Merida Big Trail 400

Merida Big Trail 400 Review

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The Merida Big Trail 400 may not have some of the more boutique brands’ bits bolted to it, but it has absolutely nailed the essentials.

A few years ago during the heady heights of Plus Bikes, Merida brought out a range of hardtails called Big Trail with the ill-fated mega volume rubbers. Well, the Plus ship has well and truly sailed, yet the Big Trail name remains. Which is a bit weird really. But hey.

In some ways you can still see/feel the ghost of Plus when looking at the lines of the new Big Trail models: truly massive mud clearance. Merida is perhaps not the first brand that springs to mind when people are looking for a mountain bike. But it should be. Merida is making some of the most interesting and well-sorted mountain bikes (including e-bikes) of the moment in my opinion.

Grape? Aubergine?

The Bike

Take this Big Trail 400 for instance. Not only has the Merida Big Trail 400 nailed the essentials, it’s actually got a few features that you just don’t expect to see on bikes at this price: a dropper with an actually generous amount of travel (175mm), a set of accessory bosses under the top tube, and two sets of bottle bosses.

Compared to the Voodoo Braag elsewhere in our ‘Double Yer Money Hardtails‘ test, it’s not that the Merida looks better fabricated per se, it just looks noticeably more modern. Not just in the utilisation of internal cable routing, but moreover in terms of geometry.

Slack, rangey, loads of standover. And much smaller triangles in the classic double diamond frame design. It’s the low slung top tube and the ensuing squashed front triangle and stretched low back end that are actually working together as an optical illusion.

The bike’s vertical squashed-ness makes it consequently look like a longer bike than it really is. Our XL sized test bike has a reach of an OK, but not amazing 475mm. I’m not going to criticise this too much because, thanks to the short seat tubes on these Big Trails, you are free to upsize to get an increase in reach without much in the way of dropper post insertion difficulties.

At 185cm tall, If I were to choose a size to buy I’d very probably opt for the XXL to give me a reach of 500mm and a seat tube length of 470mm. Thinking about it, I actually think Merida has just called the sizes wrong. This XL we tested is a L in the real world. Something to be mindful of should you be putting your order in at the bike shop.

To quickly rattle through the spec: the obvious highlights are the dropper post and… that’s it. Which is not meant to sound harsh. It’s just the reality of a £1,200 mountain bike. There’s no overtly worrying stuff on the kit list, but neither is there anything overtly exciting either.

Very wishbone

The Ride

Oh (wo)man, this is a freaking fun little bike. OK, so it’s a bit on the short side for its stated size, but it’s still a decent set of numbers and a well-thought-out spec sheet. There was nothing I would swap out in a hurry. I tell a lie. The bars are too narrow. I actually ended up sliding the lock-on grips outward 20mm each (overhanging the ends of the bar – not recommended from a H&S POV) to afford me some more width and thus control and confidence. Ritchie Rude may ride 740mm bars. I’d rather not, thanks.

The head angle was confidence inspiring. So too was the low slung BB. The 50mm stem was fine. Actually, kudos to the shortish stem and longish dropper post. They make a huge difference. But, as ever, it was the klassik key kombo of tyres and brakes that were at the forefront. With decent tyres and decent brakes, you can pretty much ride anything.

The tyres in question were ones I’d never tried before and they were pretty darned good all told. Kenda Regolith 2.4. Decent volume, decent grip, decent predictability. Colour me interested in trying some non-OEM versions please. The geometry, tyres and brakes were really a virtuous circle. Any time you may have doubts about any of them individually, you still commit to riding The Dodgy Section because you know that the other two components will get you through okay even if your doubted component does step out of line (which most of the time it won’t anyway).

The brakes were Tektro M275 units with 180/180mm rotors and, like most Tektro stoppers, work really well, albeit with a slightly wooden feeling. The SR Suntour XCR34 wasn’t the stiffest fore-aft fork in the world (interestingly the steel stanchioned 32mm Suntour fork on the Voodoo Braag was less twangy), but it did the job just fine and exhibited no spiking or wacky rebound when ragging things on the limit or riding into unexpected outcomes. While I’m sure a fork upgrade would be on most owners’ minds eventually, there’s no hugely pressing need to splash the cash for quite a while yet.

The bike as a whole is a great platform for upgrading. You can tell it would turn into a real Trigger’s Broom of a bike over time. A sound base for building on. To return to the whole ‘wrong’ sizing thing, it was principally when climbing when the relative smallness/shortness of the bike made its presence felt. Short chainstays are okay if you have the length up front to keep the front end from wandering and lifting. Jumpers and jibbers can go align with Merida’s sizing. The rest of us can go up a size.

Caliper out of harm’s way

Overall

Is this a hardcore hardtail? It’s hard to say. It doesn’t quite have the progressive geometry of some rival brands’ hardcore hardtails. But it’s certainly not a bike that is a cross-country tootler. It has the bang-about and immediate frame feel of an aggro nutter ’tail. The Merida Big Trail 400 is like a hardcore hardtail that’s seen the light. It doesn’t totally ignore the fact that bikes have to be pedalled to the top. And it’s not content with just having a quick blast around the woods and going home.

The appropriately named Big Trail is well prepared to do some big trail rides. Finally the Big Trail name makes sense in a post-Plus scene! It has the hydration (and tool) carrying capability. It has a decently steep seat angle (some riders may still wish to wang the saddle forward on its rails for more effective steepness) for all day ascending ’n’ descending adventures.

Accessory bosses
  • Frame // Alloy
  • Fork // SR Suntour XCR34, 140mm
  • Wheels // Merida Comp TR
  • Front tyre // Kenda Regolith 29×2.4
  • Rear tyre // Kenda Regolith 29×2.4
  • Chainset // Shimano Deore M5100, 32T, 175mm
  • Drivetrain // Shimano Deore, 10-speed, 11–46T
  • Brakes // Tektro M275, 180/180mm
  • Stem // Merida Comp, 50mm, 31.8mm
  • Bars // Merida Expert CC, 740x10mm, 31.8mm
  • Grips // Merida Comp EC Lock-on
  • Seatpost // Merida Comp TR dropper, 30.9mm, 175mm
  • Saddle // Merida Comp SL
  • BB // Shimano HTII
  • Size tested // XL
  • Sizes available // S, M, L, XL, XXL
  • Head angle // 65.5°
  • Effective seat angle // 75.5°
  • Seat tube length // 500mm
  • Head tube length // 120mm
  • Effective top tube // 645mm
  • BB height // 66mm BB drop
  • Reach // 475mm
  • Chainstay // 435mm
  • Wheelbase // 1,220mm
  • Weight // 14.5kg

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Review Info

Brand: Merida
Product: Big Trail 400
From: Merida Bikes
Price: £1,200.00
Tested: by Benji for Singletrack World Magazine Issue 149

Orange Switch 6er. Stif Squatcher. Schwalbe Magic Mary Purple Addix front. Maxxis DHR II 3C MaxxTerra rear. Coil fan. Ebikes are not evil. I have been a writer for nigh on 20 years, a photographer for 25 years and a mountain biker for 30 years. I have written countless magazine and website features and route guides for the UK mountain bike press, most notably for the esteemed and highly regarded Singletrackworld. Although I am a Lancastrian, I freely admit that West Yorkshire is my favourite place to ride. Rarely a week goes by without me riding and exploring the South Pennines.

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