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NoPains Merida Silex Gravel Dropper Project

NoPains Merida Silex Gravel Dropper Project

22.04.24 07:10 191Text: NoPain (translated by AI)Photos: Erwin HaidenShowroom: The Metamorphosis of Merida's latest, out-of-the-box Adventure Gravel Bike into a Comfort Marvel with FSA and Shimano GRX 1x12.22.04.24 07:10 215

NoPains Merida Silex Gravel Dropper Project

22.04.24 07:10 215 NoPain (translated by AI) Erwin Haiden
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Showroom: The Metamorphosis of Merida's latest, out-of-the-box Adventure Gravel Bike into a Comfort Marvel with FSA and Shimano GRX 1x12.22.04.24 07:10 215

When I sold my Scott Addict Gravel (see the story from Scott Addict Aero Gravel Project from the year 2022) through Buycycle and packed it into the bicycle box, I was quite sad. The gravel racer had accompanied me reliably for over two years both privately and in my professional reports and reviews, never once letting me down. It looked sleek, was fully integrated and even three years after its presentation, there were few other gravel bikes that could match it in terms of aerodynamics, technology, and aesthetics.

Why did I want to part with it again? And in what way was the new Silex, Merida's modernized adventure gravel bike, supposed to be better than the Scott? Some uncertainty crept in. But no matter, I had made my decision back in October at the Silex presentation in the Italian region of Emilia-Romagna, and certainly not without reason.

  • Scott Addict Gravel Tuned 2022 (out-of-the-box)Scott Addict Gravel Tuned 2022 (out-of-the-box)
    Scott Addict Gravel Tuned 2022 (out-of-the-box)
    Scott Addict Gravel Tuned 2022 (out-of-the-box)
  • Merida Silex 7000 2024 (out-of-the-box)Merida Silex 7000 2024 (out-of-the-box)
    Merida Silex 7000 2024 (out-of-the-box)
    Merida Silex 7000 2024 (out-of-the-box)

Custom Build Stage 0

  • NoPains Merida Silex Gravel Dropper Project

Custom Build Stage 0 (Test bike from the press launch)

Unlike usual, this time I did not opt for a frame set, but for one of the test bikes from the Merida Silex Press Launch. I chose the carbon frame in black with some details in bronze and gold (size medium). The bike was equipped with a Shimano Di2 2x11 groupset and consistently solid components. Nevertheless, I replaced some of the original parts with my existing DT Swiss GRC 1400 gravel wheels and brand-new Schwalbe G-One R/RS tires in 45C.

This combination marked Stage 0 of my adventure career for me.

  • Silex 7000 Carbon Model
SMALL (Seat at 74 cm)Silex 7000 Carbon Model
SMALL (Seat at 74 cm)
    Silex 7000 Carbon Model
    SMALL (Seat at 74 cm)
    Silex 7000 Carbon Model
    SMALL (Seat at 74 cm)
  • Silex 10K Carbon Model
MEDIUM (Seat at 74 cm)Silex 10K Carbon Model
MEDIUM (Seat at 74 cm)
    Silex 10K Carbon Model
    MEDIUM (Seat at 74 cm)
    Silex 10K Carbon Model
    MEDIUM (Seat at 74 cm)

If you're in between two frame sizes, you can either drive yourself crazy for weeks before buying or simply make your decision according to your personal preferences.

Smaller frame: More agile, more possible elevation, more flexibility on the seatpost, sportier use.
Larger frame: Smoother ride, larger reach, higher handlebar position without spacer tower, suitable for commuting or bikepacking.

Unlike in the past, I now tend to prefer the larger frame with a shorter stem. In the case of the Silex, it's definitely: Medium.

