In a world of long travel, heavy hitting, enduro racing, gravity monsters it’s easy to ignore the little bikes. Like a wise man once said though, ‘it’s not the size of the dog in the fight it’s size of the fight in the dog”… and believe me the Merida OneTwenty9000 has got bark and bite in abundance.
Chances are you probably won’t buy this bike. You’ll probably go for something longer, lower, slacker. I get that. 120mm travel, 29″ wheels and 67.5° head angle aren’t the sexiest of numbers.
What this bike is though is bloody good fun, crazy fast and stupidly easy to ride up along and down. We’ll come back to that in a second though.
Need to know
The OneTwenty is Merida’s shortest travel option in the OneSomething range, outgunned in travel at least by the OneFourty and OneSixty. It has 29″ wheels, 120mm travel, a carbon frame and fairly tight and compact geometry.
There are carbon and alloy versions available with the 8000 being the second from poshest version available. We reviewed the alloy Merida OneTwenty 600 version a few months ago here.
The build kit on the bike is rock solid, without being over the top. There’s a RockShox Pike RCT3 up front, a RS Deluxe RCT3 on the back and carbon wheels. The brakes are the excellent SRAM Code with loads of adjustment. A Maxxis DHF up front is great, a Forekaster out back is guff. Swap that.
A small gripe
Before I gush over why I think this bike is so good I’ll give you my biggest gripe. Yep, it’s the price. At £6000 this bike is pricey. You could buy two Calibre Sentry’s for the same price. Or two Specialized Stumpies with £500 to spare for uplifts and beers. Both would offer more travel (if that matters) and no less good times.
But on to the good stuff and the reason I just texted Merida to say “Can I keep this bike longer please? I really, really, really like it”.
Insanely good fun
This bike is just insanely good fun. The lack of travel makes it absolutely no less enjoyable to hoon around on than a big, slack bike.
Point it down the trail and it goes like the absolute clappers. Down gnarly, natural trails it’s just super easy to ride. It’s easy to change direction, very playful and doesn’t take any big hoists to make it move.
Carbon wheels and carbon frames don’t always mean fun but the OneTwenty seems to tread a fine balance of being stiff but not harsh.
Brutally rough bits
I’d expected the bike to be a bit too wild but the Float Link suspension and big wheels work really well. You’re not hanging on for dear life and you’re not in total control either. I took the bike on the Pedalabikeaway Flyup uplift and had a total blast. I’m almost certain for the most part I was going about the same pace as on some longer travel bikes.
Those rough, bashed up sections do send the bike dancing but it’s weight and very quick geometry make it easy to correct.
Between the brutally rough bits it shoots very fast and very direct down the trail. Round corners and through tight twisty stuff it’s crazily good fun to chuck around.
That’s half the fun
OK, I’m not going to get too carried away. When the trails get properly rough the Merida will run out of travel and bounce out of shape. For me though, that’s half the fun. Let off the brakes, pick your best line, wrestle it through the roots and rocks, hang on and have a blast. Just get a decent rear tyre so you can push it as hard as it deserves.
Like I said, you probably won’t buy this bike. You’ll probably buy something with more travel and slacker angles. That’s a shame though. The Merida OneTwenty is a bike that’ll take you by surprise.
One minute you’ll be saying it’s “just for trail centres and the local stuff” and the next you’ll have it on an uplift and be chucking it down your local downhill track.
The Merida OneTwenty8000 is a very fun, very easy to ride bike. It’s expensive compared to what else is available and it’s possible that for £6000 you may struggle to afford a long travel bike alongside it.
Do you need a long travel bike? Maybe, maybe not. For those uplift days and trips to the Bike Park you’ll probably be faster and get less beat up. That’s your decision to make.
Who’s this bike for? The Cape Epic was won on a OneTwenty and (at the other end of the scale) I’ll happily smash it round a day of South Wales secret tracks. I won’t be the fastest in the group but I’ll have no problem pedalling it and it’s surprisingly capable on the downs. I think you’ll know if that’s you or not – you decide!
Short travel and light weight makes it easy to climb and sprint on
Big wheels and supple suspension create a longer travel feel
The frame feels stiff but not too stiff
Great fun, easy to throw around,
Could do better:
The back tyre will let you down
The £6k price tag may be a bit spicy for most people