A bike that’s a little at odds with itself
Rocking a burly 34mm Suntour fork, and rolling on the biggest, stickiest rubber on test, the Merida Big Trail 400 feels solid and well built.
There are some really neat touches, too. Like the rubber protection that runs all the way along the drive-side chainstay and up the seatstay to reduce chain noise. The internal cabling also uses large ports to make maintenance easy with clamps that prevent any cable rattle. The result is an exceptionally quiet ride.
The 2.8in Maxxis Rekon 3C tyres don’t have a very deep tread pattern but the soft compound offers tenacious grip in the dry and the extra volume really smooths out the ride. This sense of calm is a little misleading though — get the Merida on faster trails and you quickly discovered that the Big.Trail is a bike that’s a little at odds with itself.
It’s the only bike in the sub £1k class with a head angle north of 67°, making it a lot steeper than its more laidback rivals so the front wheel always feels just a little bit too close. It also has the shortest reach measurement so the only knockout blow it’s likely to deliver is to its rider when the trail gets rough or super steep.
The upswept top tube also means it has the tallest seat tube on test. And even that’s curved, so you’ll need to hacksaw a good 95mm off the end of the seat post if you want to slam it for descents. So the frame geometry and proportions are somewhat at odds with the build kit.