Merida Bikes is clearly focused on its eMTB offerings with the launch of two new bikes for 2020, the eOne-Sixty, and bike we’re looking at today, the eOne-Forty. Each is based on their respective non-motorized cousins, but from there things get very different.
The eOne-Forty uses a carbon main frame with unique cooling fins to ventilate the removable integrated battery powering Shimano’s Steps E8000 motor, making space for a full-size water bottle, and rolls on mixed wheel sizes, 29” front and 27.5” rear. Travel is 133mm at the rear combined with a 140mm fork.
Merida eOne-Forty Details
• Intended use: trail / all-mountain
• Frame: Carbon fiber with aluminium swingarm
• Wheel size: 29/27.5"
• Motor: Shimano STEPS E8000
• Travel: 133mm R; 140mm F
• Head angle: 66.4º
• Size: S, M, L, XL
• Price: £4,350 - £7,000
• Weight: 22.3kg (49.2lb) size large w/o pedals
The new e-One-Forty is built around a carbon fiber main frame, aluminum swingarm and rocker linkage. The head tube area is massively oversized and hides an integrated steering limit to stop the fork from slamming into the down tube at full steering lock. The distinctive cooling fins may look like their meant to suck cooling air into the battery, but they're actually designed to allow heat to escape. Merida calls this "Thermal Gate" and it's intended to help the internal battery dissipate heat, especially on a hot day. The fins also provide ports for the internally routed rear brake, derailleur and dropper post.
Merida has opted for a Shimano Steps E8000 motor with the new Shimano E8035 504 Wh battery integrated into the down tube. It can be removed easily so you can swap it out for a spare - the top-specced bike here is sold with a second battery, opening up the range considerably for more playtime. The battery cover is sealed to keep out the elements and made from two polymer materials for sound damping.
The battery charging port is located at the bottom of the downtube, the on/off button is positioned on the top tube for easy access, and Shimano’s E7000 remote sits neatly next to the grip for easy access to the three assist modes, with a dropper post control below it. Tucked next to the stem is a small screen giving you vital stats from range to speed, distance, cadence and more.
Mis-matched wheels aren’t a new idea, a few other brands have been similarly experimenting. The idea is that the bigger front wheel improves rollover and the smaller and wider rear tire increases traction. Merida has combined a 29x2.5” front with a 27.5x2.6” rear tire, stopping short of going down the full plus-size route. Suspension on the eOne-Forty is a single pivot layout with a rocker linkage driving the shock anchored to the frame.Frame Options / Build Kits
There are five models to pick from, with prices starting at £4,350 and topping out at £7,000 for the range-topping eOne-Forty 9000 I rode. The bike I tested is equipped with a DT Swiss F535 One fork and Fox Performance Elite shock, a Shimano XT drivetrain with a 10-51t cassette and 34t chainset, and XT four-pot brakes with 203mm rotors at both ends. Maxxis DHF 29x2.5” and DHR II 27.5x2.6” 3C EXO TR tires are mounted to DT Swiss Spline HX1501 wheels with a 30mm internal width. The rest of the kit comes stamped with a Merida logo including the 780mm handlebar and 50mm stem.
All bikes get in the range get the same carbon frame and E8000 motor, so buying one of the cheaper models and upgrading key components over time wouldn't be a bad way to go. Geometry
The eOne-Forty frame is identical to the longer travel eOne-Sixty, the difference is in the shock stroke length and fork travel to provide the extra travel and slacker geometry of the bigger bike. The eOne-Forty uses a shorter stroke shock to produce 133mm travel combined with a 140mm fork.
Merida also differentiates the bikes when it comes to sizing. The eOne-Forty is essentially a size smaller than a comparative eOne-Sixty because they wanted the shorter travel bike to be more agile and playful with better climbing performance, and because the shorter travel fork increases the reach.
But because a medium eOne-Sixty has the same length seat tube as a large eOne-Sixty, it means you can at least size up if you prefer a longer reach. For that reason, I rode an XL with a 470mm reach, 1,231mm wheelbase, 66.4° head angle and 76.4° seat tube. The eOne-Forty is also a bit lighter as well to extract more climbing performance, but we’re talking shades of difference.15 Minutes with Reynaldo Ilagan, Head of Product Management How do you differentiate between the eOne-Forty and eOne-Sixty?
Compared to the eOne-Sixty, the eOne-Forty's seat angle is almost one degree steeper and the front is lower because of the shorter travel and head tube. This puts more weight on the front of the bike and gives the eOne-Forty better climbing performance as the front wheel rises later than at the eOne-Sixty. At lower speeds, a steeper head angle makes the bike feel less wobbly. Again a positive attitude for uphills.
Another big difference compared to the eOne-Sixty is that the standover height is lower. The reason for that is the lesser travel, shorter head tube and lower bottom bracket height. Especially for beginners, the lower standover height gives a lot of confidence. In particular, for shorter riders, the eOne-Forty is a perfect match because there are not many brands that can offer such low clearance. The eOne-Forty is also slightly lighter than the eOne-Sixty. The reason is that the components are less downhill oriented. So for example fork, shocks and tires are lighter. That has again a positive effect on the climbing performance.Have you adjusted the suspension from the regular One-Forty?
Yes, that’s needed because the leverage ratio is not the same. But not because of the weight from the ebike. To do the setup it is the same as it is for a normal MTB.How have you adapted the progression and anti-squat values on this bike?
