We dropped in one of the modern legends of mountain biking over the weekend to get a closer look at Norwegian Gunn-Rita Dahle Flesjå’s Merida Big.Nine carbon hardtail. Having won an Olympic Gold back in Athens, ten World Championships between XC & marathon, as well as a number of European & Norwegian titles and more World Cup series & individual wins than we can keep track of, there really isn’t anyone who can match her mountain biking palmarès. After getting sidelined following a crash at last year’s XC World Championships in Nové Město, she decided she needed to race one more full XCO World Cup season, then a season of marathon before she retired. Kicking it off on that same course, she is back with her own Team Merida Gunn-Rita riding a bike custom painted in what she calls Old Rose Pink, with a design inspired by the tire that she has ridden to many mountain bike wins over the years. get a close up look at her bike, her new trick for 2017, and its actual weight after the break…
Now that she is a team on her own, Gunn-Rita dictated what she wanted her bike and kit to look like. After years of racing in World & Norwegian champ kits and Merida’s green & black, she wanted something a bit more feminine. She picked a pale pink/purple hue she calls Old Rose Pink that makes her think of passion and is just a feel-good color. When we asked to hang her bike on a scale, she chimed back that it didn’t matter how much it weighed but that it was pretty, right?
For sure you’ve got to have a bike that you love to ride. The carbon Merida Big.Nine is a bike that Gunn-Rita has spent a lot of time on, having worked with the Multivan Merida team to develop the newest of Merida’s carbon hardtails introduced last spring. The Boost-spaced, 1x specific frame is claimed to weigh just 900g in this Team edition.
On top of the feel-good color, the bike and her accompanying race kit get design inspiration directly taken from the tires she has ridden on many of her wins over the years, all painted up by the folks at FatCreations in the UK. The Maxxis Ikon tread pattern comes from one of her favorite tires, and reminds her of the path she has come and what lies ahead. There’s no overlooking the reference to being an icon either. Gunn-Rita is for sure an icon in the sport, and also sees an important role & responsibility for herself in inspiring and educating a next generation of riders, especially young women coming to mountain biking.
Probably the newest addition to Gunn-Rita’s bike is the KS-Lev CI dropper seatpost. On an XC bike that is otherwise mostly focused on a lightweight build, the extra weight of a dropper seems a bit out of place at first. But how she explained it made sense. Gunn-Rita trains at home with her husband & coach Kenneth, and on the home technical descents where she could always keep up with him while he was riding a full-suspension bike, well he started riding with a dropper and she just couldn’t hang when it got tough. So, she put a KS dropper post on her hardtail, caught back up, and doesn’t want to get rid of it now. We’re certainly seeing more droppers on World Cup level bikes.
One way to offset the weight of a dropper post is this choice of saddle. At a claimed 97g for the ‘padded’ suede Tune Speedneedle saddle, it doesn’t get much lighter.
Gunn-Rita sticks with light, but sensible cockpit kit from Merida’s own brand, and trains and races with a Garmin Edge 520 on the simple stock rubber band mount. Her drivetrain is a top-level SRAM XX1 Eagle with a 32T chainring, and stopping is handled by Level Ultimate brakes – all with gold accents. That RockShox button manages the lockout on her SID World Cup fork, while the KS remote is mounted on top of the ride side of her bar.
Of course her tires are Maxxis Ikons. Surely there are some occasions when she will race other treads, but for now the tires match her frame & team kit detailing.
The tires that Gunn-Rita was racing the World Cup were not labeled as the newly revealed 170tpi pro-only Maxxis tires. But that 490g note on the sidewall suggests that they might be. The lightest tubeless-ready triple compound 29 x 2.2″ Ikon that Maxxis advertises is claimed at 580g, so maybe these aren’t really the standard 120tpi that you or I can buy.
Overall weight on the bike ready to race with XTR pedals and a carbon bottle cage was 8.65kg (19.07lb), which is pretty much what Merida claims for their complete Big.Nine Team bike without pedals.
As for the pinkish/purplish frame, it isn’t available yet through Merida. But Gunn-Rita says that she’ll see what she can do about that.