The Merida Matts 900 in all its glory!

There are so many ways we can have fun on bikes, any bikes. I’m constantly running into riders that seem to have some kind of misconception that if your bike isn’t the ‘mac daddy space plastic’ bike of justice you’re not having a sweet time, which is rubbish and it’s time to prove it. I do get that some people enjoy having the best kit but that seems to be a different activity. So for all intents and purposes I’m going to overlook it. We are here for the thrill of the ride and how we can get it.

Complete with Apple sticker

Stephan’s Merida is just an epic piece of awesomeness (I bet you never expected to read that sentence in your life). It just makes people happy and for a whole array of different reasons. For example if you saw this bike on the side of the track you would double take and it would make you giggle. And when you ride it you just smile and laugh your way down the trail. So how did this giggle tractor come to be? Well let’s give some background on Stephan. Stephan has always been into mountain biking but never had a proper mountain bike (he really does now FYI). He spent his youth taking his childhood Mongoose up fire roads so he could bomb down them as fast as he could. In 2007 he decided to get a “big boy bike” so headed into the local bike shop. Being new to the sport and not having much knowledge in the vast array of options on offer he put his trust into the sales guy. After some back and forth they decided a cross country bike would be the best option and Stephan left the shop with a shiny new Merida Matts 900. Unfortunately the next three years consisted of the bike not being used that much as the bike seemed to have a uncanny ability to eject its rider over the bars. This had everything to do with the Merida coming stock with stupidly narrow bars and a fork made from wet egg noodles.

That clearance…

In 2010 he moved to Christchurch and ended up living in a flat of mountain bikers that pointed him in the right direction. Which translated to a DMR Trail Star followed by a super high end Yeti SB66. This left his Merida collecting dust but it was never forgotten. This next stage Stephan calls “fate.” One of his flatmates was clearing through his box of bike bits and asked if Stephan wanted his old rigid fork. He took one look at it and knew exactly what it needed to go on. The flat pooled together all the spare parts they had and got the Matts 900 firing and ready for a test ride as a fully rigid trail bike. In Stephan’s words: “It was amazing, for some reason it just seemed to work, it didn’t look like it should but it did.

Obviously flat pedals were a necessity on this DH rig…

The first build made the bike quite a heavy beast as spare part builds tend to be. The next stage was brought on by Stephan being too epic for words as he decided to race the stupidly rocky Godley Head Enduro on the fully rigid 26 inch Merida. But to make the bike ‘race ready’ he moved his XTR groupset off the Yeti and made it super light. This made the bike even funnier and after the race the decision was made that some upgrades where in order. Over the next year he managed to get some much lighter hand-me-downs plus some small but key upgrades on it making it the bike it is today. Key point to note if you ever wanted to do this: your wheels are very rarely on the ground due to the lack of suspension. So spec super grippy big tyres and super powerful brakes as you have very limited braking opportunities. Stephan got hold of some massive 8” discs and the hilariously renamed Shimano ‘SEX’ brakes and they help him stay kind of in control.

Better than SLX

So I’m sure you are expecting that all he rides on this bike is nice easy butter smooth flow trails… not so much. “Now the type of riding that I love doing on it is rocky steep stuff, Flowy stuff, anything really as long as the jumps are not too big.” After all this time why would someone keep going back to a bike that is much harder to ride, uncomfortable and makes almost every track seem like you’re going into battle? “I like having a second bike that is vastly different to the other it makes riding the same track feel like a different one. It also helps you with your line choice and your dynamics on the bike. When you have no suspension you are the suspension. I also like the fact that it reminds me that the most important piece of kit on your bike is the rider. You don’t need super fancy to get a smile on your face.”

“You don’t need super fancy to get a smile on you face”

If you think you can’t get fired up on riding because you need the greatest bike maybe you are looking at everything the wrong way. Maybe you need a bike that keeps you honest and reminds you why you do this in the first place.

Insider Rides looks at the bikes that we ride, the bikes that industry insiders ride, that racers ride, and everyday folk ride. Got a sweet ride for us to check out? Drop us a line here…