- Surprisingly effective climber and easily up to speed
- Shimano Claris groupset is a good performer
- Brakes don't inspire confidence on quick descents
Price as reviewed:
Merida is one of the biggest bike manufacturers in the world, and according to established wisdom it made bikes for countless other brands at its five factories (one in Taiwan, three in China, one in Germany). In truth, it did start out by producing other people’s products — Raleigh USA’s in fact — but now it focuses mainly on its own brand.
That said, it does have a 49 per cent share in Specialized, which might not come as much of a shock when you look at the Ride 90’s alloy frame and that bowed top tube — there’s more than a hint of the Specialized Allez about it. Merida isn’t related corporately to Giant, though, yet that tiny rear triangle has a resemblance to some of its Taiwanese rival’s bikes.
In truth, our first impression is that it’s a bit like Frankenstein’s monster. But look closer and the Ride 90 starts to reveal a more refined character. For example, the finish might look boring black in web pictures, but there’s a subtle sparkle about it in real life. There’s also through-frame cable routing for both derailleurs and rear brake. So the Merida definitely has some established design elements going on here. The question is, do they work well together?
The answer, certainly initially, is yes. The Ride 90 spins along very smoothly. On pan-flat, perfect surfaces you hear barely a whirr, and it’s up to speed very eagerly too. On slightly less easygoing surfaces you can feel the rigid nature of the aluminium frame come more to the fore, though it’s never uncomfortable — you’re just aware of most of the bumps and lumps passing by under tread.
However, the Merida has an unexpected trump card: this is a cracking bike for climbing. When the road goes up it’s easy to put yourself in a nice, constant rhythm and really feel like your effort is being rewarded. A combination of the direct power transfer through that relatively small rear triangle, and a very forgiving gearing combination of compact chainset with 32-tooth biggest sprocket at the back means it is a surprisingly effective machine on which to start a hilly sportive career.
A word here also has to go to the Shimano Claris gearset. We have a soft spot for this notch in Shimano’s range especially as it now comes with Shimano’s proven double paddle Dual Control shifters. It’s not as plush or as smooth as higher spec options, but it feels truly bombproof, and, dare we say it, just a little bit more reliable than some of its supposed betters.
Slightly less impressive are the unbranded dual-pivot caliper brakes. They’re about what you’d expect on a bike at this price, and a set of aftermarket pads would improve them significantly, but following the unforeseen enjoyment that comes with going up hills on the Ride 90, it’s a bit of a shame not to be able to really let fly down the other side with a bit more confidence. That said, the frame itself tries its best, and bike control is never an issue.
Other small problems? Well, you’ll notice it can all get a bit rattly. But what were we saying about appearances? It may look a little odd, unwieldy even, but the Merida Ride 90 is actually a very fine bike to ride, and if you’re new to road cycling, it’s a very friendly companion.
Merida’s UK has their full range of road bikes, and can be viewed here: merida.com/en_gb/bikes/road-bikes
The Ride 90 might be an ugly duckling initially but it becomes a soaring swan at the sight of a climb. At this price it’s bound to have weaknesses, but overall it is a very efficient pedaller.
Fork : Carbon
Gears: Shimano Claris 11-32t
Chainset: FSA Tempo compact
Brakes: Unbranded aluminium dual pivot
Wheels: Alex R450 rims on unbranded aluminium hub (f) / Shimano Claris hub (r)
Tyres: Continental Ultra Sport 25c
Bar/stem: Merida aluminium
Saddle: Merida Pro Sl
Seatpost: Merida aluminium
Size range: 50, 52, 54, 56, 59cm
Weight: 9.8kg / 21.6lb (56cm)