The Big Ninety-Nine 1000 is the entry level full sus 29er in the Merida range. The Big99ers were Merida’s first foray into 29ers and the 2013 model was their first dually. 2014 sees some minor changes; the paint job is different with the black and yellow base being nicely toned and giving the bike a look that definitely makes it look a lot more expensive than it is, but how does it ride? Shayne Dowling found out.
The front fork is now a Manitou which I can only assume will keep the bike in the price point it’s aimed at. The front blades have changed from a 42-32-24 to a 40-30-22 setup – this is one area that I found noticeable because although you have a really easy granny gear I think the bigger ratio rings give you a better option on both climbs and flats.
The Big99 1000 is really well specced with a combination of SLX and XT giving you bullet proof equipment and superb performance. There is not much left to say about XT brakes either, other than this bike combined with the XT brakes and 180mm rotors, as standard, brakes like the proverbial kiwi sheep on a cliff. The stiffness of the through axle and the simple but highly effective suspension system allows for handling which feels extremely light despite the bikes frame and wheelset weight. The suspension is complimented by the extremely good Fox CTD Float. The Mavic Cross Ride wheelset is tubeless convertible and is the first thing one must upgrade to. The out the box tyres are Maxxis CrossMarx 2.1’s – a perfectly acceptable tyre, but unless you’re riding a ton of dirt road or maybe a little tar, you are definitely going to have to go to at least 2.2’s for added traction and comfort on the trails. A Merida Pro Stem and swept back wide bar rounds off a top drawer package if one considers it’s an entry level dually and the price!
My only negative on the bike and it’s personal and probably nitpicking is the saddle. I found the Prologo Kappa Evo, while good looking, hard and uncomfortable – but this is easily changed and would probably suit most.
So how did the Big Ninety-Nine 1000 perform? In short: remarkably well. The bike climbs really competently, despite the skinny tyres on dry loose gravel. It never felt loose and once I had my seat height perfectly set, it was ideal. The CTD shock performed brilliantly and I never struggled with any massive bob or feeling of suspension dipping. The one piece seat stay that wraps around the seat tube and links via the single pivot rocker link to the shock is quite disconcerting initially, but once you get going, stop looking at it and ride you quickly realise its so simple and really works. It’s the same system they use on all their Big99 duallies – from entry to top end – so it does the job and then some. On the descents the Merida handled superbly, I could have used the extra tyre width again but after letting out some air I took the bike through everything I would normally do and it flew. The brakes inspired confidence and with a nice stiff tail the bike flew down the single tracks. I took the bike on a longish flat ride and found the dually comfortable and so with its confident handling it would easily carry you through a XC marathon ride. All in all, this entry level dually is excellent value for money, specced well and handles like a bike in a much higher price bracket. At just on R21k the Big Ninety-Nine 1000 is certainly a consideration if you’re in the market to step up to a quality, well built full sus machine. I say go big or go home!
Sus the Geometry:
Medium frame: 19 inches
All measurements in mm or ⁰
|Seat Tube Angle||73⁰|
|Head Tube Angle||69.5⁰|