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Merida Speeder T3-D 2013

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5 Titan Drive, Fengate East, Peterborough, PE1 5XG
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Tested by Neil Watterson

Review

If you've seen my other bike reviews you'll know I'm quite partial to a hybrid for my commute to work. And if it's equipped with disc-brakes, it's all the better. And that's why I'm testing the disc-braked version of Merida's T3 Speeder bike from the company's 'fitness' range.

Merida have been around for a while, selling incredibly good value bikes. They may not advertise as much as the 'big' boys, but every owner I've spoken to has nothing but praise for the bikes.

Okay, you could argue that nobody would say their ride was rubbish - they have to justify the outlay - but the owner comments were genuine and heart-felt: they were really pleased with the bikes.

And, I've got to say that I'm impressed with the T3-D Speeder. It's a fast road-biased hybrid with a great Shimano 105/Microshift transmission, Tektro Draco disc brakes, aluminium frame, Alex rims and Maxxis Detonator tyres. And to give it a thorough test, I entered a sportive on it as well as subjecting it to my usual commuting.

The thing that stands out on this bike is the transmission - it's a joy to use. Gear selection is incredibly accurate - and it has remained good with only a small amount of fettling. The front derailleur is a micro-adjust unit, so you have none of that annoying clatter when you ask the chain to go through a stupid angle, like biggest rings both the front and rear. And even in the middle chain-ring it removes the tinkle when you move from the lower end to the upper end on the rear cassette.

The middle chain-ring has seen a whole load of use - it's a 42-tooth unit (the triple chain-ring is an FSA 52, 42, 30 unit) and, coupled with a 11-26 cassette, it's proved ideal from my forays into the rolling countryside that makes up Northamptonshire.

I've only really needed to drop to the granny ring on long grinding climbs and on days when a very strong headwind had me hunched down over the bars trying to make progress without being blown over. The big ring has only been called upon for long descents, as I rapidly flick through the gears on the rear cassette to achieve maximum speed.

For some reason, there always seems to be a junction at the bottom of every steep hill and although it's a great wheeze barrelling down watching the numbers on the computer get larger, worrying about stopping can take the edge off the fun. That's something that isn't the case with the Tektro Drako hydraulic units. They've proved to be reliable and offer immense and progressive stopping power and have been faultlessly reliable.

I wish I could say the same about the tyres. The Maxxis Detonators are a lightweight training tyre, and in the 700x32C size fitted, they offer a good balance of comfort and speed. They're also easy to get on and off the Alex disc-specific rims - just as well, really, as I've picked up four punctures in the rear, in a period of use I'd normally expect one at the most. It may be that I've just been unlucky, but other riders on different tyres (mostly the similar tread pattern Schwalbe Durano Plus) haven't suffered at all. Interestingly, I can't find the Detonators available in the size fitted online, so I'd definitely consider a switch to the Schwalbes if you wanted to keep the same size.

Of course, you could go for a smaller, harder racing tyre - the rims will accept them - but you'd sacrifice a bit of bump-cushioning comfort. Anyway, with the 32C tyres you can still fit mudguards; there's mudguard holes front and rear and built-in pannier fixings, so using it as an all-weather commuter is possible. And, with the flat handlebars, you'll be in an ideal riding position for keeping an eye on what's going on around you, while maintaining full control - the levers and gear-changes falling easily to hand.

One thing I can't fathom, though, is the flat bars themselves; I don't seem to be able to adjust them so they look right. There's nothing wrong with the positioning or the ride comfort, it's just they don't look like they're in the right place. It may be an optical illusion caused by the oversize centre of the bar, but I haven't noticed it on other similarly-equipped bikes. I would consider fitting bar ends just to give a variety of hand positions on longer rides, though.

Which was something I thought about doing before using it for the Action Medical Peterborough 100 Sportive, but decided against. And, as it turned out I didn't really miss them. There weren't any major climbs requiring the old lean-the-bike to-and-fro movements and when my hands started objecting to having been in one position for too long, I either rode with my palms over the end caps, or sat upright and cruised along no-handed.

Most riders on sportives go for racing handlebars, so have plenty of different positions for their hands, and I reckon there were only about a dozen riders using hybrids (and a couple of brave souls on mountain bikes) out of the hundreds of entries. The less aerodynamic riding position of a bike with flat bars becomes obvious over the longer distance, but with a similar drivetrain to that of the sportive bikes, it's not a problem dropping onto their wheel and getting dragged along - or just sitting upright and going for it, and pretend you're riding a derny at the start of a Keirin!

The bike is very stable and although it's about mid-weight for this type of bike - around 12.3kg with pedals - it feels sturdy enough. The 6061 aluminium frame is made up of triangular section tubes (apart from the seat tube) and is coupled to a disc-specific fork, which I'm guessing is made of similar material. The cable routing is neat, though it's puzzling to see why cable adjusters have been incorporated on both down-tube routings - you can adjust the rear derailleur cable on the gear lever pods, on the down-tube and on the mech itself…

The silver frame is adorned in black and white decals, which manage to look both in-your-face and classy at the same time - the large company name along the downtube isn't subtle - but then why should it be? If people like the look of the bike at least they'll know who makes it.

So, with the Speeder T3-D you're getting a well-specified bike with great transmission and brakes, comfortable frame geometry and the ability to use it as a commuter or a training bike. It may not quite be a match for the sportive bikes in terms of aerodynamic qualities and therefore top speed, but you'll be able to see more of what's going on around you - and if you're riding on busy roads, that's always a bonus.

At a glance

Verdict Great training bike for those who want to go quickly and keep up with others, but don’t fancy drop handlebars.
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