Silex Stage 0

Frame Silex CF2 II, Carbon, 142x12 mm standard, BSA, 700x47C max. Fork Silex II CF2, Tapered, Carbon, 100x12 mm, 700x47C max.
Bottom Bracket Shimano SM-BBR60 Headset Merida 8158
Seatpost Merida Expert CC, 27.2 mm, 15 mm SB, Carbon Seat Clamp Merida EXPERT
Saddle SQlab 612 Ergowave Carbon Crankset Shimano GRX600, 46-30 teeth, 172.5 mm
Handlebar Merida Expert GR II, Aluminium, 420 mm Stem Merida TEAM CC III, Aluminium, 31.8 mm, -6°, 80 mm, incl. Merida Smart Mount
Handlebar Tape Merida Road Expert Rear Derailleur Shimano GRX RX815 2x11 DI2 Shadow+
Chain Shimano HG701 11-speed Cassette Shimano HG800 11-34
Brake/Shift Levers Shimano GRX STI Disc 2x11 Brakes/Discs Shimano GRX, Shimano RT64 180 mm
Wheelset DT Swiss GRC 1400 Spline, Carbon, Shimano, 700C Tires Schwalbe G-ONE R/RS, 45C
Tubes Tubolito Tubo-CX, 60 mm Thru Axles Merida Expert TR
  • NoPains Merida Silex Gravel Dropper Project

I even got a few extra weeks to ponder, as on the one hand some of the Shimano GRX 1x12 parts were delayed and on the other hand the DT Swiss Micro Spline MSR freehub was not available for a long time. By March 2024, my bike was fully assembled and after I had completed the first, no, second, third – in total the fourth tour in a row in all winds and weather, everything came back to me.

  • NoPains Merida Silex Gravel Dropper ProjectNoPains Merida Silex Gravel Dropper Project
  • NoPains Merida Silex Gravel Dropper ProjectNoPains Merida Silex Gravel Dropper Project
  • NoPains Merida Silex Gravel Dropper Project
Detailansicht
ABUS GAMECHANGER 2.0
DetailansichtBest helmet for gravel riding and for the sprint victory at Milan-San Remo.
+ More Info
EVIL EYE E-SENSE E036 CYCLING GLASSES WITH PHOTOVOLTAIC
DetailansichtPV belongs on the face, not on the roof.
+ More Info
SILCA GRAVELERO MINI PUMP
DetailansichtAlways with you: the high-volume and especially dirt- and mud-repellent mini pump for gravel and mountain bikers.
+ More Info
FIDLOCK TWIST X KEEGO WATER BOTTLE
DetailansichtHard to squeeze, but who cares. They look good, don't rattle, and water still comes out.
+ More Info

Geometry & Handling

Aside from the adventure look, the Silex impressed with its geometry and riding characteristics: 'Inspired by MTB - with a high front, short stem, and steep seat angle.' It's incredible how differently the Silex rode compared to the Scott Addict Gravel. Although comparing the two gravel bikes is like comparing a rally car to an off-road vehicle, since both bikes were originally developed for completely different purposes, my home trails remained the same.

Geometry

  XS S M L XL
Wheel size 28" 28" 28" 28" 28"
Seat tube length (ST) 440 470 500 530 560
Top tube length (TT) 550 565 580 600 620
Chainstay length (CS) 430 430 430 430 430
Head tube angle (HTA) 69.5° 69.5° 69.5° 69.5° 69.5°
Seat tube angle (STA) 74.5° 74.5° 74.5° 74.5° 74.5°
BB-Drop (BD) 75 75 75 75 75
Head tube length (HT) 130 150 170 190 210
Fork length (FO) 415 415 415 415 415
Reach (R) 392 402 412 426 441
Stack (S) 570 588 607 626 645
Wheelbase (WB) 1.048 1.065 1.082 1.104 1.126
Standover height (SH) 744 771 798 825 852

The Merida Silex possesses enormous tire clearance, a slack head angle of 69.5° for more stability and higher off-road capability, 180 mm disc brakes as standard, is compatible with dropper seat posts, and has numerous mounting options.

Primarily, however, it offers tremendous comfort and glides over rough rubble as smoothly as over firm gravel or asphalt. And it does so even with the aero-optimized DT Swiss GRC carbon wheels of the first generation, which, due to the high rims and short spokes, tend to be on the unforgiving and harder side.

  • NoPains Merida Silex Gravel Dropper ProjectNoPains Merida Silex Gravel Dropper Project
  • NoPains Merida Silex Gravel Dropper ProjectNoPains Merida Silex Gravel Dropper Project

 Inspired by MTB - with a high front, short stem, and steep seat angle. 

