Pete headed to Ruhpolding in the Bavarian Alps to check out the redesigned Merida Bicycles OneTwenty.
Action shots by Paul Humbert.
120mm of travel certainly isn’t an awful lot when it comes to full suspension mountain bikes, but after an evolution that started in 2009, Merida have produced a short travel trail bike that can handle some serious speed.
Here’s what Pete made of the new OneTwenty on the trail out at the press launch in Germany.
Merida OneTwenty 8000 Key features:
- New CF4 carbon frame.
- FSA Gradient LTD carbon wheels.
- SRAM XO1 Eagle 12-speed.
- Rockshox RCT3 Pike and Monarch.
- KS Lev Integra (125mm on size S).
- Small, Medium, Large and XLarge available.
- 27.5 and 29″ models.
I opted to concentrate my efforts on the ‘one from the top’ OneTwenty model in its 29er guise, the 8000, as the weight and spec wouldn’t detract from how the bike performs out on the trail. UK pricing is still to be confirmed.
With a build that sports almost full SRAM throughout, the 8000 is definitely the one everyone had their eye on. XO1 running gear mated to a Truvativ carbon crank, Code RSC stoppers with a 130mm Rockshox Pike and a Monarch air unit handling the damping.
A KS Lev Integra deals with the saddle height and the wheels are FSA Gradient offerings shod with Maxxis rubber.
Weight, unsurprisingly is low.
Despite the small size seeming to offer a little less in the reach than I would have liked, as is often the case, the proof is very much in the pudding and the 415 reach didn’t seem to be too cramped. That coupled with a short seat tube meant that sizing on the small wasn’t really an issue.
The 67.3 degree head angle might seem fairly steep but the bike certainly didn’t seem wanting early on.
Setup was a breeze. The mechanics were on hand to get the brakes set up the ‘right’ way and all I did before we headed out for our guided 21km ride was drop the air from the fork and shock to suit my 8 stone 4, as well as dropping the tyre pressure down to around 25psi.
The guided loop on day 1 was a mix of fast, flowing singletrack with some awkward technical sections thrown in, as well as some fire road blasts and road sections.
From the off, the pace was frantic, being set by Merida sponsored rider and Athens Olympic silver medalist Jose Hermida. The bike responded well to power, feeling stiff and putting all the power you provided into going forward. Even out of the saddle, the added mid stroke support on the leverage curve kept the bike from wallowing.
With the initial climbing done, we were treated to some fast, flowing and sometimes technical singletrack. The OneTwenty seemed to come to life. Speed was easy to find, as was grip and composure early on.
The single pivot design lent itself well to getting out of the way of the trail chatter and the damping was superb at both ends despite very little fettling as mentioned. Combining a responsive chassis to well-mannered damping and low weight meant that the OneTwenty kept wanting to go faster.
Luckily, when my talent ran out, the 8000 came fitted with the excellent Code RSCs, making short work of bringing the bike to heel, or swinging the back end out for some classic Alpine switchback action.
The new frames come with multi-density frame protection to keep trail chatter down, something that was instantly noticeable on rougher trail sections.
Certainly not something that was an issue on the test, but the new OneTwenty sports bigger bearings throughout for increased durability of the frame hardware. Those bearings are accessed via Merida’s new Non-Slip Tightening, where you can remove the bearing hardware from a single side with, in 7 out of 8 cases, a torx 30.
The frame weight reduction (~400g for CF4 models), increased mid-stroke and progressivity of the rear linkage, 1 x optimisation of the suspension, excellent spec and shorter chainstays all seem to get to Merida’s aim to make the 8000 all about having fun on the trail.
While my time on the OneTwenty 8000 was limited to a few hours, it showed plenty of promise and really that for many, a well-designed and damped short travel 29er might be the one bike to rule them all.
I’m looking forward to putting on through its paces later in the year to find out if the OneTwenty lives up to the Ruhpolding hype.