When we unboxed the Merida Big Nine TFS 900, our first thought was that this is a typical Euro XC race bike — steep, twitchy and hard as nails. We promptly flipped the stem the right way up to give a less flat-back riding position. Once we got the remote fork lockout out of the way of the shifter pod, we set about adjusting the Manitou Tower fork. Setting the sag was easy but eliminating the nasty top-out knock was impossible.
Out on the trail, the knocking was annoying but the Manitou fork’s principal flaw was that it spiked on high-speed, square-edge hits, driving the force of the impact directly into your forearms and wrists. This makes the fork feel like it had considerably less than the claimed 100mm travel.
Fortunately, the ride quality of the frame wasn’t anything like as hard on the body, no doubt aided by the fat 2.25in tyres and small diameter seatpost. But the Merida Big Nine TFS 900 also felt noticeably flexier than the other bikes in the test, which would go some way to explaining a lack of urgency when you hammer on the pedals. After the third or fourth ride, creaking began to emerge from around the bottom bracket area. Combined with the clunking fork, it felt like a pretty disappointing package for £1,000.
Good geometry, a decent riding position and a comfortable, if flexy, ride quality to the frame are all present and correct, but it was the Manitou Tower fork that ruined the Merida Big Nine TFS 900’s chances.
MBR rating: 6
Frame Matts 6061 aluminium
Fork Manitou Tower LTD 100mm
Wheels Shimano 435/SLX hubs, Big 9 Pro D rims, Schwalbe Racing Ralph 2.25in tyres
Drivetrain Shimano M552 chainset, Shimano Deore f-mech,3×10 SLX shifters, XT r-mech
Brakes Shimano M446
Weight 12.9kg (28.4lb)
Sizes 17, 19, 21in
Size tested 19in
On test in our Hardtail of the Year competition:
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