Merida Big.Trail 600: Update with upgrades

Merida Big.Trail 600: Update with upgrades

06.09.21 12:22 1.218Text: gabriwa (translated by Carola Felchner)Photos: Erwin HaidenBuy upgrades - don't ride up grades! We turned our long-term test bike Merida Big.Trail 600 into a mullet. Does it run even smoother now?06.09.21 12:22 1.219

Merida Big.Trail 600: Update with upgrades

06.09.21 12:22 1.219 gabriwa (translated by Carola Felchner) Erwin Haiden Dieser Beitrag ist auch in Deutsch verfügbarBuy upgrades - don't ride up grades! We turned our long-term test bike Merida Big.Trail 600 into a mullet. Does it run even smoother now?06.09.21 12:22 1.219

Who doesn't know the great feeling when you finally treat yourself to a new bike – only to start critically examining all the components and mentally jotting down a shopping list because there might be nicer, better, lighter options?
Give me the finest off-the-shelf bike, any bike, and I guarantee that I still won't be able to resist the lure of tuning parts. There are just too many choices, too much to be curious about and the appetite for the hottest shit available is just too big.

This process is inevitable, there are no two ways about it. Therefore, it is not surprising that soon after I was given the Big.Trail 600 - though a real missile already - I tried to get even more out of it and further adapt it to my personal riding style.

The Big.Trail series’ top model is specced with rock-solid components ex works; as already stated in the test report published in spring, there’s no real competition in this price range: solid aluminum frame with modern, downhill-oriented geometry, a Marzocchi Z2, which is basically a Fox 34, a 12-speed Shimano Deore groupset and a dropper post with a decent 150 mm stroke – what more can you wish for?

This trail hardtail was made for me. Nevertheless, I found some things that I felt could be improved. But let's take one at a time:

Bigger is better - nonsense!

There are good reasons to mount 29" wheels on mountain bikes, I’m not denying this. But for me, 27.5" is the right wheel size choice. While 29" wheels rightfully dominate almost all mountain bike disciplines that are about pure speed, I consider the playful 27.5" wheels more fun on most trails. So why not follow the mullet trend and combine the best of both worlds?

Therefore, I treated myself to a new wheelset, although I would only have needed to exchange the rear wheel. At Panchowheels I had found a set that I couldn’t stop thinking about: The Vibe wheels are robust and designed for enduro use, i.e., they are made for safe handling and one hundred percent reliable even when conditions are extremely demanding. And as they allow for a maximum weight of 130 kilograms, even I could still gain some weight!
They are available in 29 and 27.5 inches – which is why I treated myself to a mullet wheelset (29"/27.5") – for less than € 890,-! At just under 1,950 grams the wheels are not exactly lightweight, but this is not important to me.

Tech Specs

Rims Vibe Alloy, 29/27.5", 30 mm internal width Weight 1,943 g
Hubs DT Swiss 240s, 6-hole, boost Price 889 Euro
Permitted total weight 130 kg
Pancho Vibe 29/27,5:
+++ great price
+++ available with different hubs thanks to configurator
++ robust and reliable
+ weigh about the same as the tyres

This combination of "business at the front, party in the back" (hence the name “mullet”) is present more often lately, especially on many hardtails and freeride fullies. The idea behind this concept is simple but clever: the smaller rear wheel gives you some of the nippiness of a 27.5" setup, while the large front wheel surmounts obstacles more easily.
At the rear of the hard tail, a wider tyre may well be mounted to provide better damping and more grip on tough terrain.

Tech Specs

Compound GUM-X Weight 29 x 2.4" 1,040 g
Casing 60 tpi, 3 layers Weight 27.5 x 2.6" 1,070 g
Protection layer Gravitiy Shield Rec. pressure 1,5 - 4,0 bar
Versions 27.5 x 2.4"; 27.5 x 2.6"; 29 x 2.4"; 29 x 2.6" Price 64,95 Euro

Gourmet or Gourmand?

