by Wil Barrett
September 28, 2016
Just how much value has Merida packed into the One-Twenty 7.900? Tom investigates this sporty 120mm travel trail bike.
Understated in terms of appearance, the Merida One-Twenty has far more of a cheeky and energetic persona when you get it out on the trails. Firmly sitting in the trail bike category, this is Merida͛’s second iteration of the floating link design which, unsurprisingly, sports 120mm of rear travel paired with a 130mm Rockshox Revelation fork.
With smooth welds to the triple-butted aluminium frame, clean internal cable routing, a robust chainstay protector and a full Shimano XT groupset, the attention to detail on the One-Twenty is immediately apparent. The One Twenty 7.900 is the top spec of the 27.5” variants; there are also lower spec, 29” and carbon versions of the One Twenty available.
For those that follow mountain bike fashion and must have the latest ͚what͛s cool͛, the lack of bold fluoro frame colours, a dropper post, ͚boost͛ spacing, a 2×11 drivetrain and a 68-degree head angle maybe too many compromises for you. That would be short sighted however as the ride is somewhat far more contemporary and engaging.
At the heart of the Merida One-Twenty 7.900 is the M.O.R.E (Merida Optimized Ride Engineering) floating suspension which allows the engineers to more accurately tune the shock and provide a feeling of having more travel than the bike numerically actually does. Sitting between the upper rocker link and a forward extension of the chainstays, the Rockshox Monarch RL shock (as a whole) moves as the suspension works through the travel.
The base tune of the Monarch RL is somewhat firm and only on the steepest out-of-saddle climbs did I think about putting the shock in climb mode to counteract any pedal bob. The Revelation fork sports a remote lockout; I am not a fan of remotes as it clutters the handlebars, is an additional complication and something to go wrong in a generally muddy and wet UK environment but yet often seen as a selling feature by manufacturers. With platform damping generally so good these days I rarely move any forks or shocks away from open/descend.
Talking of the handlebars, even without a dropper post, there are cables galore. Having ridden bikes with a 1x drivetrain for a while now, it was strange going back to having a shifter on the left and the seat not disappearing when I pressed the thumb shifter! Add the bulky fork lockout remote and that͛s five sets of cables wrapping around the head tube all of which admittedly do disappear nicely into the cable inlets. Add a dropper, which you will undoubtedly want to do, that makes it six cables and looking like a real bird͛s nest in which an osprey could nest.
Merida has done its homework and sitting on the bike I felt quite comfortable. The 68-degree head angle, 74.5-degree seat angle and 452mm reach meant I was nicely in the centre of the bike and gave for a very efficient climbing position. Descending, only on the steeper ͚off-piste͛ Tweed Valley terrain did I notice the steep (in modern terms) head angle really forcing me to concentrate but, to be fair to the One-Twenty, that’s not really what this bike is designed for. The well balanced suspension encouraged me to get playful and the bike responds better the more you try and push the envelope, I certainly wasn’t afraid to push it through any rock and root gardens.
The drivetrain, as you would expect from Shimano͛s XT range, was faultless throughout the test but I question the decision to spec a 2x drivetrain when the cassette is the 11-speed, 11-40 version; even with the long climbs that are plentiful around the Scottish Borders, the 26/40 ratio was just too low and I found myself losing traction quickly and using the middle of the cassette far more than normal.
With a cassette of that range, this bike could easily run a 30/32 single chainring and still give an easy spinning gear. However, for long days in the saddle there will be many that appreciate the option of having the double chainring. Braking is again handled by Shimano, with sensible 180mm Ice-Tech rotors fitted at both ends. Sadly during long descents I still experienced some of the well documented variable bite point that has plagued some models of Shimano brakes over the past year.
The finishing kit is reliable but not glamorous, the saddle and grips comfortable. I lowered the stem to as low as it could go, but with a change of headset it could go lower. The 70mm stem did not feel too long or twitchy and sat well with the 740mm Merida handlebars to give a stable position.
The One-Twenty was in its element on the trail centre terrain of Glentress and Innerleithen. The 2.25” Nobby Nic tyres and SunRingle wheels were steadfast and provide plenty of grip on the hard pack surface, although on anything a bit more natural I would look to swap the front tyre for something a bit wider and more aggressive in terms of tread. The progressive suspension is very supportive and allowed me to hop, skip and jump out of berms or over small obstacles and manual with little effort.
The 32mm stanchion Rockshox Revelation is not quite as stiff as the ubiquitous Pike but keeps the no fuss and dependable performance attributes, albeit it is not one of the plushest forks out there on fast, rocky descents. What was limiting was the fixed seat post causing quite a rage at one point when having to stop, undo the QR, put the saddle down, do up the QR, set off, stop, put the saddle up… You get the idea, and even worse when mixed with gritty mud. At this price point consumers have come to expect a dropper, even if it means at the expense of having SLX brakes for example.
The Merida One-Twenty 7.900 needs a dropper post, something which hopefully could be bartered at point of sale, and the lack of some of the latest fashion might make it a tough sale on the shop floor. However, it is a fine bike with an array of excellently performing componentry ideally suited to the XC / trail centre rider who wants a fun, dependable steed with the assurance of buying from a local bike shop.
There are some end of 2016 bargains about too now which make it better value for money. Excitingly, looking at the 2017 One Twenty 800, which will retail for the same price, it has a dropper post, a 34mm Fox Float fork, Fox EVOL shock, no remote lockout, SRAM GX 1×11 and 2.4” tyres; I predict those changes will make it a real trail ripper, there will be far more seen on the trails and I can͛t wait to get my hands on one.
The Merida One-Twenty 7.900 features:
- Frame // Merida TFS Aluminium
- Shock // Rockshox Monarch RL
- Fork // Rockshox Revelation 130mm
- Hubs // Shimano XT
- Rims // SunRingle Helix TR
- Tyres // Schwalbe Nobby Nic 2.25”
- Chainset // Shimano XT 2×11
- Rear Mech // Shimano XT Shadow+
- Shifters // Shimano XT
- Brakes // Shimano XT
- Stem // FSA Afterburner 50mm
- Bars // Merida Pro 740mm
- Grips // Merida lock-on
- Seatpost // PRC Carbon Superlite
- Saddle // Selle Italia SL
- Size Tested // Large
- Sizes available // S, M, L
- Weight // 13.1kg