27.5 Plus bikes are the latest craze in this rapidly moving industry, and without wanting to get into the pros and cons, it’s probably fair to say there’s a good argument to be made for their use on a hardtail; the extra cushioning effect of the larger volume tires hopefully contributing to a smoother ride, and a ramping up of the fun factor.
We’ve seen some very progressive hardtails in recent years that mimic the long, low and slack geometry of the latest full-suspension trail and enduro bikes, and Merida has followed this blueprint; the Big Trail is equipped with a 130mm-travel Pike fork providing a 67.5-degree head angle, and it's well appointed with a short stem and wide handlebar. It sounds like a recipe for a bike designed for shredding trails and putting a massive smile on your face.
Merida Big Trail Details:
• Intended use: trail / enduro
• Wheel size: 27.5 Plus
• Frame material: aluminium
• Fork: RockShox Pike, 130mm
• Head angle: 67.5-degree
• SRAM X0/X1 11-speed drivetrain
• RockShox Reverb dropper
• Boost hub spacing
• Weight: 28lb (med, w/o pedals)
• MSRP: £2,600
• Contact: Merida Bikes @MeridaBikes
Merida hasn’t just squeezed some 2.8'' tires into an existing cross-country hardtail frame, but rather designed a completely new model from the ground up, one that is targeted at the trail rider with modern geometry taking all its cues from the latest trail full-suspension bikes. Compared to a conventional hardtail race bike, the Big Trail has a longer reach, slacker head angle, short stem and massive standover. And a dropper post. Let’s be clear, this is not a bike for racing as with most previous Merida hardtails; it’s designed for extracting as much fun out of your local trails as you can rather than trying to induce lactic acid and clinch a KOM on Strava. Fun and smiles are where the Big Trail are at.
Merida has built a smart looking frame, and the chunky tires give it a cartoonish, but purposeful presence. The massively sloping top tube is reminiscent of the DMR Trailstar I tested for Pinkbike last year and is intended to provide very generous standover clearance. The front triangle features Merida's Smart Entry internal cable routing, with the solitary gear cable, rear brake, and dropper post hose all routed inside the frame. The gear cable and brake hose then pop out at the bottom of the down tube where a small plastic bracket keeps them in place. Both are then externally routed to their final destination. This approach does open up the potential for mud contamination, but I’ve had no problems.
A compact rear triangle is welded to the front end, and there’s a BB92 bottom bracket with optional ISCG 05 mounts and asymmetric chainstays to provide the necessary tire clearance. They've also specially shaped the drive-side chainstay where it meets the bottom bracket to provide maximum tire and mud clearance and to ensure adequate stiffness. Each of the three models in the Big Trail range is 1x-specific, so there’s no concession for a front derailleur. Out back is a Boost 148 axle that is matched up front by a Pike Boost fork.
Geometry is longer, slacker and lower than many typical hardtails. The Big Trail runs a 130mm-travel fork that produces a 67.5-degree head angle. Chainstays are short at 427.5mm (the same across all four sizes), with the wheelbase measuring 1,146mm on the medium pictured here - it's 1,194mm on the extra-large. The top tube is 616mm, the reach is 425mm, and it sports a 646mm stack. They've also spec'd a 35mm diameter handlebar that's 760mm wide and a matching stem.