Point it down anything and the bike comes to life
Modern geometry and 2.6in tyres make the new Merida One Forty 700 trail bike a delight to ride. Joins a line-up featuring One Twenty and One Sixty.
The One Forty is the latest platform from Merida to adopt its Float Link suspension, a design first introduced on the Merida One Twenty and Merida One Sixty models. All three bikes take there name from the amount of suspension travel and by bringing the 140mm travel trail bike inline with its stablemates, the shock on the One Forty is now suspended between the upper rocker link and an extension of the chainstay yoke that protrudes forward of the main pivot.
Merida One Forty 700 review
Having a lower shock mount that migrates forward and down as the suspension compresses allows the engineers at Merida to fine tune the progression rate of the suspension to each specific application. If that sounds familiar, it’s probably because it’s very similar to the Full Floater configuration found on the Trek Fuel EX 29er.
Trek claims an additional advantage of not having the shock anchored to the front triangle is that it allows for a lighter frame construction, but given that Merida is the heaviest 27.5in bike in test, we’re not convinced that claim holds water here.
The One Forty frame also benefits from Merida’s smart entry cable routing, where the internal cables are secured under tension at the point of entry to stop them rattling around inside the down tube. It’s a very effective approach and the large entry ports make it much easy to replace a brake hose or damaged gear outer casing.
The trunnion mounted RockShox Deluxe RT gets external rebound adjustment and a two-position compression lever, the firmer setting approaching a full lockout. In the cold snap that engulfed the UK during testing the firmer setting stopped working all together and we had the exact same issue with the shock on the Canyon Spectral. Once the snow melted and temperatures got above zero the second compression setting was quickly restored. Not that the 140mm travel Merida needs a firmer setting as it climbs and pedals perfectly well with the shock in the fully open setting.
Unfortunately, the RockShox Revelation fork felt congested in all weather conditions. So even though it has 150mm of travel it required the biggest of hits to get it moving and even then you’d still feel most of the impact in your wrists and forearms. Not even the extra cushioning of the chunky Maxxis Minion DHF front 2.6in tyre could mask the shortcomings of the fork.
Merida fit SLX chainsets with 30t chain rings. The hollow forged arms are stiff and lightweight, and with a two-piece design that preloads the bottom bracket just like a headset, nothing comes close to matching the SLX chainset at this price point. Merida has the upper hand with an XT rear mech, but don’t let that fool you, as this doesn’t improve shifting performance one jot. As such, we’d much rather Merida spent its budget more wisely, ideally on a dropper seatpost with more than 125mm of drop.
The Deore brakes on the Merida deserve a special mention though, as they have the best lever feel of any Shimano brake we’ve tested. Sure the organic pads take a little longer to dry out when wet, but stopping power and modulation on this entry-level brake are nothing short of first rate.
With a shorter wheelbase, steeper head angle, fatter 2.6in tyres and a tighter suspension response than the acclaimed Merida One Sixty enduro bike, the One Forty offers a more playful and versatile ride. It’s noticeably more sluggish than the other bikes in this test however, and even though it had a harder compound, faster rolling rear tyre than the Canyon, the Merida couldn’t match its acceleration and zip.
Point it down anything steep however and the bike comes to life. Well, the rear end does anyway, as the Merida was the third bike in this test to have a somewhat underactive RockShox Revelation RC fork. Tight bushings in the lower legs are the most likely culprit, but even when working at 100 pre-cent capacity, the Revelation is no match for the Charger damped Pike fitted to the Commençal Meta V4 and Canyon.
All of the improvements Merida has made to the suspension and geometry of the new One Forty frame are positive, but faced with such stiff competition in the 27.5in category, they get a little lost in the crowd. Yes, the rear suspension works very well when bombing downhill and remains steadfast under power on the climbs, but the bike is heavy and lacks sparkle, feeling particularly sluggish on flatter, flowing trails, even though it has a fast rolling rear tyre. The real sticking point, quite literally, was the RockShox Revelation fork, but given that the tight bushings are covered under warranty we didn’t mark the Merida down.