Monday, 17 July 2017

Merida Big Trail 800 first impressions and recommended upgrades

In summary | She's big, tall and fat. A little heavy as well, but boy does she roll well.

I've ridden the bike twice now and already I already know I've made the right decision.

I've only ridden a semi-fat once before, and not for long, so didn't really know how well it'd feel or work even. I took the plunge on this bike as I wanted something a little more fun than my current bike (a Niner ROS), and boy did I make a good choice.

Maxxis 3C full quality tyres as standard

I'v;e captured a few photos and thoughts below that may help you to make a decision about whether to get this bike yourself and what you can expect when it arrives.

Where did I buy it?

I bought the large Merida Big Trail 800 from Lakes Cycles in the UK and got a 9% discount over the RRP. Bargain for the spec and quality of the bike.

I'm 5' 11" and I bought the large. There's so much stand-over clearance on the bike that a Medium would have had too short a reach and I'd have had my knees around the stem when seated. On the ride I did wonder whether an XL would have fitted as well. 

The Merida Big Trail 800 2017

My very first impressions

I didn't like the grips, but they use a 3mm allen key to stay secure

  • Meh, the black paint is OK. Would have liked the blue or the red more
  • Weighs a bit, likely around the 29lb mark I'd say
  • Tyres are big, but not super massive
  • Grips aren't all that
  • Sizing is good. Lots of stand over clearance and good reach. Saddle needs to be further back
  • Bars are nice and the stem is mega short
  • Had to remove the reflectors in the wheels and the massive wheel protector behind the cassette
  • Fork width looks much larger than a regular fork
  • Brakes are basic and I wonder how well they'll work and last
  • The dropper is really nice and I love the actuator on the bar
  • LOVE the soft entry and exit cable points on the frame. So simple, silent in operation and keep the cables away from the frame - all bikes should use this as the new standard
  • Huh, the tyres are full quality 3C models, which means I won't need to upgrade them
  • The wheels were ready for tubeless from the off, just needed the valves and the gunk
  • Wonder whether the hubs will be any good
  • Huh, the wheels have the RockShox torque caps to provide a greater surface area between the hub and fork
  • Saddle looks junk

Fork width and clearance are size-able

My very first ride impressions

  • Yup, the saddle is junk
  • Grips are harsh
  • Tyres make wicked noises
  • This feels like it rolls as well as my Niner
  • Roots and bumps are simply absorbed
  • It's much more comfortable than my Niner
  • I'm impressed with acceleration and speed of direction changes
  • Ha! It's super easy to wheelie (not that I can that well)
  • I didn't notice the weight particularly
  • The dropper is dead smooth and I much prefer the lever over my Thomson on the Niner
  • Gears are perfect - didn't have to think about them once
  • Brakes were surprisingly good and were silent
  • Tyres skidded a few times on wet and rock, but picked up traction again quickly
  • Never once felt out of control

Amazing cable management

Immediate changes and upgrades

  • I changed the saddle to a more comfortable WTB Volt
  • I swapped out the grips for some ODI numbers
  • I converted the wheels to tubeless using 35 mm Stan's valves and 100ml of Stan's sealant
    • Noticeably saved weight on the bike - the tubes are MASSIVE
    • Pro Tip: I needed to use a Schwalbe air canister to inflate the wheels (110 PSI did the trick)
  • Helicopter taped the frame in key areas (prefer some damage to the frame for character)
  • I put the stem at the bottom of the stack of spacers

List of next changes and upgrades

Neat looking, flex for comfort, but isn't
compatible with my butt

  • I'd like a lower stack height headset in time and to cut the steerer tube down - never like the idea of something sticking out the top of the front of the bike
  • I'll toy with the idea of new brakes. I've had XTs for a number of years and models and really appreciate the variable lever point (which the Merida's brakes do have, but needs an allen key)
  • Longer dropper post, lighter wheels and better rear mech are on the wish list, but all items have really impressed me so will only be replaced when they break (if they break)

Look out for a more in-depth review in the coming months.

If you have any questions, then share below and I'll be sure to reply.

More photos

All the bits that came with the bike

Fork uses the Torque caps to provide
a greater surface area between the hub and the fork

Super short 35 mm stem. Lots of spacers for adjustment.
Nice bar too

Deore brakes impressed more than I was expecting

Dropped remote / actuator is the best I've used

Front profile

No touchy! Cables stay away from the frame and don't tangle (lovely)

Loads of adjustment opportunity

Dinner-plate sized cassette and great looking SLX cranks (scuffed after first ride)

Artsy shot