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Merida's Cyclo Cross 500 is a very good all-rounder, sneaking in at under the magic £1,000 mark. It's light and responsive enough to chuck round a race, and versatile enough for more general purpose riding. It's fun to ride and easy to recommend.
Merida use their top-tier alloy for this frame, Prolite 66. The tubeset is triple butted for weight saving and quite heavily hydroformed too, most noticeably on the arched and flattened top tube. The welds are smoothed and with the shiny black paint finish it'd be easy to mistake it for a carbon frame from a distance; certainly it's got a nice, organic feel to the lines.
The X-Taper head tube, with a 1 1/2in bottom bearing, feeds into a chunky down tube and the control cables run internally down it, unusually disappearing into ports in the top of the tube rather than the sides. The bottom bracket is a standard 68mm threaded unit, and at the back the disc mount is on the chainstay, which will make fitting a rack or mudguards a bit more straighforward.
The fork is full carbon, save for the alloy inserts to hold the 15mm thru-axle for the front wheel. There's plenty of clearance for a bigger tyre than the 35mm Continental CX rubber that's fitted as standard; you could probably squeeze a 50mm tyre in there, although there's less clearance for the back wheel. The fork has mudguard mounts too, although they're quite subtle: on the rear face of the fork blades and under the crown of the fork. Depending on the mudguard you fit, you might need to do a bit of tinkering to make it work.
Shimano's 105 groupset performs the shifting, mated to an FSA Gossamer 46/36 chainset. With the 11-28 cassette at the back you get a good enough range of gears for most riding and 105 was its usual perfectly functional self throughout testing. I put the Merida through some fairly filthy rides and never managed to make the 11-speed transmission skip or jump other than the odd hiccup.
Although the TRP Spyre brakes, with 160mm rotors, lack the overall power of hydraulics, they're easy to adjust and have a good feel at the lever.
I chucked the Cyclo Cross 500 round a couple of local cyclo-cross races and it's perfectly capable of holding its own. At a feather under 10kg it's certainly not the lightest CX bike you can buy, but for the money it's about what you'd expect, and I managed to keep up with, well, some people. Let's say about half.
The off-road handling is good. The bike has a generous wheelbase and the steering is predictable, if a bit slower than a fully-fledged race bike. The fork is excellent: the 15mm thru-axle stiffens up the front end noticeably, and tracking over rough ground is really good, with very little noticeable dive under heavy braking.
When you put the power down the frame is plenty stiff enough to deliver. The ride is firm but not too harsh; the stays are shaped to allow a bit of flex and the 27.2mm seatpost has a bit of give in it too. There's less by way of give at the front: I found myself favouring the tops over the hoods over rough ground, Paris-Roubaix style. The Merida has extra cross-top levers for braking from that position, so it's one that you can use a lot more than if you were restricted to braking from the hoods or the drops. The cross-tops and discs can actually stop you as well, which hasn't always been my experience with trying to haul yourself to a halt from the tops on cantilever brakes.
On the road the bike is well behaved and easy to ride. The tyres are a bit draggy but you could swap them out for 28mm road tyres or 30mm gravel tyres for better road performance and still have the option of heading onto unsurfaced trails. If you're going to use the bike primarily for commuting, that'd be the first change to make. That and a set of mudguards and you'd be ready for year-round commuting. You could fit a rack too, but you'd have to hang it from the mudguard mount on the seatstay bridge, or fit a seatpost collar with mounts on, as there are no rack mounts on the seatstays.
The Cyclo Cross 500 feels a bit more like an entry-level race bike than it does an all-rounder. The only thing that doesn't really feel quite like race spec is the wheelset, which is well made but a bit on the heavy side. The bike was much improved for racing by swapping out the stock wheels with some lightweight carbon ones that cost as much again as the bike, but then you'd hope that would make a noticeable difference. You can keep the old ones and balance them against one another in the pit area for the pro look if you ever did decide to upgrade.
