It's been four years since Merida last updated its do-it-all trail ripper. In that time a lot has changed with Merida releasing the latest One-Forty and One-Sixty platforms, bringing with them a host of new concepts and technologies. Now, the One-Twenty has been given a similar treatment. Like the One-Sixty FR launched last week, we got our hands on the latest One-Twenty 700 to test before and during the Merida EX Enduro. Scroll down for our initial thoughts.
Merida One -Twenty 700 - Technical details
Merida has been on the update path recently with a large chunk of its bikes seeing sizeable updates, including the aforementioned trail and enduro platforms, but also the Big.Nine cross-country bike and, not to be left out, their jack-of-all-trades bike, the One-Twenty.
The One-Twenty was created to fill the gap between the Ninety-Six XC full susser, and the One-Forty but this time around, the brand has taken full notice of the rise of downcountry and the interest in short travel trail bikes with progressive geometries, and attepmted to blend them with this model
To do so, Merida has taken cues from both its XC bike and its larger travelled all-mountain and enduro platforms in a bid to create a bike that can tear uphill, whilst remaining confident when the trail points down. The brand also sees the bike as one that can be taken on big days out, as well as more demanding trail sessions that'll appeal to those who relish in the challenge of being underbiked.
Simplicity is the name of the game with the new One-Twenty, as well as affordability and capability. To match those needs, this bike is built around an alloy frame on each model which has allowed Merida to pack in the performance, whilst keeping price tags low.
In what is perhaps the biggest change from the old design, the new bike benefits from the P-Flex suspension system as we have seen on Merida's other modern mountain bikes and is their new cutting-edge suspension layout that revolves around a flexible seat stay, rather than a Horst link or similar
Not only does this achieve the desired suspension behavior but it doesn't need the maintenance of a linkage-equipped stay, nor is it quite as weighty. Speaking of suspension, and to perhaps confuse things a little, this bike gets 130mm of squish at both ends of the bike. The rear benefits from a super progressive leverage curve to up the bike's capabilities, and there's also a 100% anti-squat figure at sag that rapidly decreases as the suspension moves through its travel. This should keep the chain from influencing the suspension's performance.
With a brief of creating the perfect all-rounder Merida has remained respectably reserved with the One-Twenty's all-new geometry, whilst offering a tangible step up and departure from the 2019 One-Twenty. The designers wanted to offer the climbing ability and balanced manners of the Ninety-Six, as well as the descending prowess of the One-Sixty and One-Forty..
A mid-sized One-Twenty rocks a 465mm reach, which is 30mm longer than before. Its seat tube angle is three degrees steeper at 78.5 degrees and its head angle is a full 1.3 degrees slacker at 66 degrees. Although, the chainstay length hasn't changed to keep the bike playful. That stays at 435mm.
And that geometry comes as part of Merida's staple Agilometer sizing concept. It's similar to Specialized's and Privateer's method of frame sizing which focuses on bike characteristics, rather than the length of a person's legs. This means that each frame gets a shorter seat tube and stack height which means that shorter riders can choose longer frame sizes and still fit on the bike if they're after stability, while long dropper posts allow taller riders to take advantage of the agility that comes from a shorter frame size.
To round off the frame features, and in a lean towards its downcountry and mile-munching intentions, there's now space for two full-size water bottles in the front triangle.
The One-Twenty isn't all about trail goodness however, as the brand has done exactly the same as it did with the One-Sixty and One-Forty, and has offered the One-Twenty's frame with a cross-country focussed build. Dubbed the Ninety-Six Lite, it gets 110mm of suspension travel at both ends to offer a very budget-friendly step into XC performance.
For more details on Merida's latest mountain bike, head over to our news story.
Merida One-Twenty 700 - Componentry
For my time with the One-Twenty, Merida outfitted me with the top-of-the-range 700 model which appears more budget-friendly than you'd expect. It gets a RockShox Pike Select fork paired with a RockShox Deluxe Select+ shock and a SRAM NX Eagle 12-speed drivetrain.
SRAM DB8 brakes with four-piston calipers at both ends deliver the braking duties and it rolls on a set of Merida's own rims laced to Novatech hubs. From stock, these are wrapped with Maxxis Forecaster downcountry tyres with 2.4in widths, EXO casings, and Maxx Terra compounds. This bike will set you back £3,100.
The One-Twenty is also available in two other builds with prices starting at a comparatively welcoming £1,900 which puts it at a price point that's accessible for those both looking for a solid starter MTB, or their first step into full suspension bikes.
Merida One-Twenty 400 - Ride impressions
I was invited down to the lovely hills west of Minehead to sample Merida's latest small travel trail bike during the Merida EX Enduro weekend and just saying that may give a little hint about this bike's capabilities.
With the One-Forty and One-Sixty feeling rather unique amongst a sea of similar bikes thanks to the Agilometer concept and their geometries, the One-Twenty felt right at home in Merida's range. The long reach and super-steep seat tube is present, which makes the bike feel unlike many others, but more like a conservative or sensible Merida bike than its geometry chart suggests.
As the bike uses its own version of the Fast suspension kinematic, its pedalling manners are rather good, especially when combined with the lightning-fast Maxxis Forecaster tyres (which were changed to Continental Kryptotals during the race). The rear suspension does react to pedalling input, but it's nothing too crazy, keeping the rear end feeling taught and efficient.
This is where the One-Twenty's steep seat tube angle comes into play as it plonks weight almost directly over the pedals. This can take a little getting used to but it's a decision that pays off once there's a gradient to climb because it takes away most of the requirement to manage your own weight distribution. Even when climbing steeper gradients, the bike remained planted, with each wheel glued to the ground, and despite its weight, made mincemeat of the steep hills.
While its small travel figures are mostly what categorises the One-Twenty, the choice of tyres will define what it can do. Stick with the Forecasters and you've got a bike that'll happily much miles, and even get a little rowdy when pointed downhill. With the more aggressive knobs found on the Kryptotals, the bike allowed itself to push its boundaries.
The One-Twenty's descending prowess is nothing short of impressive and I was very pleasantly surprised with how far it can be pushed. The varying stages of the EX Enduro made an excellent proving ground for the bike, where its snappy cornering and responsive pedalling sensibilities became glaringly clear.
While it features the Agilometer sizing concept, it's a shorter bike than its bigger siblings and I think that's an excellent choice from the brand as it's an awful lot of fun in the corners. It takes switches of lean angle with ease, allowing for abrupt direction changes which is ideal when negotiating tight corners through natural trails.
But not all of the race stages were pedally and flowy as later into day one, the trails got perilously steep and loose.
In these areas, I was thanking myself and Merida for equipping more aggressively treaded rubber, which gave the One-Twenty a more trail and all-mountain demeanour. The grip was present when pushing down the steep chutes, where the bike's length did inspire confidence whereas other short travel trail bikes would struggle. However, proper steep terrain showed the bike's limitations somewhat. A longer wheelbase or a slacker head tube would rustle up a bit more support and stability when the gradient severely drops but the bike handled it well, albeit with a touch of twitchiness. But therein lies the joys of being underbiked, and the One-Twenty provides that experience very well indeed.
The very progressive suspension platform is another aspect of the bike that enhances its descending performance and in some cases it feels like more than 130mm of squish. It keeps the rear wheel tracking over rough ground but it also boosts the bike's incredibly playful quality. Heaps of mid-stroke support really give back, resulting in tonnes of rear-end response whether you're pumping for free speed, or trying to get a touch of air.
Merida One-Twenty 400 - Early verdict
It's important to remember that this performance comes at a relatively meagre price which makes the One-Twenty even more impressive. It offers a ride that'll please loads of riders, regardless of how much experience they've got under their belt. Because of that, it'll make a great second bike or a seriously good first full-suspension bike – or even a first bike altogether.
My time with the One-Twenty 700 had me realising that it is really is a trail bike at heart; a true all-rounder. Even though it's not the lightest bike in the world, it's a chameleon, blending itself well into any terrain you're willing to push it up or down – and that with a change of tyres it can be pushed even harder .
If you're genuinely up for riding almost all styles of mountain biking, the One-Twenty is a bike that'll make an excellent companion, whether you're looking to efficiently cover miles, or take on more aggressive riding. But the best bit is, it offers unarguable performance at an incredibly welcoming price.
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