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This new Merida Scultura Team uses the fifth generation of the frameset, which shares the geometry of Merida's Reacto and is also influenced by its aerodynamic design. The best quality for me, though, is just how damn comfortable this bike is.
As the name suggests, this Scultura model is the one ridden at the top level by the Bahrain Victorious ProTour team, so I was expecting razor-sharp handling and a bike stiff to the point of being harsh as it needs to deal with the monstrous power levels being put out by the pros.
You do get that precision steering (more about that in a mo) although while the Scultura shows huge amounts of tightness around the lower half of the frame, especially at the bottom bracket shell, at the front end and the fork it is sublimely comfortable.
I was really surprised, and it makes the Scultura a dream to ride.
Even with the 28mm Continental tyres pumped up firm there is a very little in the way of road buzz coming through the contact points, no doubt helped not only by the carbon fibre layup, but also things like the slender seatstays and the S-Flex carbon seatpost.
Not getting battered about means you can ride quicker for longer, so you can cover plenty of distance on the Scultura as this is one rapid bike.
With its clean front end, thanks to all of the cables and hoses being completely hidden from view, the Merida certainly feels as though it cuts through the air smoothly, especially with the all-in-one handlebar/stem setup.
Other details like teardrop shaped tubing, a sculpted seat tube to shield the rear wheel and, of course, deep-section wheels, mean that once this thing is rolling it doesn't take huge amounts of effort to maintain the pace; it definitely feels like an aero bike.
Away from the flat, the Scultura Team is a capable climber thanks in part to that great stiffness and a weight of 7.1kg on our scales; not quite as light as something like the big money 6.85kg S-Works Tarmac SL7 I tested last year, but not far off. Impressive considering the near three-grand difference in price.
This also means the Scultura is responsive to hard accelerations and is, therefore, a great sprinting bike.
As you'd expect for a bike designed to cope with the demands of the pro calendar, the Scultura Team has a geometry that's tuned for delivering performance.
This medium size has a top tube length of 560mm mated to a very short head tube, just 140mm, giving stack and reach figures of 557mm and 395mm respectively. That gives a ratio of 1.41 which is right at the racier end of the scale – for an endurance road bike you're normally looking at around 1.55ish.
The head angle is 73.5 degrees, which, when mated to the 990mm wheelbase, gives the Scultura Team a precise and nimble feel in terms of responses to steering inputs and your body position.
It's a great bike to ride fast through the bends. Loads of feedback from the stiff frame and fork lets you know exactly what is going on, and if you have to correct your line or something, you can, instinctively.
The steering feels fast but well balanced. At first it can feel a little twitchy and nervous, especially if you've come from a bike with more relaxed geometry, but learn to relax a bit and just let the bike get on with its job and the rewards are massive.
Some bikes closing in on the 7kg weight region can feel a little flighty over rough roads and the like, especially if they are as stiff as the Merida. This Scultura feels very poised on the road, though, with the composure of a weightier machine.
The Team uses Merida's CF5 V full carbon fibre frame (with added nano particles in the resin to increase impact protection by 40%, according to Merida) and CF5 Disc fork which, as I mentioned, has taken on some of the aero cues of the Reacto but has also been developed to offer more comfort than the previous model.
These kind of claims are always difficult to quantify out in the real world, but I'll give you the numbers from Merida:
Aerodynamic-wise, at 45kph the previous Scultura required 234.3 watts, but cleaning up the front end, as in hiding all of the cables/hoses, using the integrated cockpit, hiding the seat clamp and dropping the seatstays lower where they meet the seat tube, equates to a wattage saving of 4.2%, 224.5 watts at 45kph.
Reducing stiffness anywhere on a new bike doesn't always get a mention by bike companies, but Merida says it has reduced vertical stiffness by 38%, from the bottom bracket shell to the saddle on the Scultura. That's been achieved by extending the amount of seatpost exposure by 40mm, by creating a more steeply sloped top tube, which gives more room for the post to flex for comfort.
Tyre clearance has also been upped to 30mm, so you can run bigger tyres, softer.
The seatpost itself is held in place by an expanding wedge system inside the tube. Adjustment is by way of a bolt under the top tube, and once tightened up there were no problems with slippage.
A lot of the latest bikes we have seen are running cable systems that enter through the top of the headset or, like this Scultura, run entirely through the handlebar, stem and then into the head tube before disappearing off around the rest of the frame or fork. It's a neat solution in terms of aesthetics and aerodynamics, making use of Merida's Wire Port headset, and the two-piece headset spacer design allows you to add or remove spacers without affecting the cable/hose runs.
