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It's hard to believe that just a few years ago you wouldn't have seen a bike like this. Disc brakes were for those wanting to keep braking surfaces clear of mud, not for slowing riders racking up road miles.
But times have changed, and discs have made their way into every area of cycling. Okay, maybe not every part - professional racing is still devoid of them - but that looks set to change as teams have been given permission by the UCI to trial them in events. Given the steady uptake of discs in cyclocross, it seems inevitable that discs will find their way into professional road racing in due course.
Of course, there are greater hurdles to cross. Checking your speed on long winding descents will rapidly build up heat in the rotors and brake fade could be an issue, if the rotors can't cool efficiently. And then there's the issue of the quick changing of wheels - a common sight on events. But it has to start somewhere.
Like this Merida Ride Disc 3000. The carbon frame and fork blades are disc-only, pushing the bike forwards, ensuring you're right at the front when it comes to technology.
Of course, disc brakes really aren't that new; it's the application that is. But getting them to work correctly, without any of the noise associated with poorly adjusted brakes is a hurdle the engineers had to overcome. And while the rear triangles on carbon frames are fairly stiff affairs, the front can be a nightmare to get right.
Merida have solved this by using a hefty, but lightweight, 15mm thru-axle on the front wheel. This adds a huge amount of rigidity to the forks and a corresponding lack of noise.
The thru-axle isn't the only nod to enhanced stiffness at the front, the headtube uses Merida's X-Taper, with a 1.5-inch bearing at the base and a 1 1/8 bearing at the top. Not only does this setup enhance rigidity, it's lighter too - and allows the headtube to flare towards the bottom, giving a large section for the downtube to pick up from.
Curiously, although the downtube is larger than the top tube, it isn't wider at the headset. A simple flare allows the top tube to start off wide before gently curving and narrowing to the seatpost, then seeming to split and run down to the rear axle. This continuity makes for a good-looking frame and a good deal of stiffness.
Of course, that's something you want when you're going for it and when you spin the pedals on the 50/34 FSA Gossamer chainset, the power is transmitted well. But minor bumps in the road are still absorbed by the frame and the Maxxis Dolomites 25 tyres - so you don't get too much jarring. That said, you don't want to ride across root-rippled tarmac at speed - the frame can't deal with that!
Cable routing to the front and rear derailleurs and rear brake is through the frame, but the routing isn't so neat at the bars, with the gearchange cables flowing into the centre before entering the frame. A plus-point is that it's easier to feed new cables in, should they need replacing.
The gear change is accurate (well, you'd expect nothing less from Tiagra shifters and 105 rear mech) and the routing doesn't restrict it at all. The brakes are also very good.
Although they're cable-operated, the Tektro Spires have almost a centre-pull design, so when you apply the brakes both pads are pushed in, rather than having one moving/one static pad. Fitting these allows the brakes to be set up with the pads a set distance from the rotor - and reduces unwanted rubbing when the brakes aren't in use. If you've ever ridden a cheap bike and endured disc squeal, you'll know how annoying that is. The only thing I'm not keen on is the over-length bolts securing the disc rotors.
Getting a bike set up correctly is also one of those things that's more appealing when it is easy to do. The carbon seatpost has a micro-adjust at the front to fine-tune the pitch of the saddle and the oversize bar and stem are comfortable, with the thick tape absorbing more vibrations that make it past the tyres.
25-profile tyres are relatively large for a road bike, but having a frame with sufficient clearance is good - you can easily go smaller, but if you're right on the limit with smaller tyres, you can't go bigger. And the bump absorption is welcomed, especially in areas where tarmac is less than smooth.
And the wheels the tyres are wrapped round look good, too, even if they're not the lightest around. The 32 spokes are run as pairs, giving a more 'premium' look.
At £1350, the Merida Ride Disc 3000, in its wispy black carbon, looks good and is keenly priced. It goes well and stops well. And if you want to be ahead of the game it's certainly worth looking at.
At a glance
|Verdict||Solid performance and stealth looks. Disc brakes are ahead of the game.|
Select a size to see other bikes available in the same and similar sizes.
|50cm||556 mm||360 mm||72 °||73 °||details|
|52cm||570 mm||368 mm||72.5 °||73 °||details|
|54cm||596 mm||375 mm||73 °||73 °||details|
|56cm||610 mm||384 mm||73 °||73 °||details|
|59cm||634 mm||391 mm||73 °||73 °||details|
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