by Ben Haworth
August 12, 2009
When Benji moved away from The Valley last year (shock horror!) he suddenly found himself in the market for a type of bicycle he'd never needed/wanted before... a commuting bike.
Merida S’Presso i8-D
Tested: 12 months
After moving away from The Valley last year (to south Manchester) I was in the market for a commuting bike. I wasn’t sure what I wanted but I did know what I DIDN’T want. I didn’t want drop handlebars. I didn’t want rim brakes. I didn’t want many gears. I didn’t want a “cool” bike brand.
I think it was the chance arrival of a Merida catalogue on my desk that caused me to pick the S’Presso i8-D. It seemed to have everything I wanted – or rather I had nothing that I didn’t want!
To be honest the Shimano Alfine 8 speed hub gear wasn’t that much of an attraction. I’ve never liked any hub gear I’ve ridden before. But nonetheless it sounded interesting to give it a whirl for a few weeks.
As you can see, this “few weeks” has turned into a year.
This bike is brilliant. I love this bike.
It wasn’t love at first sight/ride though. It’s more of a bond. This bike has been the very definition of reliable.
The only thing I’ve changed on it are the grips. It came with ugly Ergon-alike “paddle” grips that I removed immediately.
I have had to do virtually zero maintenance on it (except inflate the tyres back up to maximum psi every few weeks). I’ve had zero punctures. The brake pads are the original ones. The gears haven’t had any twiddling done to them. I think I may have oiled the chain once, maybe twice.
The riding position isn’t ponderously “sit up and beg” inefficient. Neither is it too far over-the-front and back-breaking. It’s pitched somewhere in between. The top tube is rangey. If you found it too stretched out then it’s a simple enough job to stick a shorter stem on (it comes with a lengthy 120mm stem).
I wouldn’t have the first clue as to what is supposed to be good “road bike” geometry but I’ve found no problems with the S’Presso’s angles for sat down short mileage (5 miles) daily commuting. It’s a very efficient but comfy riding position. It corners predictably enough. You can’t really lean it over too far and hard without inducing a bit of understeer or tyre creep. People wanting a low slung “road bike” stance won’t be looking at this type of bike anyway.
The Alfine hub has been pretty much ignoreable. Which is nice. It’s a smooth-running unit with acceptable shifting performance. Changing gears under load can be a bit jerky but my commute doesn’t require many gear changes as it’s flat – I only use about two gears most of the time! Most of the time I change gear whilst not pedalling as it’s easier and nicer to do it that way. The trigger shifter is so much better than the twist-grip shifters found on other hub gears.
The main niggle I had with the Alfine is its very slow “pick-up” after you’ve changed gear. It takes a quarter of a pedal stroke before the gears mesh together and power is delivered. This means you lose “the snap” when setting off from traffic lights. I did get used to it (because it does it every time) but it never really stopped niggling me – especially when trying to do battle with yer usual BMW X5 driver.
NB: This year’s version of the S’Presso i8-D is in “satin brown glimmer” colour and doesn’t come with the (ugly) Alfine gear tensioner – hurrah!
Overall: This bike is an exceptional commuting bike. Nothing more, nothing less. For easy-spinning through to medium-paced cross-city whizzing it’s been great. I don’t want to give it back as there’s nothing else available that would do the job better.