At the top of the fork steerer you'll also find a Force Diffuser, which is designed to work with the Team SL 1P cockpit. It's a metal sleeve that Merida says protects the fork steerer at the stem clamping area by distributing the loads evenly.
As for everything else, it's all pretty much what you'd expect to find on a top-end race bike: flat mount disc mounts, 12mm thru-axles front and rear, two bottle cage mounts... and no options for mounting full mudguards, in case you were wondering.
There is a tapered head tube at the front end, while the bottom bracket is of the press-fit persuasion.
Merida also supplies many of its bikes with cooling fins, or Disc Coolers as it calls them. This is to reduce heat build-up on long descents where you may find yourself dragging the pads for long sections at a time.
I've touched a bit on the geometry already, but it's also worth mentioning that there are six sizes in total, with top tube lengths ranging from 520mm to 590mm. On this medium you get a relatively steep seat angle of 73.5 degrees to match the head angle, a 501mm seat tube, bottom bracket drop of 66mm, and a fork length of 385mm. The chainstays are just 408mm in length.
For this kind of money you are going to be wanting top drawer kit, and to be honest the build is pretty impressive, with the latest Shimano Dura-Ace R9200 Di2 12-speed groupset.
Apart from that extra sprocket, I must admit I could barely detect a huge amount of difference over the previous 11-speed version, and that's a good thing because that means the gear shifting remains just as flawless and quick as it was before.
Merida has specced a 52/36T chainset which also comes with a power meter, paired with an 11-30T cassette.
I love the feel of Shimano's hydraulic braking systems throughout the range, and this Dura-Ace setup is the cream of the crop. Loads of power with oodles of feedback allowing you to modulate them easily, and that was even on our test bike which hadn't had the brakes set up very well at all, with loads of lever travel, especially for the rear – and I'll admit I never quite got around to fixing it.
Basically, the whole setup is awesome; if you want the full in-depth analysis then follow the link above to Liam's 4.5 star review.
The handlebar part of the carbon fibre SL 1P integrated cockpit is very comfortable with its flat top section and shallow drops for when you want to hunker down. The stem I found worked for me, but if it doesn't for you, that is the only pain in not having the option to swap in parts.
Depending on the size of bike, Merida supplies the cockpit with differing bar widths and effective stem lengths.
The seatpost is Merida's Team SL S-Flex carbon fibre, which has a diameter of 27.2mm and 15mm of setback. Adjustment is simple, and I found setting up the comfortable Prologo Scratch M5 saddle a doddle.
Merida hasn't skimped on the wheels or tyres either: a set of Vision Metron 45 SL Clincher TL Disc wheels with a 45mm-deep carbon fibre rim, tubeless valves and tape included. Wrapped around these are a set of 28mm Continental Grand Prix 5000 S TR tyres.
The wheels are great, and really suit the performance of the Team frameset. They have a rim with an external width of 31mm, optimised to work with a 28mm tyre. Weight is very impressive at a claimed 1,372g.
The test period was surprisingly dry and mild considering the time of year, so I didn't really get to put them through their paces in typical winter weather, but they seem absolutely fine in terms of strength and remaining true.
Continental's GP5000 S TR tyre is a direct replacement for the GP5000 S TL, TL meaning tubeless, as it had a butyl liner inside to stop it being porous and allowing the air to escape. It was 'fully tubeless', meaning you didn't need to run sealant inside if you didn't want to.
The TR has dropped that, which has reduced weight by around 50g per tyre, and now, like most on the market, it is 'tubeless ready' – requiring sealant to close up all of the tiny holes in the sidewalls when you first inflate them.
In line with Jamie's review, I also found the GP5000s to be some of the fastest and grippiest tyres going, and durability doesn't seem to be an issue either.
Another good thing about them is they're great in all weather conditions. On wet roads you need to back off a bit, but the compound still seems to bite the surface well.
When you look at the quality of the frameset and the overall package of components, I think the Merida's £7,750 asking price is a decent one.
The Pro version of Scott's Foil RC comes with the same Dura-Ace Di2 groupset, has an integrated carbon cockpit and Zipp 303SE deep-section wheels for £8,199. I'm a big fan of the Foil family, and being a bit of an all-round race bike with an aero bias it is very similar in performance terms to the Scultura Team.
