As we've come to expect from Merida, you do get a lot for your money.
The thing that is becoming most difficult for us as bicycle testers and reviewers is that these days the quality of bikes produced across the board by most manufacturers is pretty awesome. Only ten years ago the differences between your boutique high end toys and your every day guys affordable bikes was a gaping chasm of research and development plus manufacturing skill. These days, those differences still exist but are getting smaller and it's possible for even the novice mountain biker to get his or her hands on a pretty rocking bike without having to remortgage the house. The 2015 Merida One Twenty7. 700 is one such bike.
From their low hype beginnings as a means to produce Raleigh Bicycles in Asia for the US market, Merida have transformed themselves into one of the biggest players in mountain biking. Having built some super fast bikes for some super fast guys and girls has earned them multiple world and European cross country and marathon championships. They also now own forty nine percent of Specialized and being able to tap into that massive pool of design and engineering knowledge has no doubt helped them get where they are today.
The One Twenty.7 range is Merida's 'do it all' 120mm travel, 27.5inch wheeled trail option, the most popular style of bike in today's full suspension market. The aim here is to offer a solid balance between efficient, all-day ride-ability and forgiving geometry with enough travel to allow you to wander off your line a bit and not end up laying on your back on the trail. The range shares a lot of design similarities with Merida's new 140 and 160 range that have been heavily praised at the recent Eurobike and Interbike trade shows, mostly for looking good and descending like bosses. The One Twenty7. 700 is a model specced solely for the Australian and New Zealand markets, and they've managed to sneak it in at a very affordable $2999.
Aesthetically the 700 is quite pleasing. The four bar linkage design and hydroformed front end is a look we've all become used to seeing from various manufacturers over the years and it has stayed around for a reason - it works well and it looks good, especially in matte black and yellow highlights.
As we've come to expect from Merida, you do get a lot for your money. The stellar 130mm Rockshox Revelation RL fork and Fox CTD rear shock take care of soaking up the bumps while the drivetrain features Shimano Deore cranks, cassette and front derailleur, SLX shifters and an XT rear derailleur all work together with a KMC chain. Wheels are some basic formula centre lock hubs laced to DT Swiss 533D rims with the new, revised Schwalbe Nobby Nic 2.25” tyres front and rear. Shimano Deore brakes with 180mm rotors make sure you can slow down.
The whole package indicates Merida's efforts to remain budget conscious without sacrificing durability and our Medium test bike came in a 13.6kg. Looking further up the One Twenty7 tree would definitely find choices that save weight and add to the already obvious durability of the 700.
On The Trail
First impressions of the trail were that the 700 felt balanced and predictable. The sixty eight degree head angle teamed up with 720mm wide Merida bar and seventy millimetre stem made adjusting to the bike very easy. Like most bikes with similar four bar linkage rear ends, the 700 is quite reliant on having a rear shock with a decent pedal platform. Thankfully the Fox CTD rear shocks are amazing, and getting on the gas hard in Trail or Climb mode was rewarded with lively acceleration. Occasionally though we forgot to switch out of Descend and the rear end did suffer from some noticeable pedal induced bob. The One Twenties further up Merida's range feature Fox's higher end shock and allow for on the fly CTD adjustment on the handlebar, which would make the required switching around a lot more user friendly and the ride more enjoyable.
One thing we noticed early on about the 700 was how quickly the bottom bracket seemed to lower. The 700 has 25mm of bottom bracket drop (below axle height) which is about 10mm lower than many other bikes in this genre. This lends the 700 a feeling of stability for sure, but we did notice we were clipping pedals on rocks and snagging chainrings on logs and edges a lot more on the 700 than on test bikes in recent memory. Also, the lower shock mount is on the swingarm forward of the main pivot, and this seemed to allow the first 15mm or so of rear wheel travel to occur with less that 3mm of rear shock stroke. This actually gives the rear end a very deep feel, as well as slackening the head angle slightly, but definitely heightened our feeling of a low bottom bracket and we became a little nervous pedalling through rock gardens. Getting our hands on detailed setup and technical information for the 700 was difficult although we were advised by Merida's Australian distributor that there is a possibility our pre-production test bike was fitted with a rear shock valved for the 2014 One Twenty and the issues we had would be remedied in production 2015 models.
There's a flip side to every coin, and this one made us smile. Point the 700 down hill, it rails. The lower bottom bracket and the slackening of the head angle make for a very stable and forgiving descender, and the quality of the fork and rear shock will allow the rider to test their limits with confidence. The machining and construction of the frame's rear end is clearly precise and tidy and we weren't able to notice a hint of flex, even when landing sideways into turns. Nice work Merida. Schwalbe have done a pretty great job with their new Nobby Nic tyre. For Sydney, and Australia's usual sandy, loose-over-hardpack conditions the previous generation of this tyre was pretty bad, but the new ones are great. Predictable, very grippy and definitely not sluggish for an aggressive trail tyre the Nics are a fantastic choice for the 700 and one of the things that impressed us most during this test. The DT Swiss rims are pretty simple to convert to tubeless, and doing so would only add to the already confidence inspiring ride.
On the whole the 700 is a solid bike, especially when you take into account the durability and functionality you get for just under three grand. Some sensible upgrading over time would pull some weight out and enable you to adapt the bike more to your personal riding style.
Maybe you've been riding hardtails and you're looking for your first full suspension bike to see what it's all about? Maybe you're curious to see if this whole 27.5inch wheel platform is for you? In the One Twenty7. 700 Merida have offered up a good looking, no-frills, durable and functional all-round trail bike that won't get you in massive trouble with your significant other.
“Point the 700 down hill, it rails. The lower bottom bracket and the slackening of the head angle make for a very stable and forgiving descender”
Three things you liked about the bike:
1. Well specced for the price
2. Asthetically pleasing
3. Confident descender
Three things you would change about the bike:
1. Low bottom bracket
2. Go Tubeless
MODEL : OneTwenty.7 700
WEIGHT: 13.6kg (as tested)
DISTRIBUTOR: Advance Traders
AVAILABLE SIZES: S,M,L,XL”
FRAME MATERIAL: Aluminium
FORK: RockShox Revelation RL 130mm 27.5
SHOCK: Fox CTD SV
SHIFTERS: Shimano SLX I-Spec
DERAILLEUR: Shimano Deore Front, Deore XT Rear
CRANK: Shimano Deore 38/24
BOTTOM BRACKET: Shimano
CHAIN KMC CASSETTE: Shimano HG-50 11-36 (10sp)
HUBS: Formula Centrelock
SPOKES: Black Stainless
RIMS DT: Swiss 533D 27.5
TYRES: Schwalbe 2015 Nobby Nic 27.5x2.25
BRAKES: Shimano Deore
STEM: Merida 70mm
HANDLEBARS: Merida 720mm
SADDLE: Prologo Kappa 2
A> BB HEIGHT 25mm drop
B> TT LENGTH 595mm
C> HEAD TUBE ANGLE 68deg
D> SEAT TUBE ANGLE 74deg
E> CHAINSTAY 440mm
F> WHEELBASE 1142mm
Photos: Mike Blewitt