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Merida's 2012 mountain bikes - First look

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Merida's new One Sixty enduro bike

Merida's new One Sixty enduro bike (Image credit: Robin Wilmott)
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Tight chainring clearances on this prototype frame

Tight chainring clearances on this prototype frame (Image credit: Robin Wilmott)
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Upper swingarm passes around the seat tube, as on the Ninety-Nine

Upper swingarm passes around the seat tube, as on the Ninety-Nine (Image credit: Robin Wilmott)
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A tight rear end and still adequate mud clearance for 2.3in tyres

A tight rear end and still adequate mud clearance for 2.3in tyres (Image credit: Robin Wilmott)
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One of the eight fully functional prototypes

One of the eight fully functional prototypes (Image credit: Robin Wilmott)
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Final graphics may be altered from these

Final graphics may be altered from these (Image credit: Robin Wilmott)
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One Twenty 120mm trail bike

One Twenty 120mm trail bike (Image credit: Robin Wilmott)
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The One Twenty 3000 D comes with a Shimano Deore XT drivetrain

The One Twenty 3000 D comes with a Shimano Deore XT drivetrain (Image credit: Robin Wilmott)
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Intricately sculpted tubes increase standover height

Intricately sculpted tubes increase standover height (Image credit: Robin Wilmott)
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The world beating O.Nine 26in carbon hardtail

The world beating O.Nine 26in carbon hardtail (Image credit: Robin Wilmott)
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Still one of the cross-country bikes to beat

Still one of the cross-country bikes to beat (Image credit: Robin Wilmott)
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Flat flex stays increase rider comfort

Flat flex stays increase rider comfort (Image credit: Robin Wilmott)
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Slim horizontal profile of the flexible stays

Slim horizontal profile of the flexible stays (Image credit: Robin Wilmott)
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Direct mount front mech saves weight

Direct mount front mech saves weight (Image credit: Robin Wilmott)
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Any way you say it, this bike is quick

Any way you say it, this bike is quick (Image credit: Robin Wilmott)
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Certified individual frame weight is printed under the bottom bracket - 943g!

Certified individual frame weight is printed under the bottom bracket - 943g! (Image credit: Robin Wilmott)
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Fork remote lockout

Fork remote lockout (Image credit: Robin Wilmott)
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Prototype Big Ninety-Nine full-sus 29er with aluminum frame

Prototype Big Ninety-Nine full-sus 29er with aluminum frame (Image credit: Robin Wilmott)
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Ninety-Nine branded DT Swiss shock

Ninety-Nine branded DT Swiss shock (Image credit: Robin Wilmott)
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Subtle seat tube curve allows use of shorter chainstays

Subtle seat tube curve allows use of shorter chainstays (Image credit: Robin Wilmott)
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Merida Big.Nine 29er carbon hardtail

Merida Big.Nine 29er carbon hardtail (Image credit: Robin Wilmott)
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Big.Nine, big graphics

Big.Nine, big graphics (Image credit: Robin Wilmott)
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Mallorcan snow greeted our test day

Mallorcan snow greeted our test day (Image credit: Robin Wilmott)
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Bold graphics on the hydroformed aluminum frame

Bold graphics on the hydroformed aluminum frame (Image credit: Robin Wilmott)
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Linkage and weight is kept near the bottom bracket for best handling

Linkage and weight is kept near the bottom bracket for best handling (Image credit: Robin Wilmott)
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The swingarm is braced by a cross shaped member

The swingarm is braced by a cross shaped member (Image credit: Robin Wilmott)
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RockShox Reverb Stealth remotely adjustable seatpost

RockShox Reverb Stealth remotely adjustable seatpost (Image credit: Robin Wilmott)
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Some elegantly shaped tubes

Some elegantly shaped tubes (Image credit: Robin Wilmott)
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Reverb remote switch

Reverb remote switch (Image credit: Robin Wilmott)
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Truvativ X Guide

Truvativ X Guide (Image credit: Robin Wilmott)
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Merida's carbon Ninety-Nine Team - a 26in-wheeled full-suspension racer

Merida's carbon Ninety-Nine Team - a 26in-wheeled full-suspension racer (Image credit: Robin Wilmott)
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One of the suspension lockout switches

One of the suspension lockout switches (Image credit: Robin Wilmott)
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Full-carbon rear triangle and rocker arm

Full-carbon rear triangle and rocker arm (Image credit: Robin Wilmott)
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Sufficient clearance for 2.3in rubber

Sufficient clearance for 2.3in rubber (Image credit: Robin Wilmott)
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A sea of top-end Meridas are put to bed

A sea of top-end Meridas are put to bed (Image credit: Robin Wilmott)

This article was originally published on BikeRadar

Taiwanese bike company Merida launched its 2012 range this week on the Spanish island of Mallorca. Head of bicycle design Jurgen Falke took centre stage to unveil the company's new mountain bikes, including an updated trail bike, a new enduro rig and a headline 29er full suspension cross country racer.

