Composed, silent and capable
The switch to aluminium not only expands the range, it also means the Merida One-Sixty now comes in four frame sizes rather than being restricted to three.
The natural order of mountain bike development is to get the geometry, sizing and suspension layout dialled on the aluminium frame; then bring the carbon bike to market. With the One-Sixty range Merida flipped that conventional wisdom on its head.
Merida One-Sixty 800 review
Launched two years ago, the original One-Sixty came with a carbon front end and alloy rear. The addition of two full aluminium bikes for 2018 however, sees prices tumble; the entry-level One-Sixty 600 retailing for £2,500 and the One-Sixty 800 tested here costing £350 less than the cheapest carbon bike, while retaining a comparable build kit.
The addition of an XL option with a fairly generous 490mm reach measurement means that the One-Sixty is no longer limited to riders under 6ft tall.
And while were talking frame proportions, our size L test bike had a 474mm reach measurement making it the most rangy bike in this test. Fitting then, that it also comes with stubby 35mm stem.
Having model names based on the amount of travel the frame has isn’t the most creative, but at least you know exactly what you’re getting with each Merida. Or do you? When we measured the rear travel on the Merida One-Sixty 800 it was 10mm shy of the stated 160mm. It a good thing then, that the Float Link suspension works so well that you never feel short-changed even on the roughest trails. It does impact the dynamic geometry of the bike however, so the BB height is taller than the static numbers suggest.
There’s no disputing the travel of the RockShox Yari RC however. With 170mm at your disposal it can take on all comers. Small bump sensitivity is comparable with the more sophisticated Lyrik on the Canyon Torque, and while the Yari swallows medium size hits with ease, it tends to choke more readily than the Lyrik on the really chunky stuff, so fatigue is noticeably higher, on longer rougher trails.
With SRAM Code R disc brakes and a 12 speed SRAM GX Eagle drivetrain you’ll be able to winch the One-Sixty up the steepest of gradients in the 50t rear cog, safe in the knowledge that your brakes won’t fade on the return leg of your journey. It’s a winning combination, and one that we’d happily run on our personal bikes.
Merida has also nailed the tyre specification for general riding too. The 2.4in WT Maxxis Minion DHR II is one of our favourite tyres and with a softer compound Maxx Terra 3C version on the front and faster rolling dual compound rubber on the rear, the Merida my not be EWS race ready, but it’s got a big head start over the Saracen Ariel.
On paper the cockpit looks great too, but with the highest BB on test and the least amount of travel the handlebar on the One-Sixty felt a tad too low in the steeper more technical trails at Bikepark Wales.
We’ve always been impressed by the rear suspension on the Merida One-Sixty. Its ability to accelerate through rocks, track over roots and remain stable when sat down pedalling up hill makes it a great enduro bike. So even though it’s got 10mm less travel than advertised, that never held it back one bit.
There’s something about the One-Sixty though that makes it slow to accelerate when you get on the gas. You have to wind it up, rather than it snapping into action. So in that respect it feels less engaging than the Saracen or Canyon. We had the same feeling last month when we tested the One-Forty bike and couldn’t put our finger on the exact cause of it. We know for sure it’s not Merida’s choice of tyres as we fitted the same Maxxis tyres to of the bikes in this test. Maybe it’s just the price you pay to have the rear wheel so firmly glued to the ground.
Composed, silent and capable, the Merida One-Sixty 800 many not have as much travel as the name suggests, but it is still is a great bike for tackling chunky terrain. Swap from the Saracen or Canyon however, and it is evident that the Merida sits higher off the ground, and needs a higher rise handlebar to shift rider weight more rearward on steep descents and really tap into that superbly capable rear suspension. It’s the only thing wrong with an otherwise great build. And given that the Merida feels a little lifeless on flatter, humbrum terrain it really makes sense to play to its strengths.