Merida splits its road bike range into three distinctly different groupings, the £499.99 Ride Lite we have here is the cheapest of nine in the Road Ride group with a Sun-Race setup and a long head tube aimed at more casual riders, anda weight of 9.9kg (22lb) on the road.cc scales.
The Road Ride range includes a couple of women-specific bikes and two full carbon offerings. We're testing a large (58cm) model, which obviously emphasises the tall front end, although the extended seat tube length is still only 56cm and the horizontal top tube is 56.5cm. There's lots of handlebar height adjustment built in via the either way up stem and 30mm of steerer washers but if you're not attracted to the look or feel of bikes with long head tubes then you'd be better off looking at the Race range: head tube length on the 58cm Road Race equivalent to this, the Race Lite is 180mm compared to 215mm here.
The frame of the Ride Lite 88 frame is listed simply as 'Shotgun 6061' butted aluminium. A long slightly bulbous head tube, fat biaxially ovalised down tube, flattened curve chainstays and curvy carbon composite fork are distinguishing features, with mudguard bosses on the frame and fork reflecting an emphasis on practicality.
There are two lots of bottle bosses but no rack bosses. There's plenty room under the brakes and behind the bottom bracket for both 'guards and fatter tyres but we'd imagine the scarily named 25mm Maxxis Detonator treads fitted will be fine for the majority of riders.
The Sun Race crankset has 50/34 chainrings and a Shimano square tapered bottom bracket, while the Sun Race rear gear mech spans 8 sprockets, from 12 to 25. Sun Race front and rear mechs have a decent reputation and their twin lever integrated shifters/brake levers are very easy to get used to. Brake duties are performed by anonymous dual pivot offerings with combined pads and shoes, with a full outer cable to the rear brake sheathed through the top tube.
All the finishing parts seem to be decent quality Merida brand offerings. The saddle is firm but not relatively comfy, the seat post has double clamp bolts and the handlebar is a short drop anatomically shaped job. The wheels seem well built, three cross laced with 32 spokes, and Alex R450 rims have a decent reputation, but the hubs are anonymous. The all-up weight of the Merida is 9.9kg (22lb).
There are countless other options for this sort of bike around the £500 mark, some with Shimano Sora based drivetrains for just a little bit more. Our 'Best Entry-Level Road Bikes Under £500' guide is worth a read. It's worth bearing in mind though that Merida's massive far eastern factories also build frames for a lot of other big brands, so they often tend to be slightly ahead of the curve when it comes to getting leading edge value for money, simply due to their manufacturing expertise and bulk buying power. We'll be spending the next few weeks putting the 88 through its paces, then we'll report back.
More at www.merida-bikes.com