Merida has a vast array of bikes and the range has included the Cyclo-Cross for a fair while now. However, despite the name, that bike has been geared towards riders who want a robust, wide-tyred bike for commuting or all-round riding, while still offering the potential for pinning on a number at the weekend.

The latest addition to the Merida range, the Mission CX, flips that on its head, entering the fray as a more focussed race machine, while still offering some of the versatility required by all but the most dedicated cyclo-cross riders.

That much was evident from the posters adorning the walls of the Bavarian town hall where Merida launched the bike, hailing the Mission CX as a machine for 'racing, training and commuting'. If the message is mixed, let's be clear: this is a race bike, but if you want your cyclo-cross machine to offer something beyond an hour of full-gas racing, the Mission CX can handle it.

We joined Merida in Ruhpolding, Germany, for the unveiling of the Mission CX and took the opportunity to put the German-Taiwanese brand’s new cyclo-cross machine through its paces on the forest tracks and trails that criss-cross this beautiful area on the northern edge of the Alps. Check out our first look video above for a flavour.

Merida Mission CX cyclo-cross bike

Merida Mission CX UK range and pricing

Merida Mission CX 8000-E
Shimano Ultegra Di2
£3,600 

Merida Mission CX 7000
Shimano Ultegra
£2,800 

Merida Mission CX 5000
SRAM Apex 1
£2,600 

Merida Mission CX 600
SRAM Apex 1
£1,700 

Merida Mission CX 400
Shimano 105
£1,350

Cyclo-cross race bike with hidden versatility

But before we get onto the nuances of the Mission CX's ride, let's quickly run over the key features. First up, this is a completely new platform for Merida, and the frame is available in carbon fibre and aluminium, with claimed weights of 805g and 1,662g respectively. Both frames share the same 402g carbon fibre fork. 

The Mission CX is a disc-specific platform - that’s pretty much all we see in cyclo-cross races these days - and the frame adopts the latest standards, with flat-mount calipers and 12mm thru-axles, both updates over Merida’s previous Cyclo-Cross machine.

The alloy range includes two bikes: the Mission CX 400 with a Shimano 105 groupset (£1,350) and the Mission CX 600 with a SRAM Apex 1 setup (£1,700). The carbon line-up then kicks off with the Mission CX 5000, also with a single-chainring SRAM Apex 1 groupset (£2,600), before rising to the Mission CX 7000 with mechanical Shimano Ultegra (£2,800) and topping out with Mission CX 8000-E with a Shimano Ultegra Di2 drivetrain and Vision SC 40DB carbon wheels (£3,600).

Merida Mission CX cyclo-cross bike

The Mission CX has a new geometry - described as ‘sporty and race-focused’ - and while it's not a radical update to the layout of the existing Cyclo-Cross bike, the subtle changes all aim to make this a more capable machine on technical terrain. You’ll find a longer reach and lower stack, along with slightly slacker tube angles. The aluminium and carbon fibre frames share almost the same geometry, apart from 4mm longer chainstays (427mm) on the alloy bike.

"As far as versatility is concerned, the Mission CX has clearance for up to 38mm tyres, and you'll also find mudguard mounts at the front and rear" 

As far as versatility is concerned, the Mission CX has clearance for up to 38mm tyres. While that’s certainly not as wide as the Merida Silex gravel bike - launched last year and effectively superseding the Cyclo-Cross as Merida’s do-it-all machine - you do have a bit of wriggle room if you want to go for an off-road adventure. You’ll also find mudguard mounts at the front and rear. On the carbon bike, there’s a removable seatstay bridge to accommodate those ‘guards.

Merida Mission CX cyclo-cross bike

Super-sharp handling for performance-minded riders

So how does the Mission CX ride? First up, it’s immediately apparent that Merida has re-positioned its primary cyclo-cross bike at the performance end of the spectrum. The launch of the Silex last year as Merida’s most versatile bike to date left room for a sportier cyclo-cross bike and the Mission CX fills that gap.

Merida Mission CX cyclo-cross bike

It takes some getting used to, though. I’ll hold my hands up and admit I wasn’t immediately enamored with the Mission CX. The first bike I chose from Merida’s huge test fleet in Ruhpolding had a relentlessly slipping seatpost that wouldn’t hold fast no matter how tight the bolt was cranked - riding a CX race bike with my knees around my ears is no fun - and ever-present disc brake rub. Combined with the super-lively handling that initially felt a little twitchy, it wasn’t a machine I immediately felt at home on.

Merida set out a series of road, gravel and mountain bike routes for the assembled journalists and dealers, so after one 10km loop I swapped the bike for another from the fleet, resolved any setup issues, and set out for another three laps before adding in a couple of short but steep road climbs.

Merida Mission CX cyclo-cross bike

The Mission CX’s handling is extremely fast but, once I became accustomed to the bike’s handling, that initial nervousness was replaced by a sense of agility and accuracy. It’s an exciting bike to ride - quick to generate and maintain speed, while also requiring some consideration from the rider about line choice. Those decisions are rewarded by a nimble machine that can handle tight corners with a flick of the handlebars, bunny hop roots and rocks in an instant, and climb with vigour.

"It’s an exciting bike to ride - quick to generate and maintain speed, while also requiring some consideration from the rider about line choice"

I’ve spent a fair amount of time on Merida’s Silex gravel bike recently, having reviewed it on RCUK, and while the Silex and Mission CX may both be drop-bar, knobbly-tyred bikes, they are very different beasts. If ever you wanted a rideable demonstration of the difference between a racy cyclo-cross bike and a relaxed gravel bike, look to Merida’s range. Where you can point the Silex at almost anything and it will roll on with little fuss, thanks to its confidence-inspiring handling and mountain bike-inspired geometry, the Mission CX fully engages the rider and asks to be ridden fast. On the flip side, the Silex’s handling lacks a little engagement, while the Mission CX may well be too hot to handle for less performance-minded riders.

Merida Mission CX cyclo-cross bike

Ultimately, in launching this latest cyclo-cross bike, Merida is catering to both types of rider, but what I’d like to see next from the firm’s R&D department is a machine with the true gravel-worthy tyre clearance of the Silex and a healthy dose of the Mission’s all-out speed. Speaking of which, the carbon fibre Mission CX is among the lightest cyclo-cross frames out there at just 805g and, combined with the stiff chassis, ensures the bike isn’t found wanting when attacking road climbs or hitting steep sections of dirt.

While the frame has some versatility built in, whether you want to run tyres wider than the 33mm allowed in UCI-sanctioned cyclo-cross races or add mudguards, the Mission CX remains a race bike at heart. That works in its favour, though, if you value bikes with a fast and agile edge over more sedate cruisers. On some bikes, versatility means a relaxed geometry or concessions as far as performance is concerned, whereas the Mission CX still gives those riders who want a racier geometry the option to hit the ‘cross season hard, mix up their winter riding or run a race-inspired commuter rig.

Website: Merida Bikes