Merida’s lightweight, mid-travel eONE FORTY delivers a super smooth and friendly all-around trail experience that’s less about kicking ass and more about the fact it has a kickstand mount.
In a very cunning cost-reducing move, the eONE FORTY and eONE SIXTY share the same chassis. Merida also badges the medium-sized eONE SIXTY frame as the large eONE FORTY so the reach is shorter (450mm on a large). The seat tube is short enough to make sizing up possible if you want a longer reach, though.
It all looks particularly appealing when gazing upon the spec sheet but just how well does the Merida eONE FORTY 9000 perform out on the trail? Can it take on the best e-MTBs in the segment?
Design and geometry
The eONE FORTY has a 133mm stroke shock and 140mm travel fork, which lowers the ride height and steepens up angles when compared to its eONE SIXTY sibling. There’s still room for Shimano’s biggest 630Wh battery in all but the smallest size though, and a large bottle in the normal place. Despite sub 440mm chainstays, there’s room for a 27.5 x 2.8in rear tire, though it gets 2.6in as standard.
The 9000 and 8000 models get a carbon-fiber front end with a massive headstock that includes ‘Thermo Gate’ cooling vents that also act as the control line ‘in’. The E8000 controller wires are routed through Merida’s e-bike-specific stem and bars to keep the front end clean. The battery has an alloy case to help with cooling and efficiency, and then a hard and soft protective layer on the exposed underside to ward off rock strikes, although the keel of the EP8 motor itself is completely exposed. The charging point on the flat top of the motor block needed dusting and rinsing off before we opened it on most rides too, but it’s physically well protected by the two bridge pieces for the lower shock mount.
This is also where the suspension arrangement of the eONE FORTY differs from the standard ONE FORTY which bottoms the shock on extended lower linkage ends for a fully floated 140m of travel. You still get a trunnion-mount for maximum sensitivity and the high and low-speed compression and rebound adjusters are easy to reach under the super-low, kinked top tube. The extra low standover height was another reason Merida went with the smaller frame size too, although as the lowest point is behind the nose of the saddle it’s not quite as low slung as it looks in practice.
The rear end of the bike is extensively curved and constructed from butted alloy, connected with hollow back rocker plates that pivot on the seat tube. A hooped blade brace connects the seat stays and acts as a mount point for an optional rear fender. The rear pivots sit directly above the dropouts with the narrow main pivot level with, but behind, the top of the chainring. That makes this a single-pivot bike in terms of wheel arc but very neutral in terms of suspension influence when braking or pedaling. The rear brake is partially protected by the seat stay, and there’s even a kickstand mount. Chunky rubber anti-slap guards protect the chainstay while an MRP top guide keeps the chain on the Shimano chainring.
Sizing runs from small to XXL and there are two color options: a silver/black upper/lower split or the green/purple flip paint.
Components and build
Stepping up to this most expensive eONE FORTY gets you a chunky-legged e-bike chassis and tuned Fox 36 fork adjusted down to 140mm travel for maximum stiffness. Despite being the flagship model, neither the fork nor rear shock get the gold Kashima stanchion coating of the Factory spec, but the Performance Elite does get the same fully adjustable damper spec (on-trail control between Factory and Performance is indistinguishable). The 9000 also gets the excellent DT Swiss HX1501 Hybrid e-bike wheels which are basically indestructible, but still have a great trail feel and 30mm internal width for plenty of tire support. Continental provides the Trail King tires with reinforced Apex Protection carcass, though you'll need to set them up tubeless as they come standard with inner tubes.
Shimano provides a full set of XT brakes with big 200mm rotors to amplify the already decent power of the four-piston brakes. The dropper post remote is Shimano too, while Merida provides the dropper post, saddle (complete with mini tool tucked underneath) as well as the previously mentioned cable-tidying alloy bar and stem. We’d love to get excited about the Lezyne headlight that’s linked to the battery as it’s potentially an awesome addition for 24/7 riding, however at just 310 lumens, it’s less than a third of the power we’d want for even steady off-roading. In fact it's pretty pointless beyond street-lit cruising.
In value terms, the 9000 sits between Specialized and Cube, but the weight is definitely impressive for a big battery bike at 22.5kg for the large.
