Last year Merida introduced its new bike models in the German town of Ruhpolding, and based on its great success, the program a set date in my calendar! But what awaited me was still unimaginable — the Taiwanese brand revealed some truly incredible bikes and offered programs which I did not dare to expect. And of course we were already riding the 2019 models!
The trip to Ruhpolding was probably the most comfortable journey in my entire career. Anti from TotalCar magazine offered me a ride in the yet to be introduced Audi A6 50D, which is not a car, but spaceship! We took turns to drive the 600 km distance, a phenomenal experience in itself, and we got out of the luxury car like we just popped into the nearby Tesco. Ruhpolding is a fine pearl in the southernmost part of Germany, at the foot of the Alps. The only disappointment last year was the relatively modest signed MTB trails, which I thought it would be no hindrance, since mostly the new 2019 CX bikes will be shown at the camp, and these can be used on any trails and routes…
On our arrival, we learned that not only the new cyclocross bike, but the 2019 Merida One-Twenty is also available for riding and testing. Having occupied our rooms, we quickly grabbed two of these carbon full suspension bikes, which has clearly undergone some major changes. It wasn’t shown at Eurobike, so it was not included in our article about this year’s bike show. Merida is neglecting this declining bike exhibition, and prefers to arrange two press launches: one for the journalists and one for its dealers. They clearly weren’t attempting to save costs as they rented the complete culture center in the town, in addition to setting up the brutally large Merida tent. This allowed the organizers to show all the available products — virtually the full 2019 bike range. There is surely a need for such a large-scale display, as shop owners have a chance to see and touch all the bikes, and more accurately pinpoint the pre-orders.
Of course, the journalists were more interested in the two new offerings. The One-Twenty was first introduced in 2009, naturally with 26″ wheels. It was more or less a MTB XC/Marathon machine, rather than an all-out trail bike. The One-Twenty was an instant hit, so in 2010 its carbon frame sibling was introduced, weighing in at under 11 kg – albeit with top of the range components. Unfortunately manufacturers have completely gave up on the weight-weenie concept, so this newest reiteration of the One-Twenty I tested was over 13 kg… There will a detailed review of the bike, but I can let you know that I finally let go of the above-mentioned weight-question, the new bike was such a blast to ride! And finally the braking is independent of the suspension!
The other bike to try was the Mission CX, which is a sporty gravel bike and a bona fide cyclocross racer in one package. I rode both the carbon and aluminum designs, and just like the Silex, you get two separate bikes under one model name. The two variants have very few things in common apart from the geometry, but couldn’t be more different in ride experience. Fortunately, even the carbon frame does not break your back with its rigidity — it flies like a bird. It would now be hard for me to return to a traditional road bike, especially on the local roads back home. Of course, a detailed review will follow along with the story of the bike’s development.
In a press camp there is always some “job” that — you like or not – needs to be done. Here at the Merida event, it was the testing of the new 2019 bike models. Of course, I didn’t have to have a gun pointed at my head, and fortunately getting on the new Time Warp time trial bike was not a mandatory requirement. Not many of these specialty bikes will be sold in Hungary anyway, and I’m clearly not the triathlete or a time trial road racer. On the other hand, I told the organizers about the great time I had last year, so we planned a fun eMTB ride with José Hermida and the eOne-Sixty enduro. This model will not be a novelty, but a fun machine anyway we look at it. Unfortunately, José did not come with us this year, but two riders from the Far East have, and both of them strangely ran Trail Mode from the start. Due to the extreme high power consumption, the tour guide had to shorten the excellent enduro ride. The bikes were completely discharged…
Fortunately, our request to ride one of the more challenging trail got a positive reception, so we had a next to impossible technical descent from a mountain, then we drifted to Antival on the trail, while the others landed on the service road. As the guide saw that we could manage ourselves on such a trail with an enduro bike, he offered us to join three Ukrainian journalist to ride a really rough downhill course after lunch.
And what does a journalist do — who have mostly sat in front of a computer for much of the year — when he is exhausted after a couple of challenging rides in the Alps? Well, he volunteers for an afternoon fun ride on the “basic” One-sixty. This “minor” program turned out to be a 3-hour enduro outing, and by the end I was as tired when I completed the World Games Marathon long distance course with 3800 meters of elevation. But it was truly worth every minute of the effort! Merida did the unthinkable: they organized to take us with a chair lift to where bicycle are not allowed, and then we went down on a path where the forest ranger shoots first, and then fines you 500 euros for trespassing! Of course, we had to sign a paper stating that we’re riding solely at our responsibility…
From the 1600m peak of the Rauschberg there was a descent that I would rank as one of the Top5, I’ve ever ridden, though I’ve been in quite a few excellent MTB locations! The trail consisted of a very rocky, rooted and less than half a meter wide path, where the turns could only be made with the front wheel stopped, hopping the rear around in either direction. There was no margin for error. My biggest surprise was that the guide let us ride in front — maybe because the trail exceeded his ability or our Shimano non-series four piston brakes faded so much that we could not ride slowly enough to be safe? It was surely a one-time, unrepeatable experience, I hope Anti’s video footage of it will soon be ready, so I can share it with you!
In the evening one glass of beer was enough to make me happy :) As I mentioned, the Merida Press Camp was a “job”, not some vacation! Some people test cars, others review hotels, and we “do” the bikes. Of course, when you are still optimizing and organizing photos at midnight, it’s less enviable, but that’s the way it is. In any case, Merida really provided an unforgettable experience, and not only in concerning the new bikes, but also in organizing this excellent event. It’s nice to know that the bike shop people also got the same treatment, so when you walk into their store, they will be able to relate their experience with the new Merida bikes!