Silex Geometry
  • NoPains Merida Silex Gravel Dropper Project

Stiff - yet quiet and comfortable

Despite its high stiffness, the Silex is able to absorb rough shocks as well as the finest vibrations better than the Scott - especially at the fork and handlebars. As a result, it rides very smoothly and quietly. You completely miss any creaking noises or the rattling of cables. The reason probably lies partly in the cable routing, where all four Bowden cables are led relatively tightly below the stem through the head tube, and partly in the soft foam tubes that were pulled over the lines in the area of the down tube, bottom bracket, and chainstay.

Particularly noteworthy is the fine straight-line stability as well as the even, smooth, and complete steering angle in both directions – and this despite the integrated cable routing, which with a corresponding FSA ACR/SMR would even be possible entirely internally.

  • NoPains Merida Silex Gravel Dropper Project
  • NoPains Merida Silex Gravel Dropper ProjectNoPains Merida Silex Gravel Dropper Project
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  • NoPains Merida Silex Gravel Dropper ProjectNoPains Merida Silex Gravel Dropper Project
  • NoPains Merida Silex Gravel Dropper ProjectNoPains Merida Silex Gravel Dropper Project

To enhance comfort on harder or longer gravel rides, I installed a dropper seatpost and a vibration-damping stem for the first time. Initially, I considered both features as nice-to-have, but they proved themselves to be more than just beneficial in practice. The FSA ST AGX VAS Stem in combination with the super stiff FSA K-Wing AGX Carbon Handlebar performed exceptionally well, noticeably damping high-frequency vibrations on gravel with the medium elastomer, without giving the bike a mushy handling when steering or standing up on the pedals. The difference is also significant when hitting a pothole with the stiff front wheel - the system largely absorbs harsh shocks.

All data, including tips and tricks for mounting both components as well as the "high-end-super-light-plays-all-integration-and-ergonomics-tricks" gravel handlebar from FSA's AGX lineup, can be found in its own story. The same applies to the Selle San Marco Regal Short FX Saddle with the innovative Bow Rail System.

  • NoPains Merida Silex Gravel Dropper Project

Silex Stage 1 (FSA | GRX1x12)

Frame Silex CF2 II, Carbon, 142x12 mm standard, BSA, 700x47C max. Fork Silex II CF2, Tapered, Carbon, 100x12 mm, 700x47C max.
Bottom Bracket Shimano SM-BBR60 Headset Merida 8158
Seatpost FSA SP AGX Flowtron 100 mm Dropper Post in 27,2 mm Seat Clamp Merida EXPERT
Saddle Selle San Marco Regal Short Carbon FX S3 Crankset Shimano GRX 820 12-speed, 172,5 mm, HT2, 42T (FC-RX820-1)
Handlebar FSA K-Wing AGX Carbon Handlebar in 440 mm Stem FSA ST AGX VAS Stem in 80mm with -6°
Handlebar Tape Merida Road Expert Rear Derailleur Shimano GRX Shadow RD+ 12-speed Derailleur (RD-RX822-SGS)
Chain DER BARANSKI Shimano CN-M8100, 12-speed, Hyperglide+, 138 Links, Quick-Link Cassette Shimano XT 12-speed MTB 10-51T (CS-M8100-124)
Brake/Shift Levers Shimano GRX 820 Disc 1x12 (ST-RX820-LA, ST-RX820-R) Brakes/Discs Shimano GRX BR-RX820, Shimano RT-MT800 180 mm, CL
Wheelset* DT Swiss GRC 1400 Spline, Carbon, Shimano, 700C Tires Schwalbe G-ONE R/RS, 45C
Tubes Tubolito Tubo-CX, 60 mm Thru Axles Merida Expert TR

* Required: HWYABL00S1961S DT Swiss MSR LI ALU RAT 142/12 MS-Road Freehub

  • NoPains Merida Silex Gravel Dropper Project
  • NoPains Merida Silex Gravel Dropper Project

Shimano GRX 1x12 with 10-51

The most significant performance and comfort gain for me was achieved by switching from Shimano's "old" GRX 2x11, specifically designed for gravel riding, to the latest GRX with 1x12 gears. Not only can every gravel racer appreciate the tight, precise gear ratio of the RX820 1x12 setup with a 10-45T cassette, but the new GRX, assuming the corresponding rear derailleur (RD-RX822-SGS) is used, is also compatible with Shimano's 10-51T MicroSpline cassette. Combined with a chainring of 40T or 42T, everyone should be able to find the optimal gear even on the steepest gravel paths or ascents in the mountains.

