|Plus: Light frame, hydraulic disc brakes, decent price|
|Minus: Outdated shifter, low grip and big weight of the tires, modestly performing fork|
Last year we go to know pretty well Merida’s Matts 20-MD, so it was somewhat of a natural thing to go for the Matts 40D in 2013. Currently, the differences between the two models are quite sensible, given the fact that the manufacturer changed the frames of the entry-level category. Specifications are also better in comparison to the 20-MD, but are they enough to provide you with better performance?
Frame/On the trail
With a weight of 14,26 kilograms, pedals included, it’s pretty hard to call the Matts 40-MD a light bike, with the occuring implications that it has on riding. The model was designed for leisure riding and you have to keep that in mind when dealing with it. This means that the bicycle won’t feel at home on demanding trails, that include steep descents or heavy climbing. The 3×8 drivetrain includes a 32-tooth sprocket and a 24-tooth chainring, so you will have to make do with this as a lowest gear ratio regardless of the level of climbs in your way. Personally, a 2 or 4 extra tooth sprocket may have done the Matts 40D some justice, especially considering it is an entry-level model.
Handling is ok, the bicycle been responsive enough to tackle turns at a high speed, on technical sections with a small gradient. It could have used a wider handlebar than the standard 620mm one, but this is left for you to upgrade if you wish to do so. The sit on the bike is comfortable, just like I have imagined it, with a not very forward-leaned position.
The stiffness of the frame isn’t brilliant, 97.2 Nm/degree, so the question of a high-score for this is ruled out. On the other hand, the 1.9 kilograms of the frame make the Matts 40-D to be surpassed only by the RAM HT Two. Different entry-level frames hardly go under the 2 kilograms limit. An answer to the low stiffness of the head tube maybe found in the construction method, that doesn’t presume the top tube and the down tube being welded together in the meeting area on the head tube. This allows hydroforming the down tube and offering it a certain visual, that works in favour of the bike.
Finishing touches are pleasing for such a price level, but then again this part is taken seriously by most manufacturers. The paintjob stands out, welds respect norms, while cable routing follows the lower part of the top tube so as not to interfere with anything. Further more, room can be found for two water bottle holders and a carrier.
All trouble begins with the Suntour XCT fork, fitted with a Lock-Out. Compression is a hint better than that of the previous version, but when it comes to rebound, Suntour wasn’t capable of solving the almost-permanent issue. When compressing the fork and releasing it suddenly, you can hear a certain noise and a tap, which are far from being welcome. Although it might seem like, it isn’t a manufacturing problem or flaw, it’s just that there isn’t something to dampen the occuring noise. It’s also true you have 100mm of travel to make bumpy trails easier, but that fine tuning is something the Suntour XCT definetly lacks.
An obvious upgrade of the Matts 40D is the brake set, which is represented by the hydraulic Tektro HDC-300’s. Performance isn’t what I would call compelling, but they sure do their job far better than other Tektro models. I admit that a 180mm rotor on the front wheel wouldn’t have bothered me, especially that it would have provided superior braking power.
The drivetrain is composed of a peculiar mix of components. A Shimano Alivio 2008 derailleur does the work for the rear part, a non-series Shimano M190 front derailleur guides the chain on the rings of a Shimano M131 crankset (42-32-24) and the 8 sprockets (11-32) of the cassette complete the line-up. Forget about the 2-way release function for the ST EF51 shifters here, so I got the picture of a recreational configuration, that won’t stand abuse very well.
As far as the wheels are concerned, they seem tough enough. With the respective weight of course, for instance a single Merida Ride tire tiping the scale at 845 grams. As I stated throughout the review, this is a recreational bike, so emphasis was put on durability, rather than on performance. Of course, weight was a collateral damage, and nothing proves this better than the 952 gram crankset and RPM bottom bracket that stacks an less than impressive 310 grams.
Merida Matts 40-D is a good choice in the category of recreational mountain bikes, but not further than this. Mountain trails may very well be a hat too big for the model, although you can take it for a ride on high hills or something that won’t put too much pressure on it.
A 9-speed cassette and a lighter bottom bracket would have been a better choice in my opinion, but these deficiencies are counterbalanced by the light frame and hydraulic brakes. The Matts 40-D can represent a good starting point for an upgrade-project, if you are willing to financially commit to this, of course. My personal advice is to get rid of those tires first… they weigh together 1.7 kilograms!
Price: 530 euros