Ben has spent the year hammering the Merida OneSixty 800. Time to find out how he got on.
The Merida OneSixty might look understated, but Ben definitely fell head over heels in love with the base model 800, proving that sorted geometry and suspension doesn’t have to cost you an arm and a leg.
Read on to see why Ben thought the OneSixty was such a capable beast.
Photos by Dave Price.
- Superlite 16 (6061) aluminium frame.
- 160mm rear travel via Rockshox Super Deluxe RCT shock.
- Rockshox Yari RC 170mm fork.
- 27.5″ wheels.
- SRAM GX Eagle 12-speed groupset.
- KS LEV Integra 150mm dropper.
- S, M, L, XL sizes.
- £3,150.00 RRP
Low key, stealth and understated. It’d be easy to underestimate the matte black Merida, assuming it was just another characterless, ‘vanilla’ bike from a big brand, but you would not be further from the truth. The Merida 160 absolutely rips. Everywhere.
I’ve really enjoyed riding this bike for the last 7 months, and probably could have reviewed it months ago, but I kept on stalling so I wouldn’t have to return it. Now the time has come though and I am trying to figure out how to put across why I think this bike is so good.
If we start with the frame and the geometry, you can see that it is at the progressive end of what I would call ‘normal’ for an enduro bike in 2018.
474mm reach in size large, 430mm chainstays, 65.5 degree head angle and a 75 degree seat tube angle. Basically it is pretty long and slackish with a decent climbing position to winch back up.
The aluminium frame cuts a unique silhouette, looking slim from the side, and chunky from the saddle. The tubes are oval in profile, allowing the down tube to kink to accommodate the shock and a water bottle, and the top tube to kink downwards for improved standover.
There are lots of nice details, including very neat cable entry points for the internal routing that keep the cables secure and prevent any rattles. For those engineer types out there, you may also appreciate Merida’s ‘Smooth Weld’ finish which does what it says on the tin, leaving some people asking whether it was carbon.
Another bonus has been the high quality of the bolts, bearings and pivot assemblies as in the whole test period not a single bolt has come lose. Not one. No creaks, no knocks, no binding, it is as smooth today as it was on day 1. Well done Merida.
Chinks in the armour.
I can only think of two small improvements that I would like to see, and they are both to do with frame protection. Within a week the glue for the chainstay protector had gone funny and the rubber just peeled off, so I cut it off and stuck my own mastic tape on instead.
Secondly as it is an aluminium bike, there is no armour under the bike (this is not unique to Merida) and after a large rock strike at Bike Park Wales there was a massive dent in the down tube. Luckily the bike was still straight and running fine, but I think that big bikes need some protection down there, whether they are carbon or aluminium.
The build kit is rock solid, with Code R brakes, a Rock Shox Yari RC paired up with a Super Deluxe RCT, SRAM GX Eagle groupset, MRP chain guide, KS Lev Integra seatpost, Maxxis rubber and finished off with Merida’s own brand wheels, bars, and stem. The only let down was the narrow 760mm bars, and I personally didn’t get on with the short, 35mm long stem, finding it too short to weight the front wheel. Early on I swapped both out for a 775mm bar with a 50mm stem, both from Deity.
The SRAM Code R brakes have been faultless, from the high mountains of the Pyrenees to gnarly trails across the UK they have not missed a beat and have not even needed bleeding once. They offer totally dependable power with just enough modulation for fine adjustments to your speed.
As I mentioned in my first ride video, the GX Eagle groupset was great for about a month and then it got knocked slightly out of shape, never regaining its sharp shifting.
Somehow I also managed to snap some teeth off of the cassette which then needed replacing. In general, most of my issues with this bike were down to the SRAM GX Eagle 12 speed transmission as it just is not very robust in my experience. Eventually I replaced the whole groupset with SRAM NX Eagle which I will be reviewing shortly.
The Merida 160 800 is sprung with Rock Shox suspension front and rear. The Yari RC fork with 170mm travel is a solid performer after a short breaking in period. Just a few years ago it would have been one of the top performing forks on the market, showing just how much suspension has advanced recently.
It is composed, compliant and supple enough to get down pretty much any trail on any day. Obviously it is not as good as its big brother, the Lyrik, but for the money I think it comes pretty close.
It is also worth noting that I spent a fair bit of time running the MRP Ribbon Coil fork that I reviewed earlier this year. It made a great bike into a rocket ship, and really unleashed the bike’s full potential.
The rear suspension is what makes the Merida stand out. The rear shock ‘floats’ between the upper rocker link and the extended chainstay using what Merida call, ‘Float Link Rear Suspension.’ The shock also pivots on bearings rather than bushings making it super supple and reactive to any trail input. I found that the bike worked best with about 33% sag which is quite a lot.
At this point, it felt glued to the ground and still had enough progression to stop me bottoming out all the time. I would regularly use all of the travel on a ride, but at the same time it always felt quite bottomless and never harsh like some bikes on bottom out.
It is rare for me to find that the stock tune on a shock is progressive enough for my weight and riding style, but I didn’t have to open up the Super Deluxe RCT to add spacers and it was faultless throughout the test. Whilst it felt very planted and stuck to the trail, there was still enough support to pump a turn or roller or to boost over sections of trail.
All downhill from here.
The Merida is so capable on the downhills and finds grip, maintains its composure and offers a forgiving ride that encourages you to push yourself.
It’s an easy bike to get along with thanks to its balanced suspension platform and roomy 474mm reach (large) letting you sit ‘in’ the bike. The geometry means it can tackle anything from trail centre loops where it is surprisingly fun, to the steepest, nastiest secret trails that we all dream of.
It’s also very capable in the turns, allowing you to lean with confidence, aided by the Maxxis Minion DHR II tyres and lowish bottom bracket. You get even more corner stability by pushing into the rear suspension, deeper into its travel, where the bike will hold you before slinging you out the other side. It certainly feels agile for its size and build.
What do we think?
The Merida 160 800 has taken me to some of my best ever race results. The bike gives me so much confidence to push myself and I’ve hit bigger jumps and sent it harder than ever before.
- Dialled, progressive geometry.
- Excellent suspension.
- Confidence-inspiring ride.
- Solid climber.
- Faultless SRAM Code R brakes.
Could do better:
- SRAM drivetrain showed some flaws.