Merida pitch their latest offering as a "jack of all trades". They call it a short travel trail bike, making a point of not using "the D world" (Downcountry). They wanted it to be affordable, reliable and simple to look after, and that ruled out super-light frame materials and components, so they can't compete with the likes of the Transition Spur or Scott Spark on the scales. They want the new One-Twenty to be a mountain bike for typical mountain bikers, who aren't interested in racing XC or enduro, can only afford one bike, and maybe need to ride to the trailhead from time to time. For many customers, it could be their first full-suspension bike.
• 130 mm travel front & rear
• Aluminum frame
• 29" wheels
• Sizes: XS-XL
• 66° head angle, 78.5° seat angle
• Claimed weight: 15.1 Kg / 33.3 lb
• Price: £1,900/€2,280 - £3,100/€3,700
• Two water bottles
• Lifetime frame warranty
The outgoing One-Twenty
was released in 2019 and was starting to look dated, so Merida wanted to replace it. But this isn't a cosmetic touch-up. The new bike is more gravity-focussed, with a slacker head angle, longer reach, steeper seat tube and an aluminium-only frame that's officially rated for enduro use and carries a lifetime warranty. Oh, and the One-Twenty now sports 130 mm of suspension travel at each end. Seriously.
Merida use short seat tubes to make it easy for most riders to size up or down depending on how much stability they're after. They say they wanted to keep the chainstays short and the head angle not too slack to emphasise agility and playfulness for what Germans refer to as "home trails" (which I think means mellow singletrack). One number that stands out is the seat tube angle: at 78.5 degrees it's about as upright as any you'll see on a bike with this little travel, meaning the rider is placed further forwards on the bike for climbing steep slopes.
Merida have once again chosen to route the cables through the headset instead of through holes in the side of the frame. You can read Merida's reasoning behind this here
, but to summarise, they say it actually makes installing new cables easier as the headset bearing (once the fork is removed) is a much bigger hole to aim for than the small ports found on most frames. It also allows for shorter cables and (they say) a cleaner look. The cables are housed in foam tubes, keeping them quiet and making them easier to replace.
There are bottle bosses on the seat tube and down tube, with room for a 500 ml bottle on the seat tube in all sizes. On the downtube, a 500 ml bottle can be mounted in XShort, a 680 ml bottle in Short, and a 760 ml bottle fits in the Mid size and up. Plus, there's a tool mount under the top tube.
There's extensive frame protection on the chainstay and under the downtube. Merida offers a lifetime warranty to the original owner and has tested it at the Zeddler Institute
to category 4 standard (which means it's approved for enduro racing).
By getting rid of the pivot point usually found near the rear axle of most designs, Merida say they can save some weight, eliminate parts and reduce the need for fiddly bearing swaps and maintenance for the owner. Unlike their longer travel frames (the One-Forty and One-Sixty), the aluminum seatstay does flex by a significant amount as the One-Twenty's suspension compresses, and this contributes noticeably to the suspension forces as you get deeper into the travel. As a result, Merida say they adjusted the shock tune to compensate, going for a progressive rebound tune, which means there's relatively more rebound damping when the shock is returning from deep in the stroke, helping to control the extra energy stored in the system. But at the same time, the rebound can be run faster when dealing with small hits, helping to maintain sensitivity.
The linkage is on the progressive side. This means the leverage ratio between the wheel and the shock drops off steeply towards the end of the travel, making it progressively harder to compress the shock as you approach full travel. Combined with the extra force from the frame flex, this makes the frame quite resistant to bottoming out.
Merida aimed to keep anti-squat and anti-rise at around 100% for the typical rider. That means that stamping on the pedals or pulling the back brake won't cause the suspension to compress or extend dramatically, which should make for a stable and supportive ride feel.
Merida are pitching the One Twenty at average riders so all three build kits are made to fit a tight budget. Meridas are available in brick-and-mortar bike shops (not direct sales), making the pricing more impressive.
The top-spec 700 model, which I tested, uses SRAM's NX drivetrain, DB8 brakes and RockShox Pike Select+ fork. The mid-price 600 model might be the smart money choice, with a Marzocchi Z2 fork, Shimano Deore 12-speed drivetrain and brakes, and the same RockShox Select+ RL shock found on the 700 model. At the entry-level 300 build, you're getting Suntour's XCR34 fork and Edge Plus 2CR shock, paired with non-series Shimano brakes and Shimano Cues 10-speed drivetrain.
For full specs, click here
I did a lot of riding on the One-Twenty over four days, including racing The EX enduro
, which involved a lot
of climbing and descending. The climbing performance is very impressive. This certainly isn't the lightest bike in its category but the suspension is very stable and efficient under power, with almost no bob or slouching.
While this is easier to achieve with less travel, it definitely can't be said of every short-travel bike. Add to this the steep seat angle (I never found it too steep) and the One-Twenty is extremely capable and comfortable when tackling punchy climbs. Pricier short-travel bikes like the YT Izzo and Nukeproof Reactor may be lighter, but they have more pedal bob and a slacker seat tube, making them feel lazier when climbing in my view. My only gripe is that I'd prefer a 30-tooth chainring.
On the descents, the stock Forecaster tires roll fast but made for some heart-stopping moments in loose corners, so I switched to a familiar Maxxis Assegai/ DHR2 combo. I also added a volume spacer to the fork to match the progression of the rear. Merida say they'll spec the smaller negative-volume shock air can on production bikes to make it less progressive, but with 30% sag and no volume spacers fitted, I liked the progressive rear end. I used all the travel where appropriate, but always had good support and never bottomed out harshly. The RockShox Pike fork isn't the most sensitive at the start of the stoke, but the suspension felt balanced front-to-rear and comfortable for the travel. I was also impressed by the SRAM DB8 brakes and the 200 mm travel dropper post.
At 1,250 mm in Xlong, the wheelbase is shorter than many bikes I'm used to, which has its perks when negotiating tight, flat corners (especially when tired), but there were moments when the bike felt a little out of its depth. The 66-degree head angle occasionally feels nervous when riding complicated corners with bumps and holes, or when things get loose. To be fair, I was mostly riding it at an enduro race (Merida's idea, not mine), and Merida has the One-Forty and One-Sixty for that, but I don't think the One-Twenty would be any worse if it was a degree or two slacker. But realistically, I went beyond what the One-Twenty was designed to do and it handled it all admirably.