A great example of mountain bike inspired geometry on a gravel bike
Jun 28 2018
Well thought out appropriate geometry
No nonsense build and components
You want a well riding and fun gravel and adventure bike.
Sitting in the upper end of the gravel range from Merida, the Silex 700 delivers a no-nonsense package of reliable components, parts and a geometry that brings a stable ride feel. Its geometry vaguely references mountain bikes, which makes for a really excellent ride feel, on road or off, blurring the line between road and mountain in a fast, fun bike.
This exact model isn't available in the UK currently, so my focus is mostly on the frame, fork and ride. Built from AL-6066, which has marginally better fatigue strength that more common 6061, the frame features some heavily manipulated and shaped parts - namely the head tube and main tubes, which are bold and striking, with a ‘is-that-carbon?’ look at first glance.
This smooth look is achieved by a second pass over the welding. They are hydroformed into the specific shapes, with the triple butted tubing which produces a good strength to weight ratio. The frame is the same as the 600 but the 600 has a 1X drive chain. The deep glow black has a glitter in it, and the light blue offsets this - its a fairly understated look, but pretty cool.
This solid and shaped head tube keeps everything feeling tight and together, and despite what looks like a slightly too high head tube, only encourages you to ride in the drops more. This position of being in the drops is comfortable and gives the bike a stable, but quick handling feel - especially on more rough gravel, with potholes or large bumps. Riding on the tops is also good and stable, especially when climbing as I found my chest and arms are more open, and helping my lungs a little, as opposed to being more cramped in.
The rear stays are flattened and shaped to reduce vibration and minimise road and gravel ‘buzz’ - it is doesn’t have the cliched aluminium feel, but is no slouch to delivering forward momentum from stomping the pedals. I liked the whole feel of the ride - balanced, as in not surprising at any point. The shaped chain stays meant no heel clipping moments, which is a treat for me, as I usually scuff frames due to my in-turned cleat positions. The bolt through skewers on the Fulcrum wheelset keeps everything nice and tight - and that extra degree of togetherness on the frame.
With heaps of clearance both at the chain and seat stays, it meant the 35c Maxxis tyres had tonnes of clearance, and you could fit larger size in and sacrifice a bit of clearance for some more offroad or more cushioning with some tread. The centre slick Maxxis Razzd felt quite thin initially, but help up well across the test period, with no punctures.
The full Ultegra groupset was flawless, with the smooth Shimano shifting - the brakes also perfect and reliable. I’m not going into the rest of the kit, but it's all own brand and perfectly reliable - the handlebars could have been a touch wider for a little more additional stability, but certainly no huge issue. The cabling is all internally routed and clamped in place to eliminate cable rattle.
Up at the head tube, the high position and actual length are intentionally there to reduce the need for loads of spacers that some people opt for - you also get a far better-looking bike. The length of the top tube is slightly offset by the shorter stem and compact drops - which are both quite short but work well with the frame. I think you could get a flat bar on there, which would be an interesting experiment, as I don’t think it’d throw out the ride quality too much.
The fork is quite unique looking when you examine it closely. Full carbon, and shaped with plenty of material - there are also rack mounts on the legs. The fork has great steering, with the 12mm through axle, and I felt they provided good damping on small vibrations. There are also mudguard mounts if required. The dropouts are square shaped and I think this aids in the steering precision, and providing strength.
Immediately from the first clip in, it feels great, and more so sunk into the drops and pointing it downhill. This planted ride feel is down to the long top tube meaning I could work the bike around me, with plenty of room to move the bike around with just little movements, but without it feeling nervous. It's a size large and perhaps a tiny bit tall for me, at 5ft 10” but the bike felt fine and it wasn’t a particularly large issue, save for the reduced top tube clearance.
Out of the saddle, climbing was good on road, feeling surprising spritely for the larger tyres - the slick centre tread helping. On loose off-road climbs, the slight side edges gave a little more confidence, but are obviously limited if things get really muddy. On twisty fast single track or gravel paths, its happy with quick weight transfer, and the stability of the ride is helpful in that.
I really like the way Merida has thought about geometry and not been too afraid to move on the idea of how a gravel bike could be, or even more how a bike capable of doing a lot of things well. Saying the bike is capable and fun is underplaying it - this bike happily takes on gravel and milder offroad surfaces, and is fun and rewarding on smooth off-road trails where the geometry encourages you to explore beyond the capability of the tyres.
Tell us what the bike is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own :
Aimed at gravel and adventure riders, its mtb inspired geometry is a real inspiration to ride. Understated looks hide the really positive ride experience.
