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Merida Ride Lite Juliet 94 2013

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5 Titan Drive, Fengate East, Peterborough, PE1 5XG
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Tested by Karen Elliott

Review

'Ooh, that's a nice colour!' I exclaimed when I first saw the anthracite Merida Ride Lite Juliet 94 in the metal. I know it's a stereotypically girly thing to say, but I'm not techno-savvy enough to lust over components - I leave that to the guys in the office. Anyway, a girl's got to look good when she's out on her bike…

But colours aren't everything and the Ride Lite Juliet 94 is the top-spec lady's road bike Merida make, and comes furnished with Shimano 105 gears and hubs, R561 brakes, carbon fork and seatpost and Alex race rims. It's definitely a sporty little number.

But first I'd need to regain my confidence - late last year I was riding out to meet friends to get in some training for a London-Paris bike ride I had planned to do later this year when I was hospitalised by a driver not seeing me as he joined a roundabout. My bike was written-off and I was carried away in an ambulance and kept in hospital for almost a week until the doctors were happy that I was okay enough to go home.

As the accident happened less than a mile from my house, every time I thought about heading out on the bike it brought back the memories and I'd find excuses not to. It was too cold, too wet, the roads may be slippery, the sun may be coming from the wrong direction - you know the thing. So the Merida sat there, begging to be ridden until, at last, I plucked up the courage and went for a quick six mile trundle around town. And then there was no stopping me.

The physical injuries had healed, but I was still nervous - any car approaching from behind had me wavering - where I should have been confidently pacing along, I was dawdling, trying to regain the cycling momentum I had before the collision.

Having been off the bike for so long, the London-Paris ride was out of the question - my goal now was just to get out and regain my confidence. And each ride gave me a bit more.

The Juliet 94 proved a perfect place to rebuild my trust in drivers. The smooth-welded 6066 aluminium frame is available in four sizes, smaller than most gent's bikes - and ideal for a little person like me. The rear brake cable is routed through the top tube keeping the lines clean, while the gear cables run beside the down tube in a traditional manner. The headset's a tapered affair using a larger bearing on the bottom, improving stiffness. And when complemented with a carbon fork, you've got a very quick steering bike.

The Shimano 105 STI combined brake and gear shifters sit comfortably on the oversize tube drop bars and work in typical 105-fashion; i.e. very well. They're comfortable to ride along on the hoods, but having small hands it was sometimes tricky to apply the brakes from there - I had to drop down on the bars to put enough force on for anything more than moderate braking. 105s are slightly better for me than lower-spec shifters, but maybe it's something Shimano should take a close look at - I can't be the only one with this problem, can I?

The shifters are connected to Shimano 105 mechs, with a Shimano R565 50-34 chainset and a 12-28 10-speed rear cassette, giving plenty of gear options for all but the very steepest of hills. The twin front chainset has proved ideal when I've been out in the Fens where you're either riding into the wind or being pushed along by it.

The saddle's comfy enough, though I must confess that I haven't been out on any rides longer than a couple of hours - I haven't completed any day-long epics - and the carbon seatpost shaves some more weight off the bike.

And that weight saving is critical on womens' bikes - men may have the leg power to shove along heavy bikes, but an extra kilo woman's bike must equal about five to a man. So the Ride Juliet 94 weighing in at 9.2kg is just right.

The light weight and stiff front end makes it a joy to ride, feeling like you're skating across the tops of small bumps, rather than crashing through as you do on heavier bikes. And on climbs it makes a huge difference. If I wanted to carry round extra weight I'd eat more at the café stops…

Of course, a lot of the ride quality comes down to the tyres and rims - and the 25mm Maxxis Detonators on the deep-dish Alex Race24 rims help to maintain a fast pace. They're not the skinniest tyres you can go for, but their size gives a modicum of cushioning from the harshness of the road surface, letting you bustle along and they grip well, giving you the confidence to take corners at speed.

It's certainly been a great way for me to get back onto the road and regain my confidence - I just wish I'd found the courage to go out on it earlier - then I could have been ready for the London-Paris!

At a glance

Verdict For just under a grand you’re getting a very well specc’d bike that rides well – there aren’t really any upgrades needed. And it looks great too!
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