2012 Merida One-Twenty XT-D 26″ review

The Merida One-Twenty XT official press photo
The Merida One-Twenty XT official press photo

We had an opportunity to go out and take Merida‘s latest aluminum full suspension mountain bike One-Twenty XT-D out for a four hour muddy and snowy ride and naturally we had to write a review on the topic as well. While there’s been quite a bit of discussion on the new Ninety-Nine carbon range, the non-carbon little brother got renewed as well. The biggest surprise about the new fully is its coloring, being nothing related to the usual green and black and dashing color, but a subtle white with very little bling to scream everyone the brand.

Parts-wise the Merida packs pretty much the same what most similar full suspension bikes do. It shares a lot of similarities with the Canyon Nerve XC 9.0 we reviewed earlier and the parts are basically identical in their quality and function (as is with Shimano XT and SRAM X0). They are even priced pretty much the same, so naturally we’ll have to do a more in-depth comparison of these two bikes in a later article. Merida was kind enough to promise us an another go with the fully for that event.

But to the bike. It’s called the XT-D, because it has Shimano’s XT series group set handling the power transfer in the bike and it’s never a bad choice for most people. The scale stops at 13.4 kilograms (29.5 lbs) putting this fully in the average sector and a quite a normal weight for a bike of its type. The manufacturer has never been known for it’s ultralight bikes, but they have managed to slim down the frame down to 2500 grams (without the shock), making it lighter than the previous year’s carbon version, which is quite a feat. Usually Merida is also known for the quality of their bikes, but unfortunately we had to go through a broken valve in the front tire causing our ride to start late. As one could expect we had a spare ready and off we went to winter wonderland.

The weather promised snow and mud. That promise was kept.

The bike comes equipped with a 120mm FOX Float RP2 rear shock in the frame and the fork is a 120mm FOX 32 Float RL shock keeping the going steady. No surprises there, both are quite common workhorses and can be found often pre-installed in bikes like this. The frame is hydroformed aluminum and they say that their new kinematic (their word) design principles are actually designed around the shock, not the other way around. This new way of designing the frame makes the suspension feel bigger than it is and it was very comfortable for even a guy my size.

As usual, the frame felt very sturdy and and although the suspension wasn’t optimized for me, it wasn’t wobbly or feel wrong. The combo swallowed the single tracks, roots and  rocks quite well, but compared to the other bikes in our testing regiment were better than the One-Twenty in control over mushy and wet surfaces. The cockpit felt very alive a few times going from mud to snow slush, especially compared to the 29ers. Feels like this bike is designed for a proper cross-country marathon with its comfy seat and rigid frame.

FRAME One-Twenty Pro-D-Single BC A-Link
FORK FOX 32Float RL 120 taper
BB attached
B-LEVER attached
BRAKES Shimano M596 180
CHAINWHEEL Shimano XT 42-32-24
DERA-F Shimano XT
DERA-R Shimano XT-10
FREEWHEEL Shimano CS-HG62-10 11-36
H/SET BC Pro Neck
HUB-F Shimano M435 cen
HUB-R Shimano M435 cen
PEDAL Shimano M520
SADDLE Prologo Phorma Male
POST MERIDA Pro 2 SB15 31.6
SHIFTERS Shimano SL-M780 3
SPOKES Black Stainless
TYRES Schwalbe Racing Ralph 2.25 Performance fold
SIZES 16-18-20-22
Maarten volunteered to be our mechanic to get us going

The main issue with the bike for me was its lack of personality. The Merida Big Nine Carbon 29er we tried was fun and made me happy, but the One Twenty left me lacking for some reason. I like the way it looks, the parts are all right, the weight is acceptable, but for some reason it just didn’t click. Maybe if we would’ve been able to do some proper single tracks on a dry day to really wake the bike up, making sure that the configurations are all optimized for me as a rider. Maybe it was the 29er that left me wanting for more. Maybe I’m just waiting for Merida to make some competition to the 29er carbon full suspension bikes out there like the Santa Cruz Tallboy Carbon 29er or the Specialized Epic Expert Carbon 29er, and that they would be priced for normal people.

Our verdict: ★★★☆☆

The new One-Twenty leaves us lacking, but since you can get one for under 2000 euros, it’s not a poor purchase for a full suspension bike. We’d still go for a 29er first.

Maarten will be making a more in-depth review about the One-Twenty in the weeks to come.

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By Markus Sandelin

Markus is a bike commuter gadget freak who is learning the ropes of the bike world, you can find him all around the web - but you can start with his twitter at @banton.