A couple weeks ago, Merida debuted their all-new do-it-all, affordable One-Twenty mountain bike. It’s a no-nonsense 29er trail bike with (a bit confusingly) 130mm of travel front and rear, and complete bike prices from as little as 2280€. I had the chance to ride the new bike over the course of five tough days in the UK at an excellent enduro racing event that pushed the bike to its limits, and maybe a bit beyond.
It’s clearly a bike that can handle everything from your local singletrack loops to a full-on underbiking on technical enduro track. Plus, it won’t break the bank…
2024 Merida One-Twenty 130mm alloy mountain bike
Merida’s One-Twenty keeps its category-defining middle-of-the-road name, 5 generations in – even if it has grown in capabilities and travel over the last 15 years. To Merida, One-Twenty means that space between XC & Enduro racing – a sweet spot for the trail riding most typical mountain bikers actually ride. If you aren’t racing XC you probably don’t need a weight-weenie cross-county bike. And if you aren’t really racing for the enduro podium, pedaling around on a long-travel gravity-inspired machine is also overkill.
Modern capable geometry and 130mm of travel from a 29er will get you everything in between. And to be honest, you could probably dabble in a bit of racing on either XC or EN extreme if you want to push the boundaries. I certainly did, and came away with a smile on my muddy face.
My thoughts on the new 2024 One-Twenty
I actually rode the previous Merida One-Twenty when it debuted five years ago. And I came away impressed with the capability of that short-travel 120mm trail bike with a bit of modern geometry and a 130mm Pike fork up front. But not only does this new bike get a bit more travel out back.
It also gets much more progressive geometry – 1.3° slacker head angle, 3° steeper seattube, and a 3cm longer Reach in my size Large/Long with the same 435mm chainstays.
The new trail bike also gets a simplified single-pivot suspension design with flexing alloy seatstays, that’s bound to make service simpler. And the new horizontal shock position makes room for 2 water bottles and a mini tool strap, together a great boost for all-day epic rides.
In my mind, the internal cable routing through the headset is a wash. Sure it makes for a ‘cleaner-looking’ cockpit, but it’ll cost you more to replace that headset down the road in a few years.
Weight-wise, the top-spec Large/Long One-Twenty 700 I rode is 15kg, pretty much exactly the same +/- 100g as the similarly NX-spec’d alloy bike I rode 5 years ago. What this new one saves in simplicity, it pretty much adds back in beefier, more capable components. A solid move in my mind. But, in the past there had been a 12.8kg carbon version. That lighter option was a lot more expensive, but now you don’t get the choice, even if you have the budget. That certainly makes this a more accessible bike to the masses, but it will never be a trail bike for weight weenies.
2024 Merida One-Twenty 700: First Rides
The specific bike I tested was the One-Twenty 700. It is the top-spec build Merida offers for the new bike, but it’s by no means premium. Everything on this 3720€ build has been carefully picked for its performance:value ratio.
The RockShox Pike Select fork and Deluxe Select+ rear shock are probably the fanciest of the bunch. Proving that Merida understands that well-performing suspension is the backbone of this bike.
The mechanical SRAM NX Eagle drivetrain isn’t fancy, but works very well. The mineral oil 4-piston SRAM DB8 brakes also do their job, and are a surprisingly great substitute for riders (like myself) who would typically prefer the performance of mid-level Shimano brakes to those of SRAM.
House-brand tubeless-ready aluminum wheels with a 29mm internal do well to support the 2.4″ Maxxis Forekaster tires. The wheels do not include tubeless tape or valves, out of the bikeshop (or sealant). So then, it’s going to cost you a few bucks more to get the bike into a modern ridable state. But the key ingredients are there. Tire choice is also a huge personal preference, influenced by where you ride. A dry day with the Forekasters proved they can be a capable trail tire. But when the weather got super wet (like I ride back at home), those became the limiting factor for how far I could push the bike. So I swapped in some Continental Kryptotals
What is The EX Enduro?
My testing grounds for the new Merida One-Twenty was The EX Enduro race in Exmoor National Park in southwestern England. For 2 days before the event, I took in some casual-pace riding on the steep rocky and rooty trails of the region under sunny skies and warm temps. It was pretty fun and relaxed riding, with long dirt road climbs, frolicking fun descending, and lovely coastal scenery.
The new bike climbed comfortably. It descended confidently. And I was happy to be able to carry plenty of water and spares to be self-sufficient for a long day out.
Racing The EX Enduro on a short travel trail bike
Then, the rains came. So I swapped in some more aggressive tires.
First light rain and dense clouds came in… really we raced a day inside the cloud. And then it dumped. As hard as it could rain. Likely the heaviest rain I ever actually rode in – and I ride 12 months a year. So hard that the pockets of my waterproof jacket filled with 1-3cm of water inside them. So hard that one singletrack racing stage turned into 5 minutes racing down a muddy stream where you hoped that there were no giant holes or sharp rocks lurking under the murky water that was rushing downhill with you.
21 stages (1 canceled on top of an open hill so we didn’t all get struck by lightning), 3 in the night with Exposure lights.
More than 4000m of descending, after pedaling to the top of each hill, or oftentimes just pushing back up, too. I think I bottomed out the fork maybe 3 times. Maybe I bottomed out the rear end 2x. And I only crashed once.
Pretty much everything from steep climbs under hot sun, to warming and drying out by the fire at the end of the day.
Pushing the One-Twenty to its limits
The bike did everything I could hope for in a 15kg short travel trail bike. The suspension never felt harsh, and generally smooth out bumps small and large.
Now don’t get me wrong – I was under-biked. This was the same event where Merida launched the One-Forty and One-Sixty platform last year. And either of those bikes might have been a more appropriate fit – especially since both offer lighter, carbon-framed builds.
But the One-Twenty worked well. I pushed it to the limits – and over the bars once. But it was no worse for the wear. At least not after a good wash down and some fresh chain lube.
All in all, the new One-Twenty is a more capable all-rounder trail bike than ever. Offered in aluminum, it’s also about as accessible as you could hope for in a modern full-suspension mountain bike. Plus, it kinda feels bombproof. If you are new to riding – it’s a solid first bike. If you already have a light XC race bike and want something a bit more burly. Or you already have a big travel bike and want something more pedaling-friendly – it’s also a pretty solid second bike.