This Merida Ninety Six was photographed on location on the Mongolian steppe by Alex Malone from Cyclist. The whole bike shot is noticeably different as it’s clean! This was taken in Park City by Ryan.
Ryan Standish is an American bike racer who has grown up on the rocky and spikey trails of Alice Springs, Australia. In 2018, he’s really lifted his racing a notch. With a win at the Otway Odyssey early in the year, this was just a glimpse of what was to come. Standish ventured stateside and has placed on the podium at Epic Rides events, and mixed it in the front group of plenty of major races. In August, he travelled to Mongolia and won the Mongolia Bike Challenge. Here’s a look at the Merida Ninety Six that Standish piloted to victory. He will also be taking it to the 2018 Marathon World Championships in Auronzo Di Cadore, having been selected for the US Team.
Standish was racing on a BigNine in 2017, but has been on a large full-suspension Merida Ninety Six in 2018.
“I’ve been running the FS all year, the Merida Ninety-Six is a light bike and I wasn’t sure how smooth the roads would be over in Mongolia. I’m glad I had the dually because some of the days were corrugated and the riverbeds were rocky.”
The Ninety Six is light, and the Team frame that Standish rides uses the top-level full carbon fibre frame.
Standish picked up some Knight Composites XC Trail rims when he moved from Alice Springs to his US racing base earlier this year. They are a 30mm carbon rim with a 25mm internal width. Laced to DT Swiss 240 hubs the wheels weigh a claimed 1450g.
Standish has Schwalbe Racing Rays fitted front and back, with the Snakeskin casing and Tubeless Easy bead. Both tyres are the Addix Speedgrip compound, and he ran 26psi.
“Usually I run lower pressure but without much technical riding or singletrack I wanted the faster rolling, and was nervous about pinching on random rocks during high speed fireroad grass descents,” said Standish. Inside each tyre was 120ml of Orange Seal sealant. There are thorns in Mongolia, and lots of broken vodka bottles.
Squishy bits on the Merida Ninety Six
In 2018, the Merida Ninety Six Team comes equipped with Fox suspension. Up the front, Standish runs a Fox 32 Step Cast at 85psi, with rebound 4 clicks from slowest. The Step Cast is about the lightest XC fork on the market right now, and with some of the best trail feel and tuning too.
It’s matched to a Fox Float Evol in the rear. Standish runs the rear at 165psi, and has rebound set at 4 clicks from fastest.
“Both front and rear have factory tuning as I haven’t had the time between racing to play with volume reducers/spacers. I use the dual remote lockout.”
A SRAM XX1 Eagle drivetrain gives 12 sequential gears for Standish to choose from.
Standish uses a Quarq power meter to manage efforts and track data, and had a 36t chainring fitted when at the mongolia Bike Challenge.
“I used a 36t chainring for the whole week, the climbs were steep enough to use the 50t on the cassette more than a couple times. I’ve been using the 36t for the whole season this year and I think it feels and rides a little smoother than the 34t, this may just be in my head.”
For stopping, Standish runs SRAM Level Ultimate brakes with 160mm 6-bolt rotors front and rear.
Standish uses Time ATAC XC 12 to put the power through his cranks. This pedal is light and has a lot of float – but tends to have quite a high stack compared to Shimano XTR pedals.
In the cockpit
Things get a little more interesting in the command centre. While Standish runs the stock Merida Team CC bars (720mm), he has Ergon GE1 lock on grips fitted. While ostensibly a gravity enduro grip, the Ergon grips are designed to promote an attack position, and angled ends help them glance off trees if you corner too tight. While we doubt Standish ever had to turn a corner around a tree in Mongolia, these benefits suit just about any mountain bike racer.
The Truvativ Stylo stem is run flipped for the 6 degrees, with 15mm of spacers, and you can see a 12sp quick link stowed within the Garmin rubber bands. “It is easy to get to and always there if you’re out riding!”
When it comes to his office chair, Standish sits back onto a Selle SMP Dynamic. If you haven’t seen SMP saddles before – where have you been. They’re known for their immense cutouts and curved shape.
“I was skeptical of these seats at first but I couldn’t imagine spending 25 hours a week on the bike without it now.”
The SMP saddle sits atop a standard seat post. Standish is yet to go the way of the dropper.
Spares for Mongolia Bike Challenge
The Merida Ninety Six can carry one bottle in the main triangle, which is what Standish did for the race, without an extra cage on the seat post.
“I used one bottle cage on the bike, one bottle in my jersey pocket. Feed stations were roughly every 30km and we stopped at most of them to grab new bottles and food.”
“I had GU Hydration Mix in bottles, then in my pockets I had 1 gel, 1 tube of chews, 1 stroop waffle. I would stop at the feed stations and grab a variety of biscuits/lollies/dried fruit/coke depending on what I felt like. And I didn’t take enough of my own food to last the whole week of racing so the feed stations were a saviour!”
For spares on the bike, Standish used a Krieg PBR design saddle bag.
“In there I carried 1 x spare tube, 1 x tyre plug with extra bacon strips, 2 x 16g CO2 and a Topeak mini 18+ multitool.”
On his stem Standish run a Garmin 520.
“My Garmin 520 had all the GPX stage maps loaded. This was a requirement for the stages and always good to check and match with the course markings.”
So there it is, a look at a winning bike from Mongolia Bike Challenge. A wide gear range, light and wide rims, a smart parts spec without anything that is crazily boutique – just things Standish has been using for much of the season, and know that he can trust. There’s a lot to take from that!
We’ll try to catch up with Ryan Standish at XCM World Championships in Auronzo di Cadore to see if he’s made any changes for the race in the Dolomites.