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  • NoPains Merida Silex Gravel Dropper ProjectNoPains Merida Silex Gravel Dropper ProjectNoPains Merida Silex Gravel Dropper Project

The first rides already hinted at what was later confirmed by sober calculation.

Comparison: GRX 1x12 42T (10-51 MSR) vs GRX 2x11 48/31T (11-36 HG)
GRX 1x12 (lowest gear): 42:51 = 0.8235 (smaller ratio = better)
GRX 2x11 (lowest gear): 31:36 = 0.8611

GRX 1x12 (highest gear): 42:10 = 4.200 (almost as fast as with 2x11)
GRX 2x11 (highest gear): 48:11 = 4.3636

Conclusion: The biggest advantage over the previous GRX 1x11/2x11 is the expanded cassette range of 10-51 across the 12 gears. Finally, there is no real disadvantage downhill compared to the 2x version, and uphill it even offers at least one additional lifeline, making climbing more relaxed and enjoyable.

Furthermore, chain sucks and chain drops are virtually impossible (I've had none so far) and the GRX 820 crankset is visually and technically identical to its predecessor (810), which is why I was able to continue using my old 810 Stages arm (both 172.5 mm).

  • NoPains Merida Silex Gravel Dropper ProjectNoPains Merida Silex Gravel Dropper Project
  • NoPains Merida Silex Gravel Dropper ProjectNoPains Merida Silex Gravel Dropper Project
  • NoPains Merida Silex Gravel Dropper ProjectNoPains Merida Silex Gravel Dropper Project

However, there were two small downsides. First, a special MSR MicroSpline Road Freehub was required for the MicroSpline cassette, which initially was very difficult to find for my wheels, second, the new Shimano GRX 1x12 is only available in a mechanical version for now. However, the mechanical group offers the possibility to control a Dropper Post without an additional lever with the left mechanical GRX lever (ST-RX820-LA). How I managed to combine the Shimano lever with the FSA post, you can read in the related Thread.

 Simply makes it simply easier. 

NoPains logical conclusion
  • NoPains Merida Silex Gravel Dropper Project

The MS/MSR Freehub Situation

With the new GRX group, Shimano is once again mixing road and MTB components and complements the ensemble additionally with their Microspline MTB cassettes. To mount a Microspline cassette on the wheel, one needs a Microspline freehub - so far so clear. However, current HG-Road freehubs compared to MS-MTB freehubs are about 1.1 mm longer, which means that after the freehub upgrade (switching from HG-Road to MS-MTB) a rear hub designed for 142 mm in total could only be 140.9 mm wide (!).

  • NoPains Merida Silex Gravel Dropper ProjectNoPains Merida Silex Gravel Dropper Project
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  • NoPains Merida Silex Gravel Dropper ProjectNoPains Merida Silex Gravel Dropper Project
  • NoPains Merida Silex Gravel Dropper ProjectNoPains Merida Silex Gravel Dropper Project
  • Correct: Road Hub + MSR = 142 mmCorrect: Road Hub + MSR = 142 mm
    Correct: Road Hub + MSR = 142 mm
    Correct: Road Hub + MSR = 142 mm
  • To illustrate: Road Hub + MS MTB = 140.9 mmTo illustrate: Road Hub + MS MTB = 140.9 mm
    To illustrate: Road Hub + MS MTB = 140.9 mm
    To illustrate: Road Hub + MS MTB = 140.9 mm

Although this is not so tragic when installing it in a gravel bike, the gears will most likely need to be readjusted because the derailleur hanger will no longer be perfectly aligned and the gears may not shift optimally or the chain could even fall off the 10-tooth sprocket. Additionally, swapping the rear wheel with multiple wheelsets proves to be a test of patience.

