Merida Ninety-Six Carbon 3000-D
From: Merida Bikes
Initially I was worried about riding this bike, coming from a 140mm, wide barred bike back at home which I had gotten quite used to slugging around on all my rides. I need not have worried though as the Merida quickly won me over, so much so in-fact that I am now looking to move to a shorter travel bike full time such was its capabilities.
The first thing I noticed was that this bike felt fast. When I spun the cranks the bike surged forward, probably a result of the light weight and stiff chassis. It also handled well – the angles may scare a few people as being too Xc, but when you consider it was right at home on some of Wales’s technical Trail Centres as well as it’s open wild moors, it could be a do-it-all option for some riders. The 96 was able to be ridden fast on the road, roughly through rocky sections and is light enough to be easilly carried, lifted or pushed when required, qualities recognised by the numerous Ninety Six carbon riders in marathon race fields across the globe.
The spec is good throughout the bike – as you would expect for the price! Shimano’s XT Drivetrain was faultless for the whole week during the TransWales event, where it had to cope with mud, grit, slate, river crossing and a rider who had a habit of shifting at the wrong time and bashing the rear mech on everything. The Fox 100mm fork did an adequate job of absorbing the varied terrain it faced and didnt require much adjustment from me, although some people, even race whippets, may like to see a maxle or QR15 fork on there in future for a bit of added security in rough stuff. The Schwalbe tyres were also a surprise to me as they turned out to be a real winner-grippy enough in the loose, not too bad in the mud and not as draggy as many others on the tar sections. The Prologo Scratch Pro saddle while initially not feeling great actually did a great job-I was comfortable in the saddle for the entire week.
A couple of issues that I did have were with the rear shock and the brakes. The rear shock was a little reluctant to use its full travel and at times a little sticky. It was great for effective power transfer and there was next to no pedal bob but I felt it could have opened up a little more on big hits. Having spoken to a few other riders at the event the consensus was that the DT shock takes a good few rides to bed in properly, but once it does so it delivers a very plush action while still being relatively unaffected by pedal bob. Thh shimano SLX brakes felt a little underpowered to me but that is a persoanl issue and I know many riders love the brakes.
Overall: The Ninety-Six is a superb race bike that will allow plodders like me to gain a little advantage over the opposition. With a smattering of personal favourite parts you could trim the weight down furthur and have the ultimate race weapon or add some bigger tyres and rotors, short stem and wide bars and have a more aggressive trail bike.