Merida’s original eONE-SIXTY was a big hit when it was released, although after a venerable service it was due a refresh. The second generation saw a significant redesign with a promotion to a carbon frame, yet despite the advantages of carbon as a frame material, the added premium won’t appeal to all riders. Enter the eONE-SIXTY Limited Edition, an aluminium chassis packed with the same features of its carbon peer.
Design and geometry
Merida’s eONE-SIXTY update has seen a number of major features get overhauled, taking the original platform, which was universally liked for its ride quality, and bringing it in line with modern trends. When adapting the new eONE-SIXTY format to aluminium, Merida didn’t dumb the carbon model down. The eONE-SIXTY Limited Edition still reaps the benefits of the new integrated battery, mullet wheel format and slacker geometry of the new carbon models.
Limited Edition monikers are usually reserved for special models so it does feel a little strange that Merida denote this model as such. However, for many riders looking for a new eMTB, this model plays a key role in Merida’s range. Bridging the gap between the affordability of the legacy models that are still available while offering the same updated features as the new generation.
Geometry sees the new eONE-SIXTY receive some tweaks to keep it in line with the current crop of eMTB’s, although the bike would never be described as being progressive. Some naysayers may write these figures off as too conservative but Merida wanted to design a bike that could be described as an ‘SUV’ in terms of capabilities. That means fun on flowing singletrack rather than only showing interest when gradients become extreme. The updated geometry has slackened the head angle by a degree and steepened the seat angle by 0.5 over the previous generation which now sits at 65.5 and 75.5 degrees respectively. Merida has also made a significant change to the bottom bracket height, increasing the BB drop by 5mm to 17.5mm to enhance cornering nimbleness without adding too much risk of pedal strikes. The reach and reasonably short chainstays remain unchanged to help maintain the qualities liked from the previous model, in fact, the rear triangle is exactly the same as the first-generation frame. Merida has reevaluated its sizing of the new models, introducing an extra small size with 400mm of reach to suit smaller riders, 20mm less than the previous smallest size offered.
The overall package of the eONE-SIXTY Limited Edition is pleasingly slimline. The ‘bolted on’ look of eMTBs is thankfully confined to the past with any eMTB manufacturer of merit going to great lengths to integrate batteries and motors but aesthetically, Merida is ahead of the curve and has created a great looking bike that doesn’t scream ‘powered by electricity’. Although certainly larger than on a non-electric MTB, the downtube is well proportioned with the rest of the bike and the Shimano motor is a refined unit that sits neatly between the cranks and keeps peripheral clutter to a minimum.
Components and build
At the eONE-SIXTY’s heart is a Shimano STEPS E8000 Drive Unit motor which is powered by a 504Wh battery that is neatly integrated into the downtube. Of all the motors I have ridden in the past, the Shimano unit is one that stood out, power is delivered in a balance of natural manner with enough extra power to charge at a technical section. The system is customisable, letting you choose from preset modes or completely modify the power and behaviour output. If you aren't a fettler, the default modes give a good range and will likely satisfy most riders' demands. Shimano’s handlebar controls and heads up display are very unobtrusive, the small display is mounted out of the way and protected by the stem and the handlebar controller sits neatly around the brake and dropper post lever for easy thumb access.
Shimano provides the drivetrain and braking as well, with an XT derailleur and SLX shifter providing dependable performance that is synonymous with the brand’s benchmark groupset. Even under stress from the combination of human and motor power, grabbing a bunch of gears in one go is not a problem. There’s a four-pot Shimano MT-520 disc brake with a 203mm rotor on the front and two-pot MT-500 with 180mm rotor at the rear. For a bike with this amount of capability, it seems an odd choice to spec a two-pot caliper and smaller 180mm disc although, in reality, I didn’t experience any issues with brake fade. That said, if tackling long steep descents is your thing this will be an area to look at for a first upgrade.
Bump taming is handled by RockShox’s 35 Gold RL fork and Super Deluxe Select+ rear shock. Both are air units with rebound, low-speed compression and volume tokens which offer enough adjustment for most riders to fiddle with. I set them up as recommended for my weight on the RockShox website and found it was a good starting point for most of the riding I did on this bike.
The mullet setup of 29er front and 27.5in rear wheels uses Merida own brand boost wheelset with a 29mm internal rim width. They stayed true throughout the test, despite some serious drainage ditch strikes and one very poorly judged jump which resulted in a front-wheel case. My test model had Maxxis Minion DHF 2.5 and DHR II 2.8 rear Maxxterra tyres, however, production models will get an Assegai for even more traction at the front.
Finishing kit is from Merida and is all standard functional kit with an aluminium Expert eTR bar and stem which I found to set you up in a nice controlled position. The saddle gets a little integrated storage pocket that houses a multitool for trailside fixes. The dropper post is also a Merida own-brand model, despite quickly developing a side-to-side wobble, it worked well throughout the test with light lever action for easy actuation.
