Slovenian road pro Matej Mohorič won the UCI Gravel World Championships on Sunday aboard an unreleased, but not very hidden Merida Silex gravel race bike. We caught up with him an evening after the race in Italy for an up-close look at the new Merida gravel bike. And a quick chat a bit about why he chose a proper gravel bike over some to the endurance road bikes you’d find in the gravel peloton. And what spares he carried in case he had a mechanical…
Update: The Pro Bike Check Teaser of Matej Mohorič’s Gravel World Championship-winning unreleased Merida Silex is now an official Pro Bike Check of the all-new 2024 Merida Silex carbon gravel bike. Read on for his actual race bike weight. Then, click through for the full launch story details on the new bike!
2023 Gravel World Champion Matej Mohorič’s unreleased Merida Silex
As is almost de rigeur for pro UCI gravel race winners these days, Matej Mohorič is first and foremost known as a pro road cyclist, racing for Bahrain Victorious. Over the last few years he’s won stages in all three of the Grand Tours, plus Milan-San Remo last year. But speaking to him, it seems Mohorič is very much an off-road rider at heart. And he was pretty excited for the opportunity to put his road racing chops to the test on gravel.
With that said though, the Gravel World Championships was his last planned race of the season. And he really didn’t expect to be fighting for the win. Mohorič said he went into his first Gravel Worlds just hoping to have a good day on the bike and finish near the front.
What about this new bike?
The trick here was that Merida had a new bike in the works. And he jumped at the chance to try it out.
Merida has released the full details just yet on the new bike. But the custom team paint job pretty obviously shouts that this is the replacement for their existing Silex. While that versatile gravel bike seems to have been quite successful for Merida over the past 6 years, its tall headtube looks were pretty divisive for anyone looking for a performance-focused bike.
What apparently convinced Mohorič to race this unreleased Silex vs. Merida’s fast gravel endurance all-road bike, or even the same Reacto that his ex-teammate Sonny Colbrelli rode to a muddy Paris-Roubaix win in 2021, was the long-wheelbase stability of the Silex.
What’s new on the bike looks like pretty much everything at first glance.
But apparently, even through details like subtly more aero tube shaping, an integrated seatclamp, full internal cable routing, and dropped chainstays… the character of this upcoming Silex reboot was still about versatility. Not just racing.
Apparently, this is not really a gravel race bike. Luckily nobody told Matej Mohorič that.
Pro roadie gravel bike setup
The first hint that this is a pro road racer’s setup of what might be an average Joe’s gravel bike is that incredibly long FSA stem. And that fact that the stem was slammed.
At first, I thought Mohorič subscribed to the weird ‘turn your levers in’ crowd on his 40cm wide bars.
But in reality, he just had a crash in the last few kms of the race when he was sprinting off the front for the win. And he couldn’t be bothered to try to mess with it when the brakes and shifting still worked and he had hungry racers closing in behind him.
How did Matej Mohorič customize his Gravel Worlds setup?
I had a chance to chat with Matej, and much of his bike setup came down to the last minute. And literally building up the frameset with whatever road components the team had lying around their service course at the end of the road race season. In fact, his team mechanics got this Silex prototype ready just in the last week for him. They didn’t even have time to round up a Dura-Ace powermeter crankset. So, Matej raced Gravel Worlds just based on his heartrate.
Onboard gravel flat repair kit
Interestingly though, while most road pros are used to being followed by team cars with spare bikes and capable mechanics, Matej told us how he wanted to be more self-sufficient racing gravel. Of course, if he got a flat he wouldn’t likely get super fast mechanical support anyway.
So, in his bar ends were Muc-Off’s Stealth Tubeless Puncture Plug tire repair kit. With the clear silicone protective covers still in place. And Matej was quick to show how the removable QR axle tool he carried in his pocket could pull the serrated knife or plug tool out in a moment to fix a flat. Clearly, he knew what he was doing to enact a fast fix if needed.
Under his saddle was also a small saddlebag with a few CO2 canisters, a Muc-Off inflator and a small bottle of Stan’s tubeless sealant. Matej figured if he got a flat that he had to repair quickly on the roadside, he could squeeze in some extra sealant, stab a tire plug in, and blast some air back into it before the team cars would ever make their way to him.
In the end, he had no mechanicals for the entire race thanks to smooth riding and great luck. That ultimately helped him distance the competition. But he was clearly prepared more than we’re used to seeing from pro road riders.
Compact road gearing for gravel racing
Back to the ‘run what you brung mentality and a road bike build, his Gravel World Championship-winning Silex prototype was built up with a pretty straight-forward Shimano Dura-Ace Di2 R9200 groupset with compact 50/34T gearing and an 11-34T cassette. No fancy gravel gearing required. But also plenty of speed from a road compact setup, even for elite professional racing.
A closer look at the non-driveside of the unreleased next-gen Silex reveals a good ‘ol threaded bottom bracket. And there dramatically dropped chainstays (under all the Italian gravel dust) to provide ample tire clearance and 2x chainring compatibility.
I also not unsurprisingly that Mohorič was racing gravel on road pedals. If you go fast enough, and never put your foot down, who needs walkable pedals, anyway!
There’s nothing much more pro than a ludicrously long stem, with race notes taped on top.
Matej raced with this 140mm long FSA ACR stem with all of his cables hidden inside. And his team marked out where in the race they’d be standing roadside for a bottle hand-up, plus the one feed area where he’d get a musette full of snacks, too.
Actual gravel components too!
About the only real dedicated gravel component outside of the unreleased Silex bike itself, were the tires.
Mohorič raced on a set of 40mm Continental Terra Speed tubeless tires. Presumably with Stan’s NoTubes inside, based on the spare bottle he was carrying in his saddlebag. And inside were some lightweight tire liner inserts. Mohorič didn’t know which ones they were. or even what color they were, as I tried to see if he might clue us in.
But he wanted the added security in case he flatted, since he was running the very lightweight carbon Vision Metron SL road wheels.
As a nearly last-minute build to be ready to race Gravel Worlds on the new frame, pretty much everything else on the bike except the tires is straight out of the Bahrain Victorious road service course, including these Dura-Ace brakes with 160mm rotors.
Of note, Matej raced with one of Merida’s removable QR axle levers in his pocket as it includes a 4mm/6mm Allen key for quick bolt tightening. But also a second one already installed on the rear axle to speed up a wheel change if needed. That rear one wasn’t in a very aero position either, based on the dust that accumulated during the race.
Doesn’t seem to have slowed him down much.
What’s next for Mohorič as new Gravel World Champ and with a new Silex coming soon?
The 2023 Gravel Worlds title wasn’t Matej Mohorič’s first rainbow stripes. He won Junior Road Worlds in 2012 & U23 Road Worlds in 2013. But both of those times he moved up in the ranks the season after he won those gold medals. So he never got to compete in a rainbow jersey. Now Mohorič says he won’t miss that opportunity again. And he will ride “at least 2 or 3 or 4 or maybe 12” gravel races next season to make sure he gets to show off a new rainbow kit.
And he seems pretty happy with the new bike. He even talked about what he would change with his race setup… Maybe a 2cm shorter stem. But with some negative rise to get the bars a bit lower. But that’s about it. And has already mentioned that he can’t wait until he gets one with a rainbow-themed paint job!
Coming soon… Here now!
Update: Yes, this is a new 2024 Merida Silex gravel bike
Yes, we can now officially confirm that this is the all-new carbon Merida Silex gravel bike. No, it’s not a gravel race-specific bike. It’s more of an all-rounder. In fact, it’s also a pretty solid bikepacking bike too. It’s also not crazy lightweight. Read our launch story coverage for the full details now.
With a roughly 1200g frame & 540g fork, Mohorič’s race bike weighed in at a real 9.33kg complete on our scale.
That’s with his very road-oriented build as outline above with pedals. And with spares under his saddle, tubeless tools in his bar ends, liners in his tubeless tires, and an empty bidon in his bottle cage. Still, 800g lighter than my Silex 7000 test bike with mechanical GRX and alloy wheels.
I’m sure Mohorič raced against plenty of lighter and more aero bikes at Gravel Worlds. But it seems that the bike’s stability combined with his fitness, bike handling & race tactics worked out quite well in the end!