Tuesday, 21 June 2011

1st Guest Blog - Review of Merida's Twenty-Nine Lite XT Edition 2011 RRP £1499

by Guest Blogger, Jason Shaw

Last week I was unfortunate enough to take my beloved steed – a Specialized Stumpjumper Expert EVO 2011 Custom Build – from the garage to find that my bottom bracket bearing had completely seized on the non-drive side, a symptom of the horrific weather conditions that myself, Geoff and two other clarionistas had endured at the 2011 Torq Rough Ride a couple of days before.
A trip to my local cycle mechanic, Nick Moores at Sixty-Nine Cycles in Chester confirmed that there would be no quick fix and that I'd be waiting for a new pressfit BB30 to be shipped and fitted. However,  fortunately for me, Nick had just got a brand new 29er in as a demo bike which he offered me for the ride I'd got planned the following morning - excellent service!

When looking at the specification of the Merida, I began to realise how good the kit is for the money. A full Shimano XT drivetrain which is the standard that I personally aim for when purchasing a bike. It has a Rockshox Recon fork  which is a great performer, it's a solo-air spring which is apparently not as good as the dual-air system on the Revelations on my Specialized, but I honestly wouldn't notice the difference. The brakes are Shimano stock items that do their job consistently brilliantly like most of Shimano's products, and the finishing kit is mainly FSA which looks good and functions well.

I thought that twenty-seven miles of bridleways, climbs, descents, singletrack and fireroads in the Clwydian range ought to put this bike through it's paces. So, after a little tinkering to get the bike set up to my liking, I set off with my ride buddy, Dave for our start point in Cilcain.
The first thing you notice about a 29er is the extra momentum that the big wheels give you, this is fantastic for keeping an effortlessly steady speed on the flatter bits of a ride, with the only price being the extra effort needed to get them turning to start with, this really is negligible though.

We got out of the car park and headed up the first road climb towards Moel Famau where I was astonished to look behind me and see Dave (who usually keeps up with my climbing pace) flagging! Was this Rough Ride paying off? Surely not! He's a Physio and all out fitness freak who works as a personal trainer for Pro Balance. It soon became clear on every single climb that this bike was a veritable mountain goat and a Dave beater! It really did climb like no bike I've ever ridden. Somewhere between the drivetrain and the larger wheel diameter the bike gives a feeling of being slightly higher geared than my 26er, which coupled with the extra momentum from the huge wheels made it rocket up ascents of anything up to around 30-40%. It was only on the very steepest, yet usually rideable climbs that my legs began to struggle. I noticed that I really had to work my legs up some of the climbs that my 26er breezes up without burning out my bottom half. This however, translates to a pleasant surprise when pointing the wheels down a hill. The higher feeling top gear gives you plenty more power when you want to add a dab more at 45mph+.

Another pleasant attribute of the big wheels is the fact that they roll over things more easily than a 26er. I've heard others report that it's like having 100mm of rear suspension. I think that that's overstating it somewhat, but with a slightly larger ground contact patch underneath each tyre it gives a very secure feeling of grip.

We arrived at the very top of Moel Famau and after briefly admiring the views pointed the bikes downhill towards Gelifor. I've not ridden a hardtail in anger since mine was stolen six months ago, and it was suddenly clear that my only bike of choice since the theft had produced a slightly lazy riding technique in me having let 146mm of rear suspension take a lot of the skill out of riding the descents recently.

The Moel Famau to Gelifor track is a particularly long grassy descent, one where I was left in Dave's dust! It is also one where my wrists usually feel battle fatigued half way down partly due to previous injuries. This time I had to have a short rest at the midpoint! This has happened once before, and this time for the same reason, that is that the handlebar grips are just too small for my (freakishly) large hands. This is the only change that I'd make to this bike out of the box.
The ride continued, and for the entire duration I would leave Dave standing on the climbs and have to sit around waiting for him at the top. Then he'd be increasing the distance between us on the descents and have to pause at the bottom for me.

To sum up, I reckon that this is the ultimate XC machine. If Dave and I had been in a race situation rather than on a sociable ride, I've no doubt that this bike would have propelled me over the finishing line a good deal sooner than his would have done for him. While it is worth noting that Dave was riding a Giant trail bike with five inches of rear suspension, we are usually very well matched in our fitness, pace and stamina. Which brings me to the conclusion that the Merida Twenty-Nine Lite XT was what gave me such a hidden advantage.

Buy this if like me, you're a committed ascender and you ride mainly XC. But if you're more of a Downhill and Dirtjumping fan I'd look at smaller wheeled models.

Cheers Nick! Fantastic bike! Just need to start saving now.....

Spec List

17-19-21-23" (Tested 19”)
29" Lite-D-Single
Rock Shox Recon Silver 29" 100 poplock
Derailleur F & R
Shimano Deore XT
Shimano XT Rapidfire / Rapidfire-10
Shimano M445 180/180 mm
Shimano XT-10 42-32-24
Shimano CN-HG74-10
Shimano M435 centerlock
Merida XCD Lite
Shimano CS-HG81-10 11-36
Black stainless
Maxxis Crossmark 29 2.1 Folding
FSA XC 282L OS R18 660
FSA OS-150 6°
FSA BB-410 Neck
Seat Post
FSA SL250 SB20 27.2  (Tested with a Thomson Elite Lay Back)
Shimano M520 (Tested with Shimano XT SPD)

Jason Shaw is an active member of North Cheshire Clarion Cycling Club, he primarily rides Mountain Bikes – mainly XC and Trail Centres, but also rides his road bike when the opportunity presents itself.
Jason, as a trained chef and former restaurateur, has his own blog at http://jasonsfoodblog.wordpress.com/ where he can usually be found writing about all things food and drink.

Nick Moores owns and manages Sixty-Nine Cycles. Font of all cycle knowledge and all-round top bloke.
Nick can be found at: SIXTY NINE CYCLES, Unit 4, Deva House, Lightfoot Street, Hoole, Chester, CH2 3AD.
Tel: 01244 347488

1 comment:

  1. Great read even if it is all a bit alien to me!

    This guest blog malarkey seems to be all the rage - will have to find somebody to do one for me!!!