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Merida Crossway 500 2014

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5 Titan Drive, Fengate East, Peterborough, PE1 5XG
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Tested by Rob Mehmed

Review

Merida's £750 Crossway 500 is a hybrid in the truest sense. While most commuter bikes of this type are effectively road bikes with flat bars, sporting fatter tyres and more forgiving geometry, the German firm's take on the hybrid genre features all of the above with the addition of front suspension. This makes it a bike that should be able to take you round a country park, handle the daily commute, or - dare we say it - even take on a trail centre (even if its forte will probably be the green routes, with the odd sortee on to the blue runs).

It certainly makes a good first impression - it looks great, and boasts a very decent spec list for this price. The aluminium 6061 frame is finished in two-tone black and grey - perfect for hiding the dirt it might pick up from all-year riding and occasional light off-roading. The metal frame's welds are smooth enough, the fully-enclosed cabling is well-routed below the downtube, and the top tube is elegantly tapered. The Merida Comp D rims, made by well-known wheel component brand Alex Rims, are durable and complemented by wide, treaded Merida Speed Lite 40KV tyres.

The 40mm Kevlar-reinforced tyres provide good grip even in the wet or on loose surfaces. Guideline pressures are 50-75psi and it's absolutely essential not to let the front pressure drop, as handling is severely affected below 50.

The groupset represents a unified approach, with Shimano Deore kit being used for the front and rear derailleurs, 11-34 cassette and gear shifters. This set-up combines well with a SR Suntour NCX-FX-10s triple chainset, giving smooth shifting from the 48/36/26 chainrings. The rear mech particularly gives consistent accurate performance, allowing you to shift confidently even when under load, stood up on the pedals. The shifters take a little getting used to, however, as the levers are quite long. Particularly useful, though, is the fact the 'down' shift (cable release) can be operated in either direction (ie. by a thumb pushing forward or forefinger flicking backward). You're never left wishing for another gear, thanks to the very wide 30-speed set-up. Additional practicality comes in the form of a subtle, two-bolt mount on the chain stay for a frame kickstand.

Shimano's M445 160mm hydraulic disc brakes provide more than adequate stopping power, whether that's a quick stop for a pedestrian crossing or to scrub off speed on a gravel track. As with most disc brake set-ups, there's subtlety to their operation - very rarely will you lock them up, and then only if you're really trying.

Suntour's SR NCX lite D forks feature 63mm of travel and a remote lockout. This is worked by way of a cable-operated switch mounted on the handlebars, and works pretty well. Really hard bumps will result in a little movement even when locked, but one of the useful features is the ability to lock the forks in any position, meaning if the wind's up you can compress and lock the forks and adopt a more streamlined position to get you home. This feature lends added versatility to the ride, meaning you really could ride this on the road locked out, pick up an off-road loop to make use of the range of travel, and simply lock the forks out again to get home. Unfortunately, when unlocked the forks have a little lateral movement, particularly if you go into corners too hard, and especially if you're feathering the brakes into a turn.

There is another bugbear here. The handlebars (although adjustable for angle) simply didn't offer us enough room in the cockpit. They taper from the centre outwards at a very shallow gradient which gives you very little material to mount accessories on. If all-year riding is your intention, you'll have to choose two out of three if you'd hoped to fix a computer, light and bell. The long shifters do exacerbate this. We found the levers so long that we couldn't actually get a thumb onto the underside of the grip without moving the shifters inwards slightly, which results in even more handlebar real estate being swallowed up before your very eyes. Add the remote lock-out lever and it's already getting a bit cluttered up there.

The suspension seat post is a great idea, designed to smooth the ride. However, most of the travel is taken up by simply sitting on the bike (at 68kg, our tester was hardly Geoff Capes). Be warned also that lifting the bike by the saddle might result in the seat post slipping out of the seat tube.

In all, however, the Crossway feels well put together and solid to ride, especially if you have the forks locked. At a claimed 12.9kg, it's far from featherlight, but certainly competitive at this price.

When it comes to handling, the Crossway 500 has much to give. OK, so the bike doesn't feel particularly agile (there aren't many bikes of this weight that will), but the cranks are high enough that you can lean it over a fair way without leaving a trail of sparks in your wake, and you can easily squeeze between speed bumps and the kerb while continuing to pedal - something that's well worth considering if you intend to commute on this bike.

At a glance

Verdict If you’re not overly concerned about speed, the 500 is a decent commuter. And if the extent of your off-roading is the odd trail, it’ll do that, too. Two bikes in one for £750? That’s can’t be too bad, can it?
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