MERIDA Big Nine
CHARLES LEE | 3rd Oct 2016 | PRODUCT REVIEWS
MERIDA bikes are no strangers to the ever-evolving world of cycling. Being Taiwan’s second largest bicycle manufacturer after Giant, MERIDA has carved out a respectable reputation as a well-known industrialist of premium bicycles since it is established in 1988. MERIDA is, in fact, so well-regarded in the two-wheeled business that even mega player Specialized sought the Taiwanese firm to manufacture bicycle frames for them. To date, MERIDA is still the contracted manufacturer for Specialized.
MERIDA makes bicycles for all genres of cycling, from kids’ bikes to top-of-the-end road racing machines. But perhaps, the bikes under the Big Nine series are MERIDA’s most potent weapon in its product line-up. Built as hardtails, the Big Niners form the biggest fleet in MERIDA’s 29-incher category, boasting a whooping 56 variants! As far as anyone knows, there isn’t any other bike manufacturer that maintains more than 50 models in a single category.
The Big Niners have been around for almost five years. And they just keep getting better. In its earlier years, around 2011 and 2012, the Big Niners are known to be strong contenders in performance, albeit lacklustre from an aesthetic aspect. MERIDA gradually reworked on the outlook of the Big Niners to compete with the more aggressive-looking models from other bike-makers. The Big Niners of today are a combination of looks, agility, speed and quality.
The Big Nine 100, 300, 500, XT and XT-Edition are five distinct contenders in true MERIDA styles. In this issue, we will look at these five powerhouses and see how each of them adds up to match the profile of the riders they are serving.
Big Nine 100
Suited for riders who are new to mountain biking, or those who desire a fun bike without having to cut away an arm and a leg for it, the Big Nine 100 is the do-it-all bike at the very basic level. Constructed with Racelite 6061 Aluminium, the down-tube of the Big Nine 100 features the innovative shape of a shotgun’s fore-end. Designed for cyclists who are not familiar with the handling of a mountain bike, the disc drop-out of the Big Nine 100 is integrated with a two-bolt direct mount to facilitate the installation of a Hebie side-stand, so that the rider can quickly kick the side-stand down to hold the bike firmly in place. Braking and shifting cables are routed internally to keep the frame neat and uncluttered.
The Suntour SR 29 XCM HLO 100mm fork features a lock-out mechanism, a boon for riders who prefer to ride without the plushness. At 13.7 kilograms, the Big Nine 100 is powered by Shimano’s Alivio rear derailleur and Altus Rapidfire shifters, which are hardy enough for all-day riding. The Big Nine 100 uses the Tektro Auriga hydraulic disc brakes.
The Big Nine 300 retails for $925.
Big Nine 500
The Big Nine 500 is a worthy opponent to reckon with at your local trails and racing scenes. Decked in Shimano Deore drivetrain components (with the Deore XT as its rear derailleur), the mid-level steed is impressive in true blue cross country style.
Using a proprietary technology known as the Techno-Forming System (TFS), MERIDA is able to strengthen and stiffen the Big Nine 500’s 6061 aluminium alloy tubes, thereby eliminating energy loss and enhancing the transfer of direct power from the crank to the wheels. Complemented with cross-country geometries, a 680mm Comp OS flat handlebar and a smaller 42-32-24 triple chainring, trail enthusiasts and cross-country riders will appreciate the Big Nine 500’s agility in negotiating tight technical sections and hilly sections.
An improved version of the older M486, the Shimano M445 hydraulic disc braking system fitted on the Big Nine 500 is an all-time favourite for its ergonomically-designed brake levers, decent braking performance and weight.
The Big Nine 500 uses the Rockshox XC30TK29 100, a gold-standard fork without the gold price.
The Big Nine 500 retails for $1162.
Big Nine XT-Edition
Riders who have a knack for competitions and racings in cross-country formats will adore the Big Nine XT Editon. Famed for its clean and neat outlook, the frame features both internal cabling and smooth welding, a double-luxurious attribute which is not found on other models.
A pure-breed cross-country bike, the Big Nine XT-Edition is fitted with race-specific components – Shimano XT derailleur, Shimano M506 hydraulic disc brakes, Rockshox 30Gold TK29 100 fork with Remote Lock-out and Maxxis Ikon tires – which are durable enough to last at least two to three racing seasons without compromising on reliability and performance.
At 12 kilograms, the Big Nine XT-Edition features a high stand-over height of 748 millimetres (for a 17-inch frame) and a steep head angle of 70 degrees. This configuration is well-received by climbing specialists and taller riders.
The Big Nine XT-Edition retails for $1792.
Big Nine XT
A powerhouse for those who demand uncompromised performance and reliability, the Big Nine XT is the platinum class in the Big Nine series.
With a nano matrix carbon-fibre frame as its centrepiece, the Big Nine XT needs no further upgrading. Apart from being fitted with a Shimano XT gearing system that delivers precise shifting, the bike comes with a FOX 32 FLOAT Performance fork, which performs sweetly in every imaginable terrain.
Because of its racing form, the Big Nine XT doesn’t just accept any rider. With its 29-inch wheels, tall stand-over, short top-tube and a steep head angle of 70 degrees (for 15- and 17-inch frames), amateur mountain bikers will find it hard to control the bike, especially on steep technical descents. This bike is ultimately made for the experienced riders.
Installed with the 2016 Shimano M506 hydraulic disc braking system, the Big Nine XT stops as efficiently as it pedals. The M506, which comes with two-finger ergonomic brake levers, is known to provide consistent, reliable and modulated braking.
The Big Nine XT tipped the weighing scales at an astounding 11.10 kilograms.