Big Ninety-Nine

Making the most waves was the Big Ninety-Nine 29er, which aims to build on the success of the 26in Ninety-Nine and offer cross country and marathon racers a big-wheeled alternative. An aluminum prototype was on show at the launch; the bike is ride-able and undergoing final tweaks before the final carbon production version, which the Multivan Merida Biking Team is helping to develop, is launched in time for 2013.

Falke explained that he believes 120mm of travel is too much for a 29er full sus, because there's limited wheel and tyre clearance when the suspension is fully compressed, so this design offers a maximum of 106mm, via a 38mm-stroke shock. With the trend towards 2x10 drivetrains, the placement of the Big Ninety-Nine's main pivot is optimised for use with small chainrings (down to a 24-tooth inner ring) but the bike will still accommodate a triple chainset if preferred.

Tube cross-sections have been increased compared to the Ninety-Nine to cope with the extra stress put upon the frame by the larger wheels, but Merida has still managed to omit a seatstay bridge without compromising stiffness. Combined with the curved seat tube, this provides clearance for up to 2.3in rubber. A 12/142mm through-axle helps resist torsion at the rear hub. Spec will be either SRAM 2x10 with RockShox XX suspension or Shimano 3x10 with DT Swiss. Remote lockouts for front and rear suspension will come as standard.

As if to fully test the new machine’s mettle, Mallorca blessed our test ride with heavy snow. The bike instantly felt secure and solid, allowing us to barrel into tricky sections with confidence. The usual 29er traits of improved rolling performance, traction and stability were evident in spades, and the limited travel of the Big Ninety-Nine means it climbs like a hardtail, even without locking out the rear shock. When flowing through corners, it breeds speed, and even accelerating from low speeds is less of a chore than usual due to its light weight and stiff frame.

Struggling to see clearly through the driving snow, our line choice was far from optimal, leading to several moments that might have undone a smaller wheeled machine, but the 29er just absorbed them and let us flick it back on line. Suspension bob was almost non-existent, and there was no trace of toe overlap. The Big Ninety-Nine has the potential to exceed the capabilities of the 26in Ninety-Nine and become a marathon racing benchmark.

One Sixty

At the other end of the scale comes an addition to Merida’s gravity enduro/all-mountain stable, the One Sixty, which builds on the success of the One Twenty and One Forty trail bikes. As the name suggests, it offers 160mm of travel front and rear, from a sub-3kg hydroformed aluminum frame.

Merida is calling the suspension design VPP because it uses a virtual pivot point – despite the fact Santa Cruz Bicycles owns a separate design called Virtual Pivot Point or VPP, which they use themselves and license to Intense Cycles. Merida's suspension platform uses a different axle path; it remains to be seen how Santa Cruz will react to this nomenclature.

The One Sixty comes as standard with a RockShox Reverb Stealth adjustable seatpost. The cable from its bar mounted remote is routed internally through the down tube and seat tube so there's no cable loop to get in the way when dropping the seat. In fact, with the Reverb fitted, the only external line is the rear brake hose. Other dropper posts can be fitted by running the cable externally.

Our test route, although tough, had nothing to really push the boundaries of the bike’s performance, but what we found was promising. With most weight and suspension load near the bottom bracket, the One Sixty feels planted and changes direction well, feeling nimble for a bike with 2.4in rubber.

It has a neutral feel when pedalling in the saddle, with almost no bob. We returned with a grin and wanted more, so look forward to a future full test. The One Sixty is now at the pre-production stage and component specifications are being finalised – it'll be offered with three equipment levels.

Other full-suspension bikes

The One Twenty trail bike, the One Sixty's little brother, has had its suspension geometry reworked to maximise usable travel. It continues to be available in both carbon and aluminum, with the latter boasting an impressively light sub-2.5kg frame weight. With numerous specs available, it could be all the bike you'll ever need, whether you're into racing or all-day trail rides.

The Ninety-Six set the bar for cross country race bikes when it was launched in 2008, and with the development of the Ninety-Nine Merida has raised it again. Optimised for a 2x10 drivetrain, and with 100mm travel of travel, claimed complete bike weight is just 8.9kg (19.6lb) without pedals. Despite this, the Ninety-Nine boasts incredible frame and bottom bracket stiffness. Available in carbon and aluminum framed versions, it should keep Merida competitive.

Hardtails

Not to be forgotten are Merida’s hardtails. The O.Nine carried Jose Hermida to his world championship victory in 2010 and will be the bike of choice for many of the Multivan Merida team in its chase for Olympic success this year. It's stiff and lightweight, with certified frame weights as low as 940g, but has buzz-damping flexible seatstays and a skinny 27.2mm seatpost to keep fatigue at bay. Optimised for a 2x10 drivetrain, and with a BB30 bottom bracket, it remains devastatingly fast.

Given the challenge of creating a 29er with similar performance to the O.Nine, Merida has come up with the Big.Nine. Bottom bracket stiffness is even higher than on the O.Nine and a similarly low racing position has been retained, along with a sub-1,100g frame weight. The 2012 Big.Nine Carbon Team-D will come with a SRAM X0 transmission and DT Swiss fork, and is stunningly agile for a large-wheeled machine.

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