MERIDA ONE-SIXTY 8000 Review

As I embarked on a five-hour ride along Wellington’s rugged ridges aboard the Merida’s latest long-travel trail bike, a thought emerged: why limit your ride to a narrow definition of what a bike should be?

While some bikes make headlines with their outrageous angles (which can induce a sense of slumber on trails less challenging than a Grade 5), the Merida One-Sixty 8000 doesn’t rely on such extreme gimmicks. Instead, it thrives on the power of refinement, cultivating a lively and versatile machine that’s capable of delivering speed and agility on any trail, at any pace.

Getting into the numbers, the One-Sixty 8000 pairs a 64-degree head tube with a steep 79-degree effective seat tube – so far, so standard. There are some outliers, though: the chainstays grow with the larger sizes, but only from a short 334mm to a not-much-longer 337.5mm, and the reach for the size large or “LONG” is a lanky 498mm, growing and shrinking by about 27mm up and down the size range.

The Merida One-Sixty rolls on 29-inch wheels front and rear in the larger frames, and mixed wheels in the XSHORT to MID sizes. However, an easy-to-use flip chip lets you switch wheel sizes while preserving the geometry.

Possibly the most interesting feature of the frame is its flex stays. While these are now fairly common on short-travel and cross-country bikes, it’s rare to find flex stays on longer-travel bikes. The flex is designed to occur along the slender seat stays, which, along with the chainstay-mounted brake, hints that the rear end will feel more like a linkage-driven single pivot than a Horst Link system.

Arguably my favourite aspect of the Merida One-Sixty 8000 is the groupset. Merida has done an amazing job of putting together a bike that you can roll straight off the shop floor and onto the gnarliest trails.

The One-Sixty 8000’s 162mm rear and 170mm front travel are handled by a RockShox Super Deluxe Ultimate air shock and RockShox Zeb Ultimate fork respectively. It’s not often you see a bike that’s not top-of-the-range sporting top-shelf suspension.

Other parts of note are the combination of the Sram GX Eagle AXS drivetrain and Shimano XT four-pot brakes with 203mm Ice-Tech rotors, a Race Face Vault wheelset, Maxxis Assegai front tyre in sticky MaxxGrip and Double Down, and a DHRII Double Down, MaxxTerra out back.

The Merida-branded Team TR seatpost also deserves a mention for its long 230mm drop, which is also externally adjustable down to 30mm. The One-Sixty also comes with a Fidlock bottle and a multi-tool hidden under the saddle.

Climbing

The One-Sixty 8000’s climbing capabilities left me in awe. Despite the substantial travel on tap, it ascends with confidence and precision. The 79-degree seat tube angle places you in a strong climbing position that never leaves you feeling bogged down. Any power you put down feels like it goes straight into driving you forward, with little interference from the suspension. It’s a bike that doesn’t falter when the trail gets steep, instilling a sense of confidence that I’ve found hard to match on other bikes in this category.

I did have problems with the Merida-branded seatpost becoming sticky and the wiper seal trying to walk itself out of its seat. A clean and a little lubricant had it running smoothly again.

Descending

The One-Sixty 8000 may not feel as “chargeable” on chunky, messy descents, but it more than compensates with its exceptional performance through corners and flatter, open sections of the trail.

It maintains speed with ease, and its rapid acceleration out of corners is a breath of fresh air. If your fitness isn’t quite up to scratch, the Merida makes it easy to hold and generate speed… phew! I think of it like this: it’s not about brute force, it’s about finesse and precision.

The impressive cornering can be attributed to the flex stays. I’ve had the opportunity to ride several bikes with flex stays, and they all share a lively and agile demeanour. It’s worth noting that those other models had less travel than the Merida, so it’s interesting that the flex-stay feel is preserved on a bigger bike.

"The concept of 'chargeability' takes on a new meaning with the Merida One-Sixty. It excels when the corners get tight and trail speed fluctuates, showcasing its snappy acceleration and proving that precision and skill can outshine brute force."
Boston Bright

Conclusion

The Merida One-Sixty 8000 takes the best bits of proven geometry from the past decade to produce a consistent, confident, and most of all fun bike on almost all terrain.
Merida should be congratulated for delivering a bike with components riders actually want, from the tyres, to the mixed groupset, and long dropper post. At $9990, it punches well above its price-point and gives nothing away in terms of quality.

The concept of “chargeability” takes on a new meaning with the Merida One-Sixty. It excels when the corners get tight and trail speed fluctuates, showcasing its snappy acceleration and proving that precision and skill can outshine brute force.

The One-Sixty 8000’s lively and pedal-friendly character would suit someone who prefers the energetic feel of shorter-travel bikes, but wants something that can handle enduro races, weekend riding trips where heavy terrain is on the menu, or just wants one bike that can do it all with minimal compromise.

For more info – check out the Merida NZ website