30 years ago Tom Ritchey brought to life the first 27.5 inch wheel bike but only now the big brands focus on it, bringing something new to the off-road scene. The ongoing war of wheelsizes is at its peak, the 27.5 being a resourceful competitor for the 29 inch one, and all this much to the disservice of the classic 26 inch wheel. The final outcome is yet to be known, but Merida stated very clearly that they will bet on the two larger formats.
This week, at the Merida Press Camp held in the exotic island of Mallorca, Merida unveiled for the first time its 27.5 model, named the Big.Seven. Juergen Falken, chief of the brand’s R&D, revealed that the wheelsize will be called 27.5 with an alternative of 650B, thus becoming a standard in the industry.
Besides the Big.Seven, the new Big.99 Carbon was presented, being the spearhead of Merida for cross-country. The full-suspension bike has 100mm travel shocks (fork and rear) and a carbon frame weighing 1.8 kilograms, marking a step forward from last year’s aluminum frame Big.99. We mustn’t forget about the magic that Merida did with the bottom bracket, which has greater stiffness than in the case of the old Big.99 and of the Big.Seven, given that the latter two are hardtails. And, if you are not content with the 100mm travel, you can always mount a fork an 120mm fork without diminishing the frame’s features.
Last but not least, we have to mention the all-new One-Forty-B that is currently in the prototype phase. It will be a serious All-Mountain bike, with 140mm travel shocks and, not surprisingly, 27.5 inch wheels. Yes, that magic number is making its way to the top… The One-Forty-B borrowed the rear shock from the One.Sixty, using the Virtual Pivot Kinematics (VPK), but this is just the tip of the iceberg. Optimum controll is ensured by the short 60mm stem and the lowered bottom bracket for a more suited centre of gravity. Also Merida went for a longer top tube and a 67 degrees head tube angle. Stability was also increased thanks to the longer chainstay which measures now 445mm compared to the previous 435mm. But theory is nothing without practice, so we took the bikes for a ride to see for ourselves what they’re made of.
Merida Big.99 Carbon 2013
The flagship of Merida has a shock travel of 100mm but the real breakthrough are the characteristics similar to those of a hardtail, but with better confort and control included. The bike ran smoothly, wether we took it over rocky roads or spectular singletrails, so the Big.99 delivers what it promises. Although this is nothing special coming from a top end bike…
Merida Big.Seven 2014
All the anticipation around the 27.5 inch Merida was too much for us, so we had to ride it as soon as possible. Even if we have to wait for another year before it is up for purchase, you should know from now that agility is the key word that defines the Big.Seven. And if you are looking for an almost ideal compromise between 26 and 29, this bike may be the answer you seek.
Briefly, the Big.Seven has a carbon frame weighing a total of 9.5 kilograms fully equiped with Sram XO. But that’s not the point. The bike handles very well on bumpy climbs, the front wheel sticking to the ground, and all this thanks to the right angles of the frame and the decent weight. Also, if you are a more aggressive rider, you will love the negative rise of the stem.
After testing the Big.Seven, we concluded, as the others did, that versatility is at home on this bike and the new format has a good chance of taking a strong foothold in the industry.
Merida One-Forty-B 2014
As stated earlier, the One-Forty-B is, at least for now, a prototype. Expectations are high regarding it but we have to wait and see what will the final outcome look like.
Merida One-Sixty 2013
After a hard day’s work, what can be more rewarding than riding a special-purpose enduro bike? So, we flew down the trails of the Spanish testgrounds on the One-Sixty , an 160mm full-suspension machinery. The VPK system works wonders especially in tight corners and it saved me from some complicated situations. The bike has all it needs to impress, turning rough trails into a piece of cake. Matter of fact, into a very fun, adrenalin-rising piece of cake!
All in all, Merida proved that keeping up with the latest technologies and trends holds no secrets to them. Even if they still have some way to go secure their sport amongst the very best brands, progress is visible and we can say without any doubts that they mean bussiness.