Michelin tyre AM2:
+++ available in "Wild" for grip and "Force" for speed
+++ easy mounting
+++ smooth tubeless set-up
- weigh about the same as the wheels

I took advantage of this opportunity to stock up on tyres, too. Not because Maxxis' Dissector tyres are bad - they aren't. Not at all. But there are plenty of fish in the sea, so why not take a look at what the market has to offer?
And lo and behold, Michelin, the company with a sympathetic mascot named Bibendum that looks a little bit like German politician Peter Altmaier, have expanded and updated their range of bicycle tyres in the past few years. So why not give them a try?

Michelin claims that the recently updated AM2 all-mountain series had even more grip and better puncture protection than its predecessors. Available as "Force" version for fast rides and as "Wild" model for some extra grip.
For a gourmand like me, the "Force AM2" sounds perfect - so let's get it! It comes in 29 x 2.4 at the front and 27.5 x 2.6 at the rear. Of course, the tyre is tubeless-ready and according to the manufacturer weighs in at 1,040 grams (29") or 1,070 grams (27.5"). Granted: There's some room to up the weight game.

Fun brake with fun potential

When I first got to ride the Big.Trail, Shimano’s brakes hit me as a small drawback. Don’t get me wrong, these are solid brakes, but in my opinion, trail riding calls for something a little more grippy.
My odds-on favourite for this kind of rides is MT7 Pro, which I consider the ultimate trail brake when it comes to performance and reliability. Already two years ago, I had the pleasure of testing MT1893, a limited edition in silver (!), which you may read about in past year’s piece on it.


Tech Specs

Range of application Downhill, Enduro, E-MTB Transmission medium Royal Blood (mineral oil)
Brake lever Finger HC, Alloy Pistons 4
Material Alloy, Carbotecture SL Weight 255 g
Shift Mix Optional Price 219,90 Euro (per piece)

Magura MT7 Pro:
+++ first-class performance
+++ pro look, a real eye-catcher
+++ highest possible quality
o very expensive
- I am always mistaken for Loic Bruni at the lift, but never during the ride.

Two years later my opinion of MT7 has still not changed. If you are looking for a decent brake, Magura is the brand to turn to.
I was particularly taken with the Shiftmix clamps and the countless lever options. This way perfect ergonomics can be achieved for every taste, and at the same time you’ll get a neat cockpit with just one clamp left and right respectively.

The beauty of premium products is that they are thought through in every respect: smooth mounting, quick and easy shortening of cables as well es bleeding of brakes – and lots of clever details such as magnetic pistons that hold the brake pads perfectly in position and do not require any clamps.

In real-life use MT7 impresses with its usual characteristics: precise, sharp, and reliable – in continuous use as well as in pouring rain.

Abus MonTrailer ACE MIPS 
The MonTrailer ACE MIPS is a safe and reliable mountain bike helmet for uncompromising off-road riding.
+ mehr Infos

Riding impressions

Thanks to the new brakes and the – in my opinion – better wheels, the Big.Trail is even safer and more fun to ride than before. Above all, the decision to go for 27.5" wheels at the rear was spot on: it is much easier to put some load on the rear wheel which facilitates manuals (in my case they’re still not very smooth, but skill comes with practice, doesn’t it).
The bike even circles around banked turns a.k.a. "berms" like those you’ll find, e.g., at the Trailcenter Hohe Wand Wiese much crispier; I feel that the larger volume rear tyre smoothens descents and softens landings on (somewhat decent) jumps. Thumbs up!

Michelin’s Wild AM2 roll similarly bristly as Maxxis’ Dissector tyres, are at least as grippy and in my case they were very puncture resistant. They definitely are an option for riders like me who’d rather go for tyres that weigh a few grams more but plough over any rough terrain.


Do you have to tune the Big.Trail with these parts to have fun? No, you don't, but you may choose to do so.
Above all, I recommend the brake upgrade to heavier riders; it provides some extra safety that really makes a difference. The mullet concept convinced me, and I can imagine riding this combination on fullies in the future, too. Simply because it makes for a great look and a great ride – the only thing left for me to get now is a new haircut.