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Bahrain-Victorious had a relatively quiet start to this year’s Tirreno-Adriatico. While not a team known for its time trialling prowess, Jasha Sütterlin’s 28th and Jan Tratnik’s 34th were the team’s best finishers and well off the pace. However, a quick look at the start list suggests Bahrain’s focus in Tirreno’ will be on the mountains and uphill finishes.
While the rider’s stage one results didn’t catch our attention, their bikes certainly did. Many of the Bahrain-Victorious squad are racing on what appears to be a new Merida time trial bike. The team has raced the Time Warp TT for several seasons now, but the bikes used today look entirely different. The UCI list of approved models and framesets gives a clue as to the identity of the new bike with the UCI now listing a Time Warp 4 amongst Merida’s approved frames. The Time Warp 4 has a homologation date of June 15 2021, some three years after the team’s current Time Warp TT, but surprisingly almost a year from when we have first seen the bike in action. Interestingly, neither TT bike appears on Merida’s website, although a google search will find a page for the current Time Warp TT. Perhaps a further indication the Time Warp has been phased out in preparation for a forthcoming new TT rig from Merida.
The most obvious difference with the new bike is a switch to disc brakes. Time trials bikes often feature notoriously poor brakes, yet despite potentially benefitting the most from the improved braking performance, manufacturers have been slower to switch to disc brakes for their time trial bikes. Merida has now seeingly made that switch, and Bahrain-Victorious had Vision’s Metron disc aero wheels to match.
The switch to disc brakes has allowed Merida to redesign the fork and head tube. Gone is the rim brake mounts and housing (read fairing), replaced with what appears to be a narrower and channelled head tube. The outgoing Time Warp TT featured an enormous head tube, top tube, and down tube junction, and the new bike has stuck with a similar design. The increased surface area in this area is said to improve aerodynamics, smoothing the airflow over the frame.
The forks got an update also, and while some redesign would be required for the switch to disc brakes, Merida hasn’t stopped there. The new forks appear deeper, although it’s hard to be certain from the photos. The new fork has a redesigned crown area, with less integration with the down tube for a more detached appearance. Merida added small tabs at the end of the fork legs below the brake calliper for a smoother airflow off the fork.
The down tube has undergone a complete overhaul. Where previously the down tube sat close behind the front wheel and curved around the tyre, the new frame puts clear space between wheel and frame. The previous frame featured much more integration between the wheel and frame as if disguising themselves as one object to the airflow. The new bike seemingly takes the opposite approach, presumably, attempting instead to have the airflow reattach and smoothen out between tubes.
Again, the shots we have are not ideal, but it does seem the bottom bracket area might have shrunk a little. It could be a trick of the light or a different chainring size, but after trawling through countless photos, it appears the bottom bracket area is not as tall or long as the same area on the current Time Warp TT. The shallower down tube also contributes to the reduction in size at the bottom bracket area. The seat tube and top tube junction area have definitely shrunk quite considerably. As many other brands are moving to larger “compensation triangles” in this junction area, Merida’s approach has taken the relatively huge junction on the Time Warp TT and shrunk it to something more akin to that found on a road bike.
The updated seat stays and rear dropouts are the last of the new features we have spotted. The new seat stays feature an almost shelf-like junction extending out from the seat tube. The seat stays seem slightly more profiled and seemingly bow less towards the rear wheel. Finally, rather than running straight to the rear drop out, the new seat stays sit higher and drop to an almost perfectly vertical drop out area.
Overall, the Time Warp 4 is seemingly taking a different approach to solving the aero problem than we have seen from other manufacturers of late. Apart from an extremely narrow rear side to the head tube, the bike doesn’t seem to maximise tube shapes and proportions to the new UCI regulations. While larger tubing and surface areas are often a recipe for a faster bike, there is a weight penalty for all that extra size. With much less bulk the new Time Warp 4 should be lighter than the outgoing Time Warp TT. Presumably, Merida did its aero homework on the new frame and has found further gains in new design avenues. We have contacted Merida for comment on the new bike and will update you as we get more information.