  • Bei DT Swiss findest du mittels...Bei DT Swiss findest du mittels...
    Bei DT Swiss findest du mittels...
    Bei DT Swiss findest du mittels...
  • ... of the respective 'DT Swiss ID' code (located on the wheel)...... of the respective 'DT Swiss ID' code (located on the wheel)...
    ... of the respective 'DT Swiss ID' code (located on the wheel)...
    ... of the respective 'DT Swiss ID' code (located on the wheel)...
  • ... all data,
support documents as well as...... all data,
support documents as well as...
    ... all data,
    support documents as well as...
    ... all data,
    support documents as well as...
  • ... Product numbers for conversion.... Product numbers for conversion.
    ... Product numbers for conversion.
    ... Product numbers for conversion.

Our Tip: When ordering a retrofit of your gravel wheelset (based on a road setup), make sure to get a Microspline "Road" freehub and check afterwards if the hub has an installation width of 142 mm. If you ride a gravel wheelset based on an MTB setup, you might need a standard (MTB) Microspline freehub, otherwise you might end up with a width of 143.1 mm. Those who have purchased a complete bike with a 10-51 setup probably don't need to worry, as the manufacturer has hopefully taken this into account.

  • NoPains Merida Silex Gravel Dropper Project
  • NoPains Merida Silex Gravel Dropper ProjectNoPains Merida Silex Gravel Dropper ProjectNoPains Merida Silex Gravel Dropper Project
  • NoPains Merida Silex Gravel Dropper ProjectNoPains Merida Silex Gravel Dropper ProjectNoPains Merida Silex Gravel Dropper Project
  • NoPains Merida Silex Gravel Dropper Project

Dropper Post Project

We asked ChatGPT what he thinks about Dropper Posts on a Gravel bike and the arguments against it. His answer was quite clear:

"A dropper seatpost allows you to quickly and easily lower the saddle to improve handling and control on challenging terrain.

Arguments against using a dropper seatpost on a Gravel bike could include:
1. Weight:
A dropper seatpost adds extra weight, which could be a disadvantage for some riders, especially those who prioritize a lightweight setup.
2. Complexity: A dropper seatpost is technically more complex than a conventional seatpost and may require more maintenance and service, which could mean additional effort.
3. Reliability: Dropper seatposts may be more prone to issues and failures, especially under the harsh conditions of Gravel biking, which can lead to unexpected breakdowns.
4. Cost: Dropper seatposts are generally more expensive than conventional seatposts, which can be a decisive factor for some riders.
5. Redundancy: Some riders might argue that a dropper seatpost on a Gravel bike is superfluous, since Gravel bikes are primarily designed for mixed surfaces and not for technically demanding downhill trails.

Ultimately, the decision whether a dropper seatpost makes sense for your Gravel bike depends on your personal preferences and the intended use.", Chat GPT 3.5 on April 15, 2024

  • NoPains Merida Silex Gravel Dropper Project
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  • NoPains Merida Silex Gravel Dropper ProjectNoPains Merida Silex Gravel Dropper Project
  • NoPains Merida Silex Gravel Dropper ProjectNoPains Merida Silex Gravel Dropper Project

Well, that's true. Personally, I wasn't really sure what a Dropper Post could do or whether it was sensible before the review, and after many test rides, I must confess that I'm still undecided. Purely rationally, I could probably do without it without any problems.

However, lowering the seatpost does make a significant difference on extremely steep descents. On one hand, it allows for easier weight shifting to the rear, and on the other hand, the feeling of safety increases so much due to the proximity to the ground that one throws oneself into the descent with even more courage than usual.
Of course, everyone must ask themselves how often they want to tackle such technical descents at high speed, and whether the technical extra effort (installation and maintenance), the less pleasing aesthetics, and the extra weight are really worth it. Aside from that, I was able to identify another disadvantage in practice: any "shifting error" at the left GRX lever, when you want to shift from the large to the small chainring as usual with 2x setups, is immediately punished with the loss of 10 cm of seat height.