The finishing details have been well thought out with Smart Entry cable guides and lots of rubber protecting the battery and chainstays. These minor details add up to a bike that is incredibly quiet when riding even the most chattery trail at full speed, allowing you to hear what the tyres are doing rather than the unpleasant slap of chain against the paintwork.
Ride, handling and performance
As with a lot of e-MTBs, the low slung weight of the motor gives a very planted feel that encourages speed. Straight-line tracking is superb and is enforced by the 29er front wheel which ploughs over the chunder. The 27.5in rear wheel follows with the well-damped 2.8in tyre and suspension allowing weight to be thrown back and brakes left open. On gravelly or loamy surfaces, the rear end can get a little drift happy into corners but if surfing the back tyre over the loose stuff is your style, this will only make the bike more appealing. The Maxxis Minion DHR II breaks free in a calculated manner and is ready to be brought back in line should the slide need to be corrected.
It’s not just the predictable stability and short back end of the eONE-SIXTY encourages creative use of the trail. A dynamic riding style will bring out playful characteristics, directing the bike through shifts in body weight and handlebar input will see the rider and machine work together. Liveliness intensifies on fast-flowing singletrack beyond what would be expected from a bike carrying so much weight and with a bit of guidance the bike will pop off features creating gaps and drops along the trail with a purposeful and direct nature. However, miss your braking point or get caught by an unexpected turn in the trail and a forceful hand is required to get back on track. Otherwise, the bike will default back to straight-line plough mode and take you into the undergrowth. Harness the flow and the eONE-SIXTY's 65.5-degree head angle keeps steering sharp and precise through twistier singletrack in a way that wouldn’t be possible if Merida had opted for a slacker head angle.
For a budget fork, the RockShox 35 is decently stiff with its 35mm chassis and is supple enough to quickly react to trail undulations and impacts. Weakness will show when pushed hard, on fast brutal chatter or exaggerated braking bumps, the fork can start to feel overwhelmed and wallow which communicates through the handlebars as a loss of front end connection with the trail - fitting a volume spacer or two would help by adding more mid-stroke support. The front fork still pairs well with the more capable rear and the Super Deluxe Select+ shock is well behaved. In these situations, shifting weight over the rear end offered a little respite for the fork to recompose, although lightening the front wheel is not ideal if these high-intensity sections require significant turning input.
The fork features motion control and the shock features a threshold switch to aid pedalling but, unless I was on tarmac or a particularly long ascent, I never really felt the need to use it, even when pedalling hard under my own steam. While any 160mm eMTB is never going to be a great pedaler with the motor turned off and it sort of defeats the point, the eONE-SIXTY doesn’t make you feel like your fighting upstream against the suspension on top of the motor resistance and weight. It certainly isn’t fun, but saving some battery on flat sections or getting home after trying to squeeze in one more lap is a little easier.
Climbing prowess is impressive. Fireroad was dispatched with little effort and although my skills sometimes reached their limits on technical singletrack, I have no doubt that the bike would have continued climbing under a more skilled rider. The square blocked 2.8 Minion tyres did a good job of digging into the dirt to allow the motor to do its work hauling me up climbs that, at the bottom of, I had reservations about.
While the eONE-SIXTY is pegged as an enduro bike and certainly has the travel and clout to back it up, I had the most fun exploring areas and zones that I wouldn’t have otherwise explored on a regular bike. Simply hurling down a double black route misses the adaptable utility that Merida has instilled in the eONE-SIXTY. Otherwise, torturous access is made possible with the eONE-SIXTY’s determined climbing ability which makes exploration fun rather than a hardship. Capable suspension alongside grounded geometry figures means that, whether the trail back down is flowing singletrack or littered with technical features, you are aboard a bike that can not only handle almost any track with composure but encourages playful riding that squeezes as much fun as possible from the returning descent.
Tech Specs: Merida eONE-SIXTY Limited Edition
- Discipline: Trail / Enduro
- Price: £4,500
- Head angle: 65.5 degrees
- Frame material: Aluminium
- Size: Medium
- Wheel size: 29in front, 27.5in rear
- Suspension (front/rear): RockShox 35 Gold RL 160mm travel/RockShox Super Deluxe Select+ 160mm travel
- Components: Shimano XT M8100 series rear mech, SLX M7100 10-51T 12 speed cassette and shifter. Shimano E8000 chainset. Shimano MT-520 and MT-500 brakes with 203mm and 180mm rotors. Maxxis Minion DHR 3C MaxTerra 29 x 2.5in front tyre, Maxxis Minion DHR 3C MaxTerra 27.5 x 2.8in rear tyre on Merida Comp TR 29mm rims with Shimano hubs. Merida bar and stem, Merida Comp TR dropper post, Merida Comp CC saddle