But even in full stock build, it's perfectly capable of holding its own in the pack. If you're a podium-botherer then you'll want something lighter and probably a bit faster in the turn, but for those of us embracing mid-table mediocrity it's more or less ideal.
A smart-riding alloy bike with a carbon fork, decent disc brakes and a 105 groupset is a solid buy, and at under 10kg and under £1,000 the Cyclo Cross 500 makes a good case for itself. It's plenty versatile enough for day-to-day use but it's capable of racing too. The handling is good, and all the components are well chosen.
Good, balanced performance with a solid component spec: a smart all-rounder
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Make and model: Merida Cyclo Cross 500
Size tested: 59
State the frame and fork material and method of construction. List the components used to build up the bike.
COLOR metallic black (green/white)
FRAME SIZES 47cm50cm52cm54cm56cm59cm
FRAME CYCLO CROSS LITE
FORK CC Carbon disc 15
DERAILLEUR FRONT Shimano 105 D
DERAILLEUR REAR Shimano 105 SS
SHIFTERS Shimano 105
BRAKE LEVER On Bar Lever additional
BRAKES Tektro Spyre disc 160
CHAINWHEEL FSA Gossamer 46-36 Mega
CHAIN FSA F11S
HUBS Bearing Disc-15 Road Axle / Bearing Disc cassette
RIM Merida comp 22 disc cross
FREEWHEEL Shimano CS-5800-11 11-28
TIRES Continental Cyclocross Race 35 fold
HANDLEBAR STEM MERIDA pro OS -5
HANDLEBAR MERIDA Road Pro Classic OS
HEADSET Big Conoid S-bearing neck pro
SEAT POST MERIDA pro H SB15 27.2
SADDLE Merida Race 1
Tell us what the bike is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about the bike?
Merida don't make any specific claims for the Cyclocross 500.
Tell us about the build quality and finish of the frame and fork?
Well built and finished.
Tell us about the materials used in the frame and fork?
Prolite 66 triple butted alloy frame, full carbon fork.
Tell us about the geometry of the frame and fork?
59cm frame, 590mm effective top tube, 403mm reach, 612mm stack.
How was the bike in terms of height and reach? How did it compare to other bikes of the same stated size?
It was pretty much as expected.
Was the bike comfortable to ride? Tell us how you felt about the ride quality.
The CX 500 is a good compromise between race stiffness and commuting comfort.
Did the bike feel stiff in the right places? Did any part of the bike feel too stiff or too flexible?
The frame and fork are plenty stiff.
How did the bike transfer power? Did it feel efficient?
It's an efficient machine.
Was there any toe-clip overlap with the front wheel? If so, was it a problem?
How would you describe the steering? Was it lively, neutral or unresponsive? Neutral for a cross bike.
Tell us some more about the handling. How did the bike feel overall? Did it do particular things well or badly?
It's not as quick in the turn as a dedicated race bike but it's stable and predictable.
Did you enjoy riding the bike? Yes, it's a good all-rounder that's light enough to thrash round a race
Would you consider buying the bike? Yes
Would you recommend the bike to a friend? Yes
Use this box to explain your score
You're getting a quality frame, good components and good brakes. The wheels are a bit on the heavy side but well built and reliable. Overall it's a good package for a grand.
Age: 42 Height: 189cm Weight: 91kg
I usually ride: whatever I'm testing... My best bike is: Kinesis Tripster ATR
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Experienced
I regularly do the following types of riding: road racing, commuting, club rides, sportives, general fitness riding, fixed/singlespeed, mountain biking, Mountain Bike Bog Snorkelling, track
Dave is a founding father of road.cc, having previously worked on Cycling Plus and What Mountain Bike magazines back in the day. He also writes about e-bikes for our sister publication ebiketips. He's won three mountain bike bog snorkelling World Championships, and races at the back of the third cats.