Merida's latest iteration enduro bike, the One-Sixty, received a humongous refresh last year and it was met with high acclaim. It brought on fresh concepts such as Agilometer sizing and a more than rad geometry. Today, the German brand has taken its long travel rig and has sprinkled it with a bike park flavour, gracing it with more travel and a super burly build kit. Ahead of the Merida EX Enduro, we got hands-on with the new bike and took it for a test ride.
Merida One-Sixty FR First ride review, by off-road.cc
Over the past few years, bike parks have been popping up throughout the UK and Europe, and even though many bikes are more than happy to put in a few runs, Merida has introduced the One-Sixty FR to offer a bike that can cope with the increased rigors of bike park riding, run after run.
With the new bike, the brand has focussed on durability, throwing weight savings right out of the window, awarding the bike with the tried and tested alloy frame - the same one that's found on the more budget-friendly One-Sixty models. That means that the One-Sixty FR gets all of the features found on the standard alloy models, including headset-integrated internal cable routing and Merida's FAST suspension kinematic the relies on a flex stay, rather than a Horst link.
Also found on the FR is Merida's Agilometer sizing concept that does away with height-specific sizes. Instead, each size bike gets a low stack and seat tube height, aiming to offer sizes that cater better to the handling a rider wants through the bike's overall length, whether that's short and mega agile, or long and super stable.
This concept is combined with Merida's second generation of TR dropper post that offers 230mm of height adjustable travel, which allows all riders the best seat post height on almost any frame size. It's also worth nothing that this dropper has been redesigned, so gone is the little box that was found on the collar of the old dropper, in favour of a simpler design.
Going back to the subject of geometry, and this is where the bike starts to change when compared to the standard setups. The FR has a new 180mm fork affects things, so the One-Sixty FR gets a slacker head and seat tube, measuring in at 63.5 and 78-degrees respectively. The reach also shortens a little, with a Long frame getting a 492mm measurement.
2023 Merida One sixty fr front tyre.jpg, by Liam Mercer
This bike rolls on a mullet wheel setup as standard, so that’s a 29in front and a 27.5 rear wheel and that’s been chosen not only for its more playful character, but as it also opens up plenty of space over the rear of the bike. That extra space comes in handy especially when navigating steep terrain but it’ll be appreciated while throwing shapes mid-air.
Perhaps the most noticeable difference is that this bike runs a coil shock, and when considering its intentions, the choice makes sense. Merida has gone for the coil shock to eke out improved small bump sensitivity as well as take advantage of a coil’s ability to remain unaffected by heat build up.
However, the bike still rocks the FAST suspension kinematic with 171mm of suspension at the rear wheel and a progressive curve that’s said to result in a supportive mid-stroke and with even more progression towards the end stroke to fend off harsh bottom outs. This kinematic is size specific too, in a bid to ensure consistent performance across the range of bikes and offer the best progression for each rider’s weight.
Moving onto the spec, and Merida wanted to offer a bike that balances a low price with high performance. To do that, the brand invested more into the components that matter the most; the suspension and brakes. Drivetrains wear out, whereas the aforementioned parts can live as long as the bike if they’re looked after properly. The brand has also bunged a seriously good set of rubber on the bike, featuring dual casing and downhill level protection combined with soft compounds, so the bike should be ready to his the park straight out of the box.
For a closer look at the One-Sixty FR's details, head over to our news story.
Merida One-Sixty FR - Componentry
Merida offers two builds of the One-Sixty FR, the 600 which I sampled, and the lower priced 400. The former comes with a DVO Jade X D2 coil shock providing the 171mm of rear travel while the front gets DVO’s very latest Onyx 38 D2 fork.
The brakes are supplied by TRP with the Trail Evos with big ol’ 220mm rotors. They’re slowing down a pair of Merida own wheels that are wrapped with Continental Kryptotal FR and RE tyres. The drivetrain comes from Shimano and the 12-speed Deore setup is certainly nothing to be sniffed at despite being budget-friendly.
This bike will set you back £3,500.
The One-Sixty FR 400 gets a similar build philosophy but brings the price down further through the use of an SR Suntour Durolux 38 fork and a DVO Jade X D3 shock. It gets Tektro Gemini brakes and a Shimano Cues 1x10 drivetrain. The rest of the build follows suit with the 600.
Merida One-Sixty FR - First ride impressions
We’ve had the Merida One-Sixty 600 on test for a little while now and as it boasts the very same frame as found on the FR build, I approached the bike rather confidently knowing what to expect. While sampling the One-Sixty FR 600 through some of the steepest terrain that Porlock and the Western areas of Minehead have to offer it became clear that although my initial thoughts were corrent, this bike offers an awful lot more than I thought it could.
