As we speculated two years ago, twenty-niners are here to stay and we are glad that they are. We had the opportunity to test ride some new Merida bikes coming to the market this year, one of them was the best non-team model 29″ Big Nine Carbon 3000-D from the 2012 range and four hours in the woods riding on it, we can give a pretty good estimate on how it feels.
First up, the solid ride on a 29″ mountain bike is superior to any 26″ bike. We had to face a lot of snow, slush and mud and there the big wheeler really shows its potential to plough through the hard terrain. The center of gravity is really low so the ride is very stable, even though the bike only weighs 10.4 kilograms (just under 23 lbs). The carbon monocoque frame weighs around 1100 grams and it is very comfortable and nicely stiff in the right places.
The new carbon ‘niner is the first carbon 29″ bike Merida has produced and they made their custom frame basing their designs on the smaller O.Nine 26″ hard tail series. Comparing to the only 29″ available from Merida last year they up the ante with seven different models, an entry level Big Nine TFS range, followed by the aluminum Big Nine Lite series which shares almost everything with its carbon sister we tested. The range is topped off by the 9.4 kg SRAM XX touting Big Nine Carbon Team-D.
The value for money has increased as well with the new models. What you got last year if you got the Twenty-Nine Lite 1000 D (which we reviewed here) was 12.35 kg with Shimano SLX components and this year you get a carbon frame and Shimano XT parts for about a grand extra. Luckily the resale market for twenty-niners is still really good, so getting rid of that first tier 29″ bike won’t be a problem. You could also go for the new Big Nine Lite, but it’s actually a half kilo heavier than the original 1000-D.
The build is the usual Merida quality, everything moves and shifts as it should, no surprises or weird things are to be expected and the wear and tear parts are designed to last.
I think that if your budget can handle it, the Big Nine Carbon could be a great commuter and a forest runner due to its light weight, great stability and awesome looks. The amount of young kids ogling at the bike is just ludicrous. So, what you get for your money? Let’s see:
|FRAME||Big Nine carbon Pro|
|FORK||FOX F32Fit 29er RLC 100 taper 15|
|BRAKES||Shimano XT-Fin 180, 160|
|CHAINWHEEL||Shimano XT 38-26|
|DERA-F||Shimano XT direct|
|FREEWHEEL||Shimano CS-HG81-10 11-36|
|H/BAR||FSA Afterburner flat 670|
|STEM||FSA SLK -6|
|RIM||Fulcrum Red Power 29XL F15-R12|
|SADDLE||Selle Italia SL XC M|
|SEAT CLAMP||Carbon 32 Allen|
|POST||PRC Double carbon superlite 27.2|
|SHIFTERS||Shimano SL-M780 2|
|TYRES||Schwalbe Racing Ralph Evo 29 2.25 fold|
|TOTAL WEIGHT (KG)||10.4|
While the Fulcrum Red Power 29XL wheel set does the job, the whole bike would benefit more of its big brother series Red Metal 29XL, which are not only 200 grams lighter, but much stiffer and a nicer ride. Of course, we understand the need to keep the bike’s price down as much as possible, but the wheel set usually turns out to be the most important part since it’s saving weight on rolling mass that counts.
With a little bit of work and part changing, you can easily have a sub-10 kg 29″ hard tail, which is pretty high on the “awesome bikes to own” list. Prices should be around €3000 euro ($4000 AUD and $4200 USD), so it’s not the cheapest bike you can own, but a solid contender none the less.
The price is could be lower and the wheel set could be a bit better for the current price. Yet the frame is excellent and the parts chosen with good balance. We add this to the want list.