Note: When tightening the seat clamp, one should proceed with caution and by no means skimp on the use of carbon paste, in order to keep the required torque as low as possible. Presumably due to the low weight, the FSA seatpost begins to deform minimally with too much torque, which can lead to the dropper not extending as smoothly. Even at the maximum specified 5 Nm, blockages can already occur.

  • NoPains Merida Silex Gravel Dropper Project

Dropper or Non-Dropper?

All in all, I would describe a Dropper Post on a gravel bike as a hobbyist feature, but also as a game changer in specific situations.

Because even on fast asphalt descents, the lower center of gravity can be exploited to the fullest. A lower seat at high speeds means a sometimes extreme aero advantage, in addition, the center of gravity is lower and allows for better bike control (see Mohorič's victory at the Milan-San Remo race 2022).

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  • NoPains Merida Silex Gravel Dropper ProjectNoPains Merida Silex Gravel Dropper Project

And even the safety advantage cannot be denied for city bikers or world travelers. With the FSA post that can be lowered by 10 cm, it doesn't matter whether you're being chased downhill by a rabid fighting dog in Favoriten, a pregnant hippopotamus in Africa, or a Mongolian snow leopard: With the ultra-low center of gravity, the 180 mm discs at the front and rear, and the endlessly grippy Schwalbe G-One R/RS tires, you can throw yourself into the next descent without reservation and escape from your pursuers with confidence.

 Get down deeper and down... 

Lied von Status Quo: Down, Down
  • NoPains Merida Silex Gravel Dropper Project
  • NoPains Merida Silex Gravel Dropper Project
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  • NoPains Merida Silex Gravel Dropper Project

Area of use

All-rounder with sporty DNA

All in all, the Merida Silex is a perfect all-rounder that guarantees maximum riding pleasure on my local gravel routes.

But it is also suitable for brisk commutes to work, participating in long-distance races or multi-day events that require balanced riding characteristics and maximum off-road capabilities, up to serious bikepacking and long-distance travel.

The Silex can be used practically anywhere and combines the robustness of a hardtail with the efficiency of a road bike. For short-distance gravel races, Merida's Scultura Endurance GR should be better suited; however, the Silex did after all suffice for the UCI Gravel World Championship title in 2023.

Area of Application

Suitability Characteristics
Road Bike "Aero" Forget it.
Road Bike "Race" Possible, but only without super sporty expectations regarding a low riding position and snappy handling. With a dedicated road bike wheelset and 25mm tires, the riding dynamics could be improved.
Road Bike "Tour" Designed for big tours and long days in the saddle, the Silex fundamentally offers all possibilities for a total endurance experience - apart from air and rolling resistance. If you sit on a classic racer with 3 cm spacers or more because otherwise the saddle height would be too extreme, you're spot on with the Silex. If you're mainly on the road, 28mm tires are recommended.
Gravel "Race" If it's not about winning, this bike with its endurance geometry and MTB gearing is a guarantee for a safe and great experience. Tracks with more challenging terrain require more profiled cyclocross/gravel tires.
Winter Training A safe bet in wet, snow, and salt. Integrated eyelets and special accessories ensure that mudguards can be mounted quickly and without rattling.
Gravel "Endurance" Top-notch. The only limiting factor is the tire tread pattern.
Gravel "Hard stuff" It doesn't get any better: geometry, seating position, and control, maximum tire width, clearance for 650B wheels, and MTB gearing. Here too, the only limit is the tire tread pattern.
Touring Bike With the cost-effective accessory options, the bike can be adapted for bikepackers.
Commuter Casting pearls before swine, but certainly a pleasure in combination with mudguards. Additionally, a gravel adventure can be started at any time.
Cyclocross Participating in hobby cyclocross races should be possible with the appropriate tires. The comparatively sluggish geometry speaks against real racing use.
Mountain Bike In theory, the Silex (with 650B and knobby tires) should suffice for any trail that can also be ridden with a rigid hardtail. The drop handlebars and shift/brake levers speak against too technical descents.

 From daily commuting to the UCI Gravel World Championship title. 

The wide range of applications for the Merida Silex 2024
  • NoPains Merida Silex Gravel Dropper Project