Putting a first handful of pedal strokes into the bike and it feels like a regular old One-Sixty, and in fact, throughout most of my time with the bike that’s exactly how it was. But what Merida has done is take that incredibly solid groundwork that was laid when designing the One-Sixty and very literally built upon it.
When listening to Merida’s presentation introducing the bike, the guys with the knowledge were very open to admit that this bike wasn’t built to pedal particularly well on account of the extra weight of its more durable componentry and its coil shock. However, because the One-Sixty is one hell of a pedaller anyway the One-Sixty FR wasn’t exactly a slouch when pointed up a hill. Granted, it does carry 17-odd kilos and it does waste some of its suspension travel to pedal bob but I was more than surprised with how keen it was to react under pedalling load, and crank up a hill.
Chucking a coil shock and more fork travel onto the bike does incredibly little to upset the balance of the One-Sixty, apart from the fact that it elevates the bike’s ability to descend, and it descends pretty damn quickly at that. The new found level of small bump sensitivity at the rear does dull the ride down a touch, but that results in a calmer ride that’s easier to push harder, as it allows the rider to concentrate more on the lumpy stuff ahead, without having to worry so much about where exactly they’re putting the bike.
It continues the theme of all out stability that was present in the regular models and infact, increases it through the less lively rear end but pulls back some agility through the addition of its mullet-only wheel size. Not only does this up the pop and fun factor of the One-Sixty FR but it opens up a tonne of space around the rear of the bike which is more than handy when getting proper rowdy.
There’s a clear increase in grip at both ends of the bike too because of the increased small bump sensitivity and more fork travel. The slacker head angle also helps the bike slink into a lean, where it holds its cornering line with more tenacity than before. The grip that the bike provided was actually rather impressive, and the braking traction of the Kryptotal RE at the rear of the bike boosted confidence whilst doing everything in my power not to slide down the loamy steepness of the trails we were shown.
And to touch back on that head angle, it solves something of a problem that was found on the standard One-Sixty. The 64-degree head angle of the standard models left some feeling a little short-changed. While definitely still pretty slack by today’s standards, the 63.5, albeit very slight, rustles up a little bit more support as the front wheel is placed even further in front of the rider. When committing through steep terrain, this is super useful, as it helps the rider feel more balanced, with a more rearward bias but again, there’s more support.
The move to DVO for suspension is an interesting one but it’s actually quite appealing. The Jade X shock works well but comes stacked with features that are useful to any bike. Those being an actual, full lock out which makes up for the not-as-excellent pedalling and a proper fat stanchion that ups its strength when used in bikes with longer yokes. In practice, it doesn’t make much of a difference but it adds a level of comfort for the durability-conscious.
In fact, the spec is pretty faultless. Merida’s aims to deliver a bombproof build at an accessible price have more than been met, partially thanks to capable bouncy bits but also because well… Deore 12-speed is a banging drivetrain. It did have me missing the Rapid Fire of an XT shifter but I’ve absolutely been spoiled.
2023 Merida One sixty fr brake leve.jpg, by Liam Mercer
At first, I had my apprehensions over the DVO Onyx 38 fork. It’s rare that DVO kit is found on a stock bike and my experience with it is pretty slim, especially as the Onyx 38 is so fresh to the market. During my first few runs, it refused to move past the initial 30 percent of its travel as heaps of air was stuck in the stanchions and negative air chamber. Once released, the fork’s performance noticeably improved and it continued to do so the more it bedded in.
I’m pleased to see Conti tyres too, and the Kryptotal pair match this bike rather well. Grip was plentiful but I was mostly impressed by the traction they laid under breaking. When tired, after several runs of steep and natural goodness, it was more than handy to slow things down a bit, and the fact that there was grip on tap came as a very welcome comfort blanket. The bike’s pedalling efficiency does take a bit of a knock due to the increase small bump sensitivity that comes as a result of the coil shock, but it goes to show how well-designed that rear end is because the bike Is still a pretty capable climber.
Even though the One-Sixty was a pretty darn good bike to start with, Merida’s addition of more suspension travel and a burlier build kit looks to elevate the bike further. The One-Sixty FR is even more of a fiend when pointed downhill thanks to a planted, calm and fast character but because the standard bike is already so solid, the One-Sixty FR poses only a mere compromise when pedalling uphill. Merida’s philosophy towards speccing the bike is one that’s only to be admired, as it’s resulted in a bike that simply doesn’t hold back on performance due to budget constraints, and it can be rare to find on a bike of this price.
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