Ride handling and performance
The low weight is immediately evident in the feel of the eONE FORTY so even in Trail mode, there’s a lively pick up from the EP8 motor. A relatively steep seat angle, a front end that doesn’t wander as much as a slacker setup, and the half-pedal ‘free power surge’ feature of the motor really helps progress on techy climbs. While the Continental tires feel slightly numb and plasticky, running the rear at low pressure gives good grip in dry conditions. It's only on slippery roots, logs and rocks where you'll need to feather-torque your pedal inputs. The same applies to the front on descents where the transverse tread can squirt sideways if you load up the braking too heavily. The long offset fork and comparatively steep 66.5-degree head angle can also get nervy when the full inertia of the bike is leaning on them. The short reach puts you over the front of the bike - rather than safely centered - which doesn’t help either.
The 29in front/27.5in rear mullet arrangement helps offset the shortness of the bike, and traction feels adequate rather than completely planted. To criticize the eONE FORTY for how it reacts when you’re hard on the brakes or hammering through loose boulder fields is missing the point though. If that’s what you’re looking for in a bike, then you should clearly be going for the longer reach, longer travel, slacker eONE SIXTY. With that in mind, the obviously soft suspension setup makes perfect sense, too. While the kinematic gives an eight per cent progression, in theory, it’s really easy to push deep into the stroke for maximum comfort, not measured control. There’s no obvious bottom-out clunk even if you properly splat a landing, and the Merida flows through chunks and chunder with a fluidity that feels more than the actual 133mm of travel.
It’s the same deal under power and braking, too. You’ll definitely be reaching for the ‘Pedal’ setting on the rear shock if you want to quell obvious visual bounce when you’re out of the saddle, but you won’t feel that bounce through your feet. In fact, you won’t feel much so you’ll need to just spin and let the back end do its thing rather than trying to control traction through torque. Obviously, if you want a more aggressive stance there’s potential to add volume spacers to place the stroke more in the mid-range or use the ‘Pedal’ mode for cornering support. The hollow-back linkages and narrow main pivot stance mean it’s never going to be a particularly stiff rear end anyway, so again, if that’s what you’re after this probably isn’t the bike for you. We’re still glad it’s got a Fox 36 upfront though, as the 34 always feels outgunned on e-bikes and, tires aside, the front end package is impressively precise if you are pushing the limits.
We do feel the mullet setup is slightly at odds with the overall easy-cruise vibe of the Merida though, as it would roll even easier and pull more mileage out of the big battery with a double 29er setup. The fatter volume rear does provide extra cushioning when you’re cruising, if still not enough to stop the obvious rattle and clatter from the EP8 motor when it’s freewheeling. That’s a near-universal Shimano EP8 issue, not a Merida-specific one, and it’s offset by the neatest display of any e-bike setup, plus boosted power, responsiveness, an improved walk mode, and tuning ease compared to the older Shimano motor.
It might be a mullet with a 36 fork, but don’t look at Merida’s eONE FORTY 9000 as a mid-travel shredding machine. It’s not a battery-stretching outright speed bike either. The geometry and suspension setup are both dialed for super-smooth comfort, not slash-and-burn control, and the result is a really enjoyable, agile and friendly-to-ride all-rounder.
Tech Specs: Merida eONE FORTY 9000 e-MTB
- Model name: Merida eONE FORTY 9000
- Discipline: Trail
- Price: £7,250 / Not available in the US
- Head angle: 66.5-degrees
- Frame material: NanoMatrix carbon front, hydroformed alloy rear.
- Size: Large
- Weight: 22.5kg
- Wheel size: 29 x 2.4in and 27.5 x 2.6in
- Suspension (front/rear): Fox 36 Performance Elite 140mm travel, 51mm offset/Fox DPS Performance Elite 133mm travel
- Components: Shimano EP8 motor and 34T chainset, Shimano BT-E8036 630Wh battery. Shimano XT 10-51T 12 speed gearing and shifter. Shimano XT 4 pot brakes with 200mm rotors. Continental Trail King Apex Protection 29 x 2.4in front 27.5 x 2.6in rear tires on DT-Swiss HX1501 Spline ONE 30 Hybrid wheels. Merida Expert eTR 780x35mm bar and Expert eTRII 50x35mm stem, Merida TR 150mm stroke dropper post, Merida Expert CC saddle
- Temperature: 12-17 degrees Celsius
- Surface: Man made trail center, natural woodland and moorland trails