Progression is 8,1% (from the Sag => 2,4025 – 2,207). That’s not very progressive. But for us it’s important that also beginners can use travel and have a comfortable ride. With the standard shock spec, average riders can use the travel. And advanced riders can add tokens into the shock. Anti-squat is around 100% at 30% sag (over the travel the anti-squat is falling to 67.5%). For us the seat position is important when you climb. If there is to little anti-squat the seat angle gets quite low and you lose pressure on the front. How important was integrating the battery into the down tube?
Very important. But not that important that we said that it is worth to losing riding performance. The simulation showed us that the frame loses up to 70% of stiffness. Furthermore, we tested some competitors' and here the riding experience was not good. The frame was so soft that the steering of the bike was not precise. That is the reason why we started first with carbon. Because of the material, it is easier to make a stiff frame although there is a big hole in the down tube. Do the cooling fins actually help cool the battery?
The fins itself do not. They were made to have a nice design and that we can use them as cable entry. But the holes make sense. Especially when the bike is lying in the sun it could get pretty hot inside the downtube (like a car in the sun). Furthermore, carbon is a bad heat conductor. So at the holes, warm air can disappear. What is the reason for the mismatched wheels?
For us, it is very important that the handling of the bike is similar to a normal bike. And with the smaller rear wheel, we can realize short chainstays and the smaller tire is also more agile. I think when you tested the bike you can agree it’s pretty agile. Furthermore, the rear wheel is a little bit wider (2.6”) for more traction. The 29” front wheel has better over rolling behavior. Here we choose 2.5” to make the handling more precise.
Merida held an informal UK launch for the new bike at the EX Enduro, a three-day enduro on Exmoor in the South West of which it’s a title sponsor. I’ve ridden the event numerous times and knew the hard climbing transition stages and mix of flowing, rocky and super steep tracks would be an ideal place to get to grips with the new eOne-Forty. It was also my first experience riding an e-bike in a race scenario.
Getting the eOne-Forty set up took some time. I fettled with the suspension during the first day of riding to find the right balance, eventually running the pressures lower and the rebound faster to get the best out of the bike. I ran about 28% sag rear and 25% front. The fit on the XL felt good with a reach figure I’m comfortable with, and the short stem and wide bar putting my hands in a good position for leveraging the extra weight of the bike around the trail.
The climbing ability is very impressive, as you might imagine with all that extra power between your legs. The Shimano motor provides smooth power delivery, and the steep seat angle helps when it gets steep to keep your weight nicely balanced between the axles. Long fire road climbs pass by quickly and more technical climbs are a challenge to be relished, not endured.
It’s tempting to hit the Boost mode, but on very steep or loose pitches maintaining traction and keeping the front wheel on the ground can be a challenge; trail mode provides more than enough oomph to get up most ascents. On a regular bike I might flick the shock compression lever for the climbs, but here I found leaving it in full open mode all the time worked just fine since pedalling efficiency is less critical when you’ve got pedal assist. Climbing out of the saddle is largely an unrewarding experience; instead, sitting down and spinning up climbs proved the best way to tackle them.
Range anxiety is a key talking point with an electronically assisted vehicle and the range will depend hugely on the terrain, altitude, rider weight and the mode you use. On the first day, we clocked up 35km and 1,300m of climbing over very technical terrain, with lots of steep climbs and fast descents. I was being economical with modes, largely flicking between Eco and Trail modes. There was still juice in the battery when I finished. The second day of racing was a longer route with more climbing, but keen to demonstrate the ease of battery swapping, we had fresh batteries waiting for us as the lunchtime feed stop so we could be less frugal with the deployment of the assist mode.
Both rides are fairly typical examples of how you might use the e-bike. Either eking out the battery for a full day of riding or swinging back to your car/house to pick up a fresh battery for the second half of the ride.
On the descents, the eOne-Forty is more capable than its travel suggests. The high weight is a benefit when railing high-speed turns, pushing the tires into the ground for better traction and preventing the bike from skittering around on loose surfaces. I was hard pushed to say if the mixed wheel concept was a big benefit, but the smaller rear wheel combined with short chainstays do seem to help in the corners, both on entry and exit, letting you get out of corners quickly so you can then get back on the power.
Despite its weight, the eOne-Forty is reasonably nimble when you get onto a trail with lots of tight turns and awkwardly placed trees. It’s no ballerina like a regular trail bike, and it does take more body language to kick it around the trail, but once you have adapted to this slight change in riding style it’s an involving ride.
The fun doesn’t stop as soon as you hit the 15.5mph (25km/h) speed limit either. On steeper trails, the speed limit is largely undetectable. You can carry a lot of speed through technical sections and the motor also helps you get up to speed quickly if you stall on a tricky corner or get hung up on some messy roots. It’s only on flatter high-speed trails where you face the decision to try and pedal beyond this speed limit, or tuck and go aero. I regularly found myself getting to the mid-30s but the effort-to-reward ratio seemed to swing in favor of tucking. This was while trying to race against the clock I should add; on regular rides the speed limit was less intrusive.
Merida has beefed up the components with the bigger disc brake rotors appreciated on the longer runs for slowing the extra mass down into the corners. The Maxxis tires providing reassuring grip, but the weight and speed the bike is capable of pushing the integrity of the tires to the limit. I punctured on the very last stage of the day, tearing the sidewall and punching a hole into the bead area rendering it a write-off for tubeless. The extra weight of chunkier tires would be advantageous.
The Merida eOne-Forty is a well-rounded package with smart looks, neat integration and good geometry numbers, and only really needs some meatier tires if you’re going to ride it anywhere near its full capability. It’s a fun and fast bike that is impressively nimble despite the high weight, and will suit someone seeking to further their riding horizons and distances and want to enjoy the climbs as much as the descents.