It’s no secret that the writers at Singletrack love a nice boutique hardtail. The lure of a custom steel frame, painstakingly brazed together by a bloke who looks like he got lost on the way to the Glastonbury Festival in the 1970s in his garden shed, is undeniable. But for those of us who are on more of a real world budget, the humble hardtail has its attractions too. Aside from the lower upfront cost, there’s the promise of less maintenance, a versatile bike that can race one day and commute the next, and the big cheesy grin that comes from smoothing your way through a gnarly section of trail with nothing but your superior riding technique. And that’s something that the Merida Big.Trail promises.
Merida’s new Big.Trail series seems to embody all of these virtues, with a great value spec combined with a versatile 29er wheel size and thrashable geometry. I was able to get a cheeky few days of riding on the range-topping Big.Trail 600 ahead of its official launch this week, in some amazing weather too. I love it when a plan comes together.
Merida are one of the biggest bike manufacturers in Taiwan, and have some serious expertise in alloy frame construction. The frame of the Big.Trail 600 is a showcase of tube manipulation (oo-er), with a tonne of clearance for big tyres, protruding fork crowns, and bulbous heels. The geometry isn’t exactly tearing up the rulebook, but nor is it stuck in the past, with our medium test bike featuring a 65.5 degree head angle and a decent 435mm of reach. There’s internal cable routing (boo), a threaded BB shell (yay), three water bottle mounts (triple yay) and even concealed rack and mudguard mounts, for when you need one bike to do everything. Our test bike came with an odd little bracket on the chainstay yoke, which is apparently a kickstand mount, and internal routing for a front mech: for obvious reasons, neither of these will appear on the production version.
Heading up the build list of the Big.Trail 600 is Marzocchi’s Z2 fork, in a 140mm travel, 44mm offset version. Marzocchi forks are starting to regain their old reputation as reliable performers for riders who aren’t too bothered about weight, but the Z2s are much more suited to all-round trail use than their coil ‘n’ oil boat anchors of yore. The fork is more like a budget Fox 34, with some obvious cost savings (like the plastic adjuster knobs), as well as some nice surprises, more of which later.
Forward propulsion is facilitated by a mix of a Raceface chainset, and a 12-speed Shimano Deore cassette, derailleur and shifter. The cassette features a “one louder” 51-tooth bottom gear, meaning any climb should be theoretically cleanable, although it’s also quite a weighty beast thanks to its pinned steel construction. Merida have also equipped the Big.Trail with a chain guide, as if to say “go forth and get rad”. It looks slightly bodged, but the chain hasn’t fallen off yet. Another nice touch is the use of SRAM’s UDH mech hanger, a brave attempt to standardise one of the most non-standard bits of modern frames. As well as being designed to pivot backwards from an impact instead of breaking, the hanger should be readily available at any SRAM stockist.
Braking is courtesy of Shimano’s Deore components again, but from the lower-end M4100 series. This means no Servo-Wave brake levers to add power, just a longer lever. However the brake and gear shifter use the same mount, giving a nice tidy handlebar, lever reach is adjustable, and there’s no dreaded orange “resin pads only” sticker on the rotors.
At £1,500, we’re firmly in the territory where bikes come with dropper posts, and the Big.Trail 600 obliges, with a 150mm drop Merida own-brand post operated by a Shimano lever, which, like the gear shifter, shares one mount with the brake. There’s a detachable lever for the bolt-up hub axles with a 4 and 6mm stepped hex key. For a final flourish, the saddle has a neat little integrated multitool holder underneath.
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Merida Big.Trail 600 Specifications
- Frame // Merida Big.Trail, 120-150mm fork compatible
- Available Sizes // S, M, L, XL
- Fork // Marzocchi Z2, 140mm travel, 44mm offset
- Chainset // Raceface direct mount
- Bottom Bracket // Raceface threaded 73mm
- Chain // Shimano Deore 12-speed
- Cassette // Shimano Deore 10-51T
- Shifter // Shimano Deore, 12-speed
- Hubs // Shimano Deore
- Rims // Merida TR, 29mm width, tubeless compatible
- Tyres // Maxxis Dissector EXO, 2.4in
- Brakes // Shimano Deore M4100
- Handlebar // Merida 780mm
- Stem // Merida
- Grips // Merida
- Headset // Merida semi-integrated
- Seatpost // Merida Comp, 150mm drop
- Saddle // Merida Comp with saddle box
- Price // £1,500.00
- Weight // 30lbs/13.6kg
- Available from // https://www.merida-bikes.com/en
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