Merida’s new OneTwenty is a departure from the old suspension layout as much as the new OneForty and OneSixty was, but rather than launch a range that included everything from solid specced alloy bikes to the all-singing, all-dancing carbon fibre numbers, the emphasis on the new OneTwenty was threefold. Affordability, performance and simplicity, throw in a fourth with versatility and you have the makings of the new OneTwenty.
Essentially an upscaling of the NinetySix to offer 130mm travel (yes, we know it’s a OneTwenty), the idea was not to compete with the top end downcountry bikes, but offer the same kind of performance at a lower price point. A fast, efficient platform for trail riding or being a first full suspension mountain bike, or up tyre and up fork it before some more serious work.
So, you an alloy frame offering 130mm travel via Merida’s P-Flex system, 29″ wheels, Agilometer sizing that grows the the bike as you go up the sizes. Geometry is quite different to the outgoing OneTwenty as well. Reach grows by 30mm on all sizes, head tube angle is 1.3 degrees slacker and the seat tube is 3 degrees steeper.
A real effort has been made to keep the bike quiet, maintenance low and easy when you do need to. The frame is liberally covered in moulded sections to keep chain slap etc down, the frame has a hole to assist the prodding of dropper cables into the ride tube and the bearings are large and mostly uniform in size.
Three bikes are available, starting with the OneTwenty 300 at £1,900, rising to the bike you see here, the OneTwenty 700 at £3,100.00.
The Merida OneTwenty is available in XShort, Short, Mid, Long and XLong.
Reach on the Mid is 465mm with a seat tube of 425mm. Head angle is 66 degrees with a seat tube angle of 78.5 degrees. Chainstays on the Mid are 435mm with a wheelbase of 1199mm.
At three grand, the OneTwenty 700 is an enticing proposition for anyone after a bike to cover the ground fast yet still put in a good turn when it comes to the downs. 130mm isn’t massive but with the big wheels you get plenty more than you might expect from such a short travel application.
The alloy frame is damped by Rockshox suspension, a Pike Select out front and a Deluxe Select + out back. Drivetrain is SRAM NX Eagle with SRAM DB8 brakes on the anchors. Novatec SL-Team hubs are laced onto Merida’s own Expert TR II rims, shod with Maxxis Forekaster EXO tyres front and rear. The remainder of the kit is Merida’s own excellent Comp and Expert offerings.
As ever, things started with sag, rebound, lever throw and angle. Thankfully, the team at Merida had handled the former, so it was minor tweaks from thereon out. In fact, once I’d done my setup in the pits ahead of The Ex, I’d not feel the need to change anything from there other than tyres.
Our opening day consisted of a Michael Wilkens powerlap, taking in some of the meanest hills in Exmoor but also some of the best descents. Trails were dry and fast, so I could concentrate on riding them as fast as I dared. The P-Flex stay offering a twangy pop to the rear that needed to be matched by a suitably fast-rebounding fork, something the Pike was more than up for.
From here it was merely a case of finding the limit. The suspension tracked nicely and took the medium to bigger hits well, as well as a 130mm bike can. When line choice went wrong and I had to yank the bike over a gap or off a drop I’d not seen, the bike didn’t buck or feel nervy at all. On the long ups the tyres made easy going of things, and the XC-derived platform remains static, making the most of the power you put into the pedals.
I would opt to race day one of The Ex without making any changes. The weather and trail condition were very much the same and the bike did a sound job of my terrible line choice as I failed to look beyond my front wheel. After using stage one to wake myself up, the rest of the day was just a case of keeping moving, and in that, the OneTwenty excelled. Many alloy-framed bikes tend to come with a bit of a weight penalty but the OneTwenty is no porker.
For Saturday’s massive day out, and seeing the forecasted rain, the front Forekaster was swapped to a Continental Krypotal. I very much wanted to keep the fast rolling rear for the 42km behemoth ahead of me, and I am glad I did. I’d need to speed the forks up a touch to get them feeling the same with the much heavier tyre out front, but otherwise, the bike was up for anything.
I hadn’t used the SRAM DB8s before but they did an excellent job of keeping me in shape, with plenty of power through the weekend. The drivetrain showed no signs of complaint despite the near forty hours use in four days. Everything else just worked too.
By Sunday, the body was aching but the OneTwenty just kept making the most of whatever power I had left and on some of the techier trails, it really showed how opening up the tighter corners and choosing a slightly less chopped up line was the one to go for.
While I did gaze at the other riders and their longer travel bikes, they’d have been winching around far more weight through the three days than I was, and I don’t think that trade off would have worked for me. There was only a couple of places I felt under biked and those two were mostly due to coming in hot to large drops of G-outs in the mist and just failing to set up properly. Hardly the bike’s fault. Even here, the bike was composed and was soon back to letting me get the best from the trail.
Two enduro casing Continental tyres on the Sunday, mostly for grip in the deluge did somewhat stimy the bike’s pop and fizz, so while going up on the tyres does work, you lose some of what makes the OneTwenty such a fun bike to ride. That said, I’d have likely not stayed off my teeth had it not been for the grip offered by such tyres. Swings and roundabouts.
What do we think?
The new Merida OneTwenty is a cracking bike that offers plenty of bang for your buck and can either be an introduction to full suspension mountain biking or let you take on a three day enduro. I asked likely too much of this bike at The Ex but I stayed upright for the duration and I had fun doing it.
Covers the ground. Fast.
Major bang for your buck
Could do better:
Not an awful lot
You can check out the Merida OneTwenty over on their website here.