectly, with a really supple, active tune to the Fox Float DPX2 shock that irons out small ripples but deftly copes with bigger bumps and holes without ever feeling saggy or wallowy. Yes, it’s the more basic Performance level DPX2, but I never felt like I needed to add compression damping control. It would be nice to get closer to the advertised 150mm of travel though – we only got 143mm.
Likewise the Marzocchi Z1 fork is elementary in its simplicity, but the performance doesn’t feel dumbed-down in any way. Like the rear end, there’s a very soft, sensitive response through the first third of the travel, then the damping builds just enough to keep you propped up in compressions and dropping into steep turns. One of my regular test routes includes 30m of intense washboard, and here the Marzocchi felt just as composed as a Factory-level Fox 36 on the Vitus E-Escarpe. Perhaps more so, as there’s less compression damping and more travel, so you don’t feel like your arms are going to explode. It’s stiff, but not too stiff, and the fact that it’s just a basic Fox 36 in drag instills long-term confidence in its performance.
Although lighter wheels and/or tyres would help direction changes, it still jinks between trees and transfers from turn to turn eagerly and predictably. In fact there’s a great balance between the frame stability and dynamic handling that means one trait never overshadows the other. The mullet wheels definitely help that turn-in enthusiasm, and because Merida has chosen to spec a 2.6in rear tyre rather than a full fat 2.8in, there’s none of the erratic squirming that can plague a Plus tyre.
Being taller at the front led to a few moments where the Merida would wander a little on the climbs. Nothing serious though, and the steep actual and effective seat tube angles helped ensure I could easily reposition my weight to stop the front wheel hovering above the deck. A good climber then, rather than an exceptional one. Especially when you factor in that the Shimano EP8 motor quits spinning almost as soon as you stop pedalling. So you have to balance momentum with ground clearance when tackling rough, or ledge-filled climbs.
Following in the footsteps of its illustrious predecessor, the new eOne-Sixty may not stand head and shoulders above the competition anymore, but it’s definitely in the mix and it does deliver a genuinely exciting ride thanks to well-judged suspension and sorted geometry. Throw in Shimano’s improved EP8 motor and you have a great overall package. In my view, Merida has got a bit carried away with extras like the lights and mudguards, but fortunately it hasn’t been distracted from the fundamentals in the process. And while the more expensive models in the range seem enticing with their better wheels and suspension, there are no weak points in the spec of the 8000 model.