Merida might be better known for its bikes, but this Freeride helmet is comfy and well specced for the price featuring a fixed peak, insect mesh, a large multi adjust wheel and chin pad.
Helmets are one of those things that either fit your head or they don’t. When it comes to the shape of the lid there is no point squeezing your head in if the two shapes are incompatible. If you have a square head shape then a long helmet style will not work and vice versa. Luckily for me, the Freeride sits somewhere between those two extremes and that fits my head shape really well.
The fit is fine-tuned with a simple but effective dial retention system which pushes your head in towards the front of the helmet the more you wind it in. I normally wear a 57cm lid and I thought that the small (52-57cm) would be a bit tight but it’s actually fine and one of the better fitting helmets I have tried recently. The medium is 58-61cm and there's no large, though the latter two sizes cover
I’ve had remarks about how slim the profile of the hat is compared to other helmets and it fits snug all around my head with a slim curving profile with no fins or angular ridges to speak of. It's got 18 vents of decent size, all of which do their job well and I haven't overheated in the helmet so far. The front three vents have mesh in them to prevent insect getting in which I personally like. I guess if you’re not a fan you could easily remove it but I doubt it makes any impact on airflow.
It does have a peak which does a decent job of keeping the sun out of your eyes but I did find it a little annoying at times as I was unable to adjust its position. It didn’t lead to a sore neck like some but it would concern me if I knew I was going to be climbing a lot.
Due to the lack of adjustable visor and strap retention clip, if you wear goggles with an open face helmet then this probably isn't the helmet for you but I don’t think Merida is aiming for this market anyway.
Chin strap pads divide opinion amongst the team and riders I’ve asked. I’m generally in favour of them as long as they don’t foul the buckle and are easily removable, which this one doesn’t and is. In fact, in terms of hygiene, I think they are better fitted than not as without them the straps will get sweaty and muddy and who cleans their straps regularly? Dirty straps can lead to an unpleasant neck rash for some riders. The sleeve is easily removable and washable but if you’re not a fan, you can just remove it from the start – so no drama.
With regard to protection, all we can say is that the Merida Freeride has passed all the relevant safety testing. In terms of weight, it’s pretty light at 264g. For comparison, the significantly more expensive Troy Lee Designs A2 is around 100g heavier, but that does have more plastic outer moulding to protect the EPS foam and it also comes with the MIPS protection system.
Style is a personal thing and some will love the clean slim look and some of you will not. It offers no frills or beautifully designed graphics, it has no go-faster rear fins or unusually shaped apertures and it has no camera mount or goggle clip. Happily, as well as the very lurid green, it's possible to get it in matte black, which will probably be the best choice for most riders.
Overall, the Merida Freeride is a good value budget helmet that, assuming you like the fit and looks, is a worthy buy.