It’s clear Raleigh made versatility top priority when designing the Merit. In that sense, it succeeded in creating a bike you can take virtually anywhere, though you’ll make some sacrifices on the road and off.
For starters, it’s fairly heavy at almost 20 pounds, so if you’ve got any inclination to race, look elsewhere. But if you’re after a jack of all trades that can handle the gravel between the office and home, as well as the blacktop on the Saturday group ride, it’s hard to beat the Merit, especially for the price.
Wide rims and plenty of clearance for 32-millimeter tires make this a good choice for dirt-road jaunts, while Shimano disc brakes offer smooth modulation and reliability in all conditions.
Steering is a bit sluggish for our liking, with plenty of flex in the head tube to stake the Merit firmly in the realm of fun bike rather than anything approaching racer. Yet the rear end is surprisingly stiff for efficient pedaling. While the bottom bracket doesn’t come close to the stiffness numbers you’ll find on aero bikes and high-end racers, with .69 millimeters of deflection, it’s stiff enough for plenty of power transfer on the group rides or weekend dirt road excursions.
The Merit won’t win any races, but between the versatility and the Ultegra build, it’s a solid group-ride machine at a great price.
Component Highlights: Shimano Ultegra drivetrain with 50/34 crankset and 105 11-32 cassette; Shimano RS785 hydraulic disc brakes; Weinmann Aquila 19 wheels