Merida Big Nine TFS XT-D
Cue David Attenborough voice-over … Once a moment filled with excitement and wonder for the enthusiastic bike-watcher, now the spotting of a species from the 29er family in the wilderness is so common it barely warrants comment. The present-day bike-watcher has seen this family grow exponentially from a single awkward species of steel single speed, to a diverse genus that ranges from racing XC hardtails through to all-mountain dual suspension bikes. Recently there’s been a real population increase within the recreational hardtail subset of the 29er family. The species under the spotlight here is the Merida Big NineTFSXT-D.
The unwieldy name contains quite a bit of information as to its characteristics. WhileMeridause the ‘Nine’ moniker elsewhere, the ‘Big’ preceding it alludes to the extra three-inches (63mm to be precise) of wheel diameter present on all of the Big Nine bikes. Next up,TFSis an acronym that stands for ‘Techno Forming System’. This relates to the mandrel-forming (mechanical pressing) technique that is used to form the tubes into shapes more complex than your regular continuous round tube. Finally, ‘XT’ refers to the Shimano XT gearing; a notably higher spec level than you expect see on a hardtail at this price point.
The Big NineTFSXT-D sells for $2,099 and the frame is made from 6061 aluminium. Prominent joints such as those at the head tube have been double-pass welded to achieve a smoother look. This is clearly a cosmetic consideration as the welds down near the bottom bracket (hidden behind the crankset) have not received the same treatment. In terms of aesthetics, I thought M. Big NineTFSXT-D was a bit samey and inoffensive, clearly aiming for the race-bike look, but without being over-the-top. It received both positive and negative comments from various people though so as you’d expect it’s a personal thing.
A neat evolutionary adaptation to the larger wheel size can be seen in the seat tube, which is kinked ever so slightly in its lower portion. The goal is to provide greater clearance between the big rear wheel and the front derailleur, allowing the builder to shorten the chainstays and make the handling more nimble. Despite this design, chainstay length remains fairly conventional at 445mm. By comparison, their more racy carbon Big Nine does tuck the wheel in more with 440mm chainstays, and some brands run them as short as 425mm on their XC hardtails.
Beyond the kinked seat tube, the frame of the Big Nine TFSXT-D is fairly basic and quite appropriate for a bike of this price level. Regular English bottom bracket and 1 1/8th inch headset are tried and proven without being cutting edge, and the 1,912g frame weight sits comfortably in the middle its competition.
The drop-outs and seat stays are equipped with rack mounts, while the right-hand chainstay even features a built-in Hebie kickstand mount. Cross-country racer types may feel these are unnecessary blemishes but in practical terms there’s no harm their inclusion. Besides,Meridauses this frame on all of their 29ers from $999 through to our $2,099—a price range that doesn’t target the purist racer crowd. The rack and kickstand mounts really open up the options with this bike; whack on some panniers you’ve got a very practical commuter or multi-day touring bike. If there’s a perfect mountain bike for commuting and touring, it’d be a 29er hardtail.