Canyon's Ultimate CFR Disc Aero is, again, a similar machine and comes with Dura-Ace Di2 and DT Swiss ARC 1100 Dicut wheels with 50mm-deep carbon fibre rims. You also get Canyon's integrated cockpit, but the price is even higher at £8,249.
Specialized looks to have gone down the SRAM route on its line-up of Tarmac SL7s this year, with the most comparable model to the Merida being the Pro, at £7,500. It gets a SRAM Force eTap AXS gear system with SRAM Red brakes and Specialized's own Roval Rapide CL wheels.
Overall, I think the Scultura Team is really well specced for the money, especially when you take things like the power meter into consideration. As you'd expect from a high-end bike, nothing has been skimped on, and it can back it all up with its performance and impeccable ride quality. It's an excellent bike.
Pro-level performance with excellent comfort, draped in all the bling you could want, for a decent price
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Merida Scultura Team
Size tested: M/56cm
About the bike
List the components used to build up the bike.
WHEELSET METRON 45 SL Clincher TL Disc
FRONT TYRE Continental Grand Prix 5000S TR
REAR TYRE Continental Grand Prix 5000S TR
HUBS MERIDA EXPERT SL
CHAINWHEEL Shimano Dura Ace
CRANK SIZE 165 mm-XXS/XS, 170 mm-S, 172.5 mm-M, 175 mm-L/XL
BOTTOM BRACKET SM-BB92-41B, Pressfit 86.5
CASSETTE Shimano CS-R9200
CHAIN Shimano CN-M9100-12
SHIFTERS Shimano Dura Ace disc Di2
FRONT DERAILLEUR Shimano Dura Ace Di2
REAR DERAILLEUR Shimano Dura Ace Di2
BRAKE LEVER Shimano Dura Ace disc
BRAKES Shimano Dura Ace
ROTORS Shimano RT900
HEADSET MERIDA custom
STEM TEAM ONE-PIECE INTEGRATED
STEM SIZE 90 mm-XXS/XS, 100 mm-S, 110 mm-M, 120 mm-L/XL
HANDLEBAR TEAM SL 1P INTEGRATED
SEAT POST MERIDA Team SL
SADDLE SCRATCH M5
SEAT CLAMP MERIDA EXPERT
Tell us what the bike is for and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about the bike?
Merida says, "Team Bahrain Victorious put the fifth generation Scultura thoroughly through its paces, winning mountain top stages of the Tour de France and the Vuelta a Espana before the bike was even launched.
Gen 5 keeps the Scultura's fabled lightweight, agility and rider comfort focus and even manages to improve on both measures.
The Scultura now incorporates learnings from the Reacto in terms of aerodynamics; they now share the same race proven geometry.
Improving weight, comfort and aerodynamics requires plenty of engineering ingenuity. Round tubes are lighter than aero profiled tubes, fatter tyres are more comfortable but less aerodynamic. There are always compromises to be made.
The new Scultura is the most aerodynamic ever and shows outstanding compliance, providing class-leading rider comfort. The marketing blurb suggests this helps keep the body fresh for the final sprint or ascent. A couple of mountain top, grand tour stage victories underline that point quite well!"
I agree: it's a very stiff, fast bike but with great comfort levels.
Where does this model sit in the range? Tell us briefly about the cheaper options and the more expensive options
The Team is the second model in the carbon fibre Scultura range. The 10K sits at the top with a full Shimano Dura-Ace groupset and Zipp 353 NSW wheels for £9,000, with the seven-bike range starting at £2,150 for the Shimano 105-equipped Scultura 4000.
Frame and fork
Tell us about the build quality and finish of the frame and fork?
Excellent quality throughout.
Tell us about the materials used in the frame and fork?
Both the frame and fork are constructed from carbon fibre with nano particles added to the resin to increase impact resistance.
Tell us about the geometry of the frame and fork?
The geometry is very much race orientated.
How was the bike in terms of height and reach? How did it compare to other bikes of the same stated size?
The stack and reach figures are fairly typical of a bike of this style.
Riding the bike
Was the bike comfortable to ride? Tell us how you felt about the ride quality.
The ride quality is excellent for such a stiff bike.
Did the bike feel stiff in the right places? Did any part of the bike feel too stiff or too flexible?
The bottom half of the frame delivers loads of stiffness for getting the power down. There were no issues with the stiffness of the fork either.
How did the bike transfer power? Did it feel efficient?
The Scultura transfers power very well thanks to the stiff bottom half of the frame.
Was there any toe-clip overlap with the front wheel? