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Bike test – Merida 904

RC

Merida make bikes for many top brands. But they also make bikes for their own budding consumer business. They have had considerable success of late with their Mountain bikes, and Gunn Rita Dahle rode one to Olympic and World Championships this year. In the UK their marathon events have proved popular and several of the mountain bikes have received favourable reviews in the mountain bike press. Like this one here at www.bikemagic.com

Semi-compact designs make more sense than the original Giant TCR compact idea which meant you had to dial your fit by choosing the right length seatpost. It does mean that the manufacturers can offer three sizes and this makes them far easier to stock and production at the factory can be intensive. The Merida comes in four sizes and they are far more adaptable than Giant’s old scheme (Giant have also softened their geometry for ’05). However when you consider a Colnago can be made in 12 sizes and a custom frame builder’s sizing chart can be endless you will always have to compromise your ultimate position on the 904. As it happens this size was a pretty good fit for me.

Tubing is Pro Lite 66 heat treated aluminium with a Shotgun Down tube (it has a double radius on the underside). This down tube is a stable lump opf guttering to attach the reast of the tubes to. It certainly add rigidity to the front triangle which you really notice when you stamp on the pedals – this bike is certainly solid. The bike is nicely welded together and the features including neat gear cable adjusters and dropouts wouldn’t look out of place on a frame twice this price.

Whilst I’m not mad about the colour the finish on the frame it is a highly durable one, the decals are painted rather than stuck on so they have a permanent feel, it’s called ‘Duraskin’ and it looks like it could absorb a lot of abuse. Pity they couldn’t be a bit more imaginative with the colour scheme to match the excellent finish.

Front end
The carbon fork is sleek and fits the headtube snugly. The integrated design woks well with fat tubed bikes and this is certainly a tough looking front end. The flex in the bars was actually quite welcome for once, as it did prevent the bike from giving you a good jack hammering on rough surfaces. On smooth roads and when sprinting fast the bike went exactly where you pointed it – so it will be well at home in a bunch sprint for the line. But then I think I’d want to change the handlebars for ones that didn’t flex quite as much…

Out on the road
Once the teething problems (the sticky Aheadset and nasty cables) were ironed out the 904 was a well behaved and likeable bike. It’s compact frame and long cockpit give a crit-bike appeal and the low bottom bracket and carbon front end make cornering at speed reliable and relaxed. Straight line comfort is compromised by super fat chainstays – it needs a long seatpost to counter the battering transmitted by the back wheel

Wheels
Although the wheel components are budget, the overall feel to the wheels is good. The Alex rims are double eyeletted and resemble DT’s excellent RR1.1 rims. The black DT spokes and 105 hubs add to the black theme and it’s nice to see a bike with a complete groupset for once, rather than a mix and match one to save money. The aggressive ride was eased away a little by the wheels and compared to the budget wheelsets we have been testing recently with deep section rims, these wheels were a dream to ride. Maxxis tyres are very similar in ride and grip to Michelin’s benchmark Pro Race, wear wise they seem to shape up well too.

Components
The integrated headset needed a fair amount of fettling to get it to a smooth action
Shimano 105 is an excellent groupset and finished in gloss black gives it a certain Campagnolo Record feeling to the finish of the bike. With a complete 105 gruppo the 904 had no problems in specification.

However, the gear and brake cables weren’t Shimano and they did need some cropping to sort them out and get them working as you’d want. Surely a few pounds extra would be well spent on Shimano compatible cables?

Contact points
Merida’s IKE branded components are as good as any other at this price point, the handlebar stem is lightweight and forged with a Oval/Ritchey look to it. Ergo bend bars are a personal choice (not mine) but the IKE ones are comfortable on the tops and quite wide, which made a pleasant change. The IKE saddle was replaced with a Turbomatic, but it was comfortable enough.

Conclusion
There is absolutely nothing wrong with this bike. If offers good value it will be a perfect partner for anyone starting out road racing. It’s lightweight (for it’s class) and the combination of parts add up to a tidy bike that will compete well with similar specced offerings from other manufacturers. The ride is a little aggressive for my liking but this will suit the racer-boys out there, but then why would you want a triple groupset?
The frame is the same down the range (of three) and so the £500 version may offer slightly better value as an introduction to road riding than this particular bike. Merida have established their MTB credentials and this bike will do them no harm in the road bike market. Overall it’s a fairly good buy.





Good:
Lightweight and responsive for it’s class, good groupset and value



Bad:
The very direct feeling made for an aggressive ride, shoddy cables.

Performance:

3/5

Value:
4/5

Overall:
4/5

Specification
Frame sizes: S(48cm) M(50cm) L(52.5cm) XL (55cm) [c/t]
Size tested: M (54 cm top tube)
Frame tubing: Road Lite
Fork: IKE Carbon Lite
Headset: ZS integrated sealed
Crankarms: Shimano 105 triple 170 mm
Chainrings: Shimano 105 triple 53/42/30T
B/B: Shimano 105
Pedals: none supplied
Chain: Shimano 105
Freewheel: HG50 12-25
F/D: Shimano 105 triple

R/D: Shimano 105 triple
Shifters: Shimano 105 9 speed
Handlebar: IKE 42cm
Stem: IKE 11cm
Tape: black cork
Brakes: Shimano 105
Wheels: Shimano 105 triple on Alex 32h with DT spokes
Tires: Maxxis, Xenith 700x23c
Saddle: IKE comp
Seatpost: IKE pro
Colour: Red and Black

Weight: 19.85lbs/9.0 kgs less pedals
Price: £899.99

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