A first look at the new 2021 Merida Big Trail 600 hardtail: British-bred, big wheels and great value

Whilst the name Big.Trail isn’t new, the 2021 version of Merida’s hardcore hardtail sees a complete, from-scratch redesign.

Introducing the 2021 Merida Big.Trail ladies and gents.

Features

  • Designed with the feedback of Merida’s UK dealers
  • Aluminium frame
  • 29″ wheels with room for 2.5″ tyres
  • 140mm Marzocchi fork
  • Bolt-through rear axle
  • £1500

How lucky are we as bike riders these days? Back in the day, building a ‘hardcore hardtail’ meant pillaging bits off your DH bike and bodging them onto your steep and tall XC frame.

These days there’s no end of long, low and slack hardtails that are a riot on the trails and are priced well within the N+1 price range, a good example being the KTM’s £1300 Ultra Evo that Will recently tested. 

We first met Merida’s Big.Trail back in 2016 for a short but very sweet first-ride. Roll forward to 2021 and the version we reviewed has now been replaced by a brand new and totally redesigned frame.

The 2021 Merida Big.Trail runs on 29″ wheels with room for up to 2.5″ tyres. The aluminium frame is built with a 65° head angle and designed around a 120mm – 140mm fork. There’s a decently steep 75.5° head angle and plenty of standover – both of which should add up to a comfy and confident ride.

Sizing is, as we’ve come to expect from Merida, on the conservative side but won’t hold you back. The Big.Trail is available in 4 sizes with the smallest measuring a teeny 415mm, medium at 435mm, large at 455mm and XL at 475mm.

Merida say that the new Big.Trail was designed with the help of it’s UK dealers. “It almost feels like yesterday that some of the leading UK bike retailers gathered their wishes and sat down with our R&D team, for a German ‘Weissbier’ or two, to combine their experience and knowledge of the market with the design and development prowess of our German engineers.

The UK has been one of the driving forces in Europe if not in the world when it comes to taking hardtails on demanding trails and tracks, so combining these two groups of specialists would be the ideal team to create the new Big.Trail“.

Merida told us that you should pick your bike’s size based on how you’d like to ride, rather than your height. The bike is designed with plenty of standover so that riders can run a longer or shorter dropper and size their frame up or down to suit their style. Makes plenty of sense to us.

Our test bike is the Merida Big.Trail 600, the highest-specced of 4 bikes in the Big.Trail family. The build kit on the Big.Trail 600 is solid for the money with a 140mm Marzocchi Z2 fork (44mm offset), 1×12 Shimano Deore drivetrain, Merida’s own rims, cockpit and dropper post and Maxxis Dissector tyres.

Orbea Rise ebike

A nice added touch is the Merida Multi-tool which sits neatly under the saddle ready for action when you need it.

All in, it’s a solid build that’s far from posh but very serviceable and should see all but the most bull-in-a-china-shop riders through plenty of singletrack miles.

 

There’s a few other nice touches on the Big.Trail that will make your life easier.

The frame has room for two bottle cages, meaning you can mule plenty of refreshments on those big days. There’s also a bolt through real-axle to add stiffness to the back end with a neat, removable allen key in the axle’s lever. Last but not least, Merida have specced the big with Sram’s universal UD hanger. The UD hanger should be easy to source from any SRAM dealer and is said to be designed to save damage to your mech under impacts.

If your budget won’t stretch to the top-spec 600, there’s the Big.Trail 500 for £1250, Big.Trail 400 for £1,000 and Big.Trail 200 for £800. 

So far, we’ve had a blast with the Big.Trail 800. Despite the relatively modest price-tag the 800 proved that it was more than capable of ‘proper’ riding and held up to a decent kicking on some hard-baked, rough and natural singletrack.

True to Merida’s claim, the geometry is decently long, low and slack and our XL bike offered a big, roomy cockpit that we’ve missed on some of the previous bikes from the German giant. We’d have liked to have had the Big.Trail at the start of lockdown and could see it being a great ‘keep it local’ bike.

It feels perfect for blasting out laps of the local woods, covering plenty of distance and still having plenty of fun on the proper trails.

You can learn more about the Merida Big.Trail over on Merida’s website.