With short travel bike reviews, this is usually the point where the line ‘great going up, compromised coming down’ gets trotted out. But the Merida bucks the trend, as other short travel bikes like the Intense Sniper are also doing, proving that short travel bikes, when equipped with decent geometry, and in the Merida’s case, solid equipment, aren’t fazed when the trail points down or it gets overly rough and technical.
The One-Twenty was an absolute blast on the descents, allowing you to keep whatever gap you’d opened up on the climb into the following downhill. The geometry and suspension together with the Pike fork and beefy (for a short travel rig) Maxxis tires give the Merida the sort of control, stability and pace not normally seen in short travel bikes. When I received the Merida I wondered whether such equipment would be lost on a short travel bike. Sort of like those Audi Allroads with jacked up suspension and big plastic scuff panels. Well, I was wrong. The Merida managed to maintain that essence of a cross-country bike in its delivery of speed, but was as capable on the descents as some longer travel bikes I’ve ridden. The equipment choices removed some of the normal compromises you get on such short travel setups.
The One-Twenty has genuinely eye-opening capability. It's t’s also ruddy good fun because you can push it and it doesn’t push back, but just asks for more speed and more engagement. I know, that sounds a bit cheesy, but the One-Twenty felt really robust and solid when pummelling through and down rocky chutes and smashing into berms and skimming across roots. The Pike fork is a highlight, giving a stout front-end you can really push into corners.
Only occasionally when deep into a technical trail does it feel short on travel. The Merida won’t soak up the full impact of every root and rock you barrel into, so you have to really ride it, pick your lines, use its low weight to float over bigger impacts to make up for its lack of travel. And you will find yourself getting into situations because the tires and fork allow you to take bolder choices and more speed risk than you might on a conventionally specced short travel bike.
Merida’s designers probably didn’t have enduro down on the list of requirements when designing the One-Twenty, but it proved its worth and capability at a local enduro event, the excellent Ex Enduro three day rampage around Exmoor. Granted, a longer travel bike might have been better suited if you were aiming for the top step, but the trails are nothing out of the ordinary here in the UK, and the Merida showed great mettle in meeting the demands of racing technical trails blind.
I’d have no problem using the One-Twenty for XC and marathon races, but for general trail riding, I appreciated the fork and tires more commonly found on a trail bike with increased confidence in those situations that traditional short travel bikes might have you reaching for a white flag.
How Does it Compare?