State the frame material and method of construction. List the components used to build up the bike.:
Double Pass welded AL-6066 Aluminium
Full Ultegra Groupset
Fulcrum Racing 700 Wheelset
Merida finsihing Kit
Frame & Fork
Was the bike comfortable to ride? Tell us how you felt about the ride quality.:
The bike was comfortable to ride, with a frame that wasn't overly harsh and the 35c tyres made for a smoother journey.
How was the bike in terms of sizing and angles? How did it compare to other bikes of the same stated size and intent?:
The size Large I tested was a good fit for me - long arms always make smaller bikes feel cramped.
Overall rating for frame
Did the bike feel stiff in the right places? Did any part of the bike feel too stiff or too flexible?:
The bike was well balanced for me, nothing of note in terms of odd flex or harsh feedback.
Tell us about the build quality and finish of the frame:
The double pass weld gives the smooth looking frame, with more than a hint of looking like carbon.
Tell us about the geometry of the frame:
MTB inspired geometry making it more stable off road (and on-road), the high end tube is really comfortable on the tops or drops, and helps in the stable ride.
How did the bike transfer power? Did it feel efficient?:
Power transfer never felt wasted, and the bike rides quite light.
How would you describe the steering? Was it lively, neutral or unresponsive?:
The steering was rewarding, and responsive.
Tell us some more about the handling. How did the bike feel overall? Did it do particular things well or badly?:
From the go, the Silex felt right - it was enjoyable and fun to ride. All in, it was always a good ride on it.
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Any comments on technical descending?:
The lack of suspension is the only reason I had to slow down or be more conservative on more technical terrain
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Wheels & tyres
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Any comments on tyre durability?:
I'd sacrifice the centre slick for a little more grip at times
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Did you enjoy riding the bike?:
Yup - good times
Would you consider buying the bike?:
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike\'s performance? would you recommend any changes?:
Built up with some bench mark components, nothing was bad, and the only reason to change would be personal preference for a saddle or bar tape perhaps.
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Use this box to explain your score:
The review focusses mostly on the frame, as this exact model isnt available in the UK anymore, but the 600 model is identical, but with a differing build, and is 1x - so the obvious advantages and disadvantages are there. The geometry of the frame make the bike, so the 600 is most likely as rewarding and fun as the 700.
Question for owners of a Merida Silex bike. Merida provided fixing points for a rear rack already integrated. But on my bike these points differ 1 mm, so my rack is not vertical. Everything, rack and bags, is leaning to one side.
Do you have the same problem?
mightyjcb3 months 2 weeks ago
@Jim Clarkson - Is the Merida marketing worth its hype with the Silex range? which In the nicest possible way, this review seems to regurgitate. The MTB centric geo seems to make sense for a gravel bike, but not all brands follow this "trend"(?).
Joules19756 months 3 weeks ago
Oh, and the tyes fitted are not that good. They are too narrow to really get the most out of the bike (interestingly, the marketing photos for the Silex bikes had a guy riding one that's fitted with some much bigger 700c rubber). The Razzo tyres roll well enough but offer little grip on loose or damp ground. After finding I couldn't run 27.5 x 2.1 Schwalbes, I fitted some Panaracer GavelKing SK in 700x43 size. Good grip off-road in all but mud (not MTB level grip, but then it's not an MTB) and they still roll really well. The extra width made a massive difference to off-road confidance and also improved comfort all round, especially when loaded.
Joules19756 months 3 weeks ago
Not the best review. The bike does indeed ride well, is very well built, and the concept is excellent, but ..
1. second bottle cage is too high, meaning that on a small frame you can only just get a normal 750ml bottle in, and it makes the use of a frame bag and too bottles impossible. There is loads of room for the mounts to have been lowered.
2. You don't seem to have looked to test Merida's claim about the Silex bikes being able to take 27.5x2.2 tyres - if you did you'd have found that with the Alu frame, that's complete rubbish. At most you can run WTB horizon (47mm), which given that you can run 700x43c tyres without issues, makes 27.5 pointless and means Merida have either miss marketed the bikes or someone didn't tell the designers of the Alu frame about the need to take the same tyre width as the carbon forks (which take 27.5x2.2 quite happily).
3. They could I think have taken the MTB geometry thing a little further - my small frame is a bit short on the reach (maybe due to the effect the higher handlebar has) while there is only just enough room for a dropper post (due in part to the fact that dropper posts with less than 100mm travel are hard to find).