Cyclocross race geometry makes the Mission Road a hard bike to define and places it into a very niche area of cycling. It has glimmers of genius with regards to its potential capabilities, but specced as standard, its performance is very much hampered by tyre choice.
Tyres kill the ride
Cyclocross race geometry gives it a confusing personality
If ever there was a unique take on an endurance/winter bike then Merida's Mission Road range has to be right up there. Merida has effectively taken its Mission cyclocross race bike and changed the spec sheet to give it a more road worthy stance.
All this means you have the performance characteristics expected of a full carbon 'race' bike, just with the sort of clearances and stable geometry of an off-road bike. This should enable the rider to happily spend full days riding on poor road surfaces in full comfort without losing out on smooth-tarmac speed and the all important fun factor.
As the name implies, the Mission Road shares a frame with Merida's Mission cyclocross race platform. In this 7000-E guise, riders enjoy the carbon fibre CX CF3 frame.
What differentiates this from Merida's more road specific carbon frames is an emphasis on durability and of course, tyre clearances. For all it's differences it shares a very similar design to Merida's Scultura model range and also shares the same carbon technologies such as easy cable routing, impact resistant Nano Matrix carbon construction and the reinforced X-Tube head tube.
Flat mount brake mounts are standard alongside a neatly internally routed carbon fork. Interestingly Merida is still sticking with press-fit bottom brackets with the Mission Road.
It adds a removable seat stay bridge and mudguard mounts and has clearances that will easily swallow the 32mm tyre specced, alongside a full mudguard.
Merida has built a reputation for putting out some solidly specced bikes at excellent price points and the Mission Road follows in that vein.
Shimano's R8070 Ultegra Di2 electronic groupset needs no introduction, it just works and I'm yet to find much to fault with the crisp gear shifting. This speccing follows over into the hydraulic disc brakes, also being Shimano Ultegra. The calipers are the newer flat mount varieties, which are a little easier to adjust out on the road. This was something I found I had to do a few times as the 160mm rotors had a tendency to warp slightly, providing an unwanted soundtrack and annoying brake rub unless I spent a few minutes fettling at the road side.
The Mission Road comes with DT Swiss' P1850 SP wheelset that, like all DT Swiss wheels, are solid, dependable performers. It's a wheelset that won't ignite your ride or lead you to set PBs on every outing but they do have a decent profile and bombproof build quality - enabling you to ride almost any terrain without fear of damaging them.
The biggest sticking point for the Mission Road is the speccing of Continental Grand Prix 4-Season tyres. Granted they are tough and at 32mm in width provide a good air volume to cushion you on the road but they single-handedly kill the ride of the bike stone cold dead.
On my first few rides I really thought I had lost way more fitness than expected over winter - and I struggled to get my average speed anywhere near normal. A change to a set of Continental GP5000 25mm tyres answered all my prayers though and instantly transformed the ride, injecting the pace needed to turn rides from suffer-fests to smile-fests.
The rest of the kit is almost all Merida's own components including nicely shaped handlebar, sleek full carbon seatpost and comfortable Merida Expert saddle. One tiny component that needs to be shouted about is the bolt-through axle lever. This innocuous looking item can be removed and has both 4mm and 6mm hex keys so can be used to tighten almost every bolt on the bike, a really neat touch.
The Mission Road 7000-E is a truly odd beast of a bike to define in terms of performance. Sharing geometry with the Mission cyclocross race bike it has a very low front end combined with a long wheelbase and long chainstays making it a little bit of an enigma for riding on the road. If we compare it to Merida's excellent Scultura for the same 56cm frame size, its headtube is a full 46mm shorter, the reach is longer by 7mm and the stack height is 21mm lower making it feel more like a race bike than the endurance machine it supposedly is. It's even more aggressive that Merida's Reacto aero race bike!
So what I'm trying to say is the Mission Road puts you in the riding position more suited to a race bike being very long and low. But this is mated to a long back end, so the handling prowess you would expect from the position is somewhat neutered.
Changing the tyres made the Mission Road a very pleasing bike to ride. It's engaging and even though the figures don't quite add up on paper, in real life it somehow works.
The frame is quite burly when compared to the Scultura and coupled with the fatter tyres the Mission Road tends to roll through potholes and road imperfections rather than bounce over them. This does transmit a more muted feel through the saddle, aided by the flattened seat stays and also limits the amount it gets bounced off line. The downside to this softness is a slight delay in power transmission, something you might not notice off-road but does lead to the Mission Road feeling a little vague under power on the road and certainly not as rewarding when stamping on the pedals.
Descending is probably the Mission Road's forte when the low front end and long wheelbase combine incredibly well. It gets your weight nicely over the front wheel for confident grip and that long wheelbase makes it super stable at high speeds.
It's difficult to really know who the target is for the Mission Road, and as it stands Merida is only offering it as a special request build in the UK. I would probably recommend the Merida Scultura over this as a true endurance or winter specialist for most riders. The Mission Road is really tailored to those who want an agressive geo combined with added tyre clearances and mudguard capabilities for trouble free, winter cruising and commuting. It's a niche market - but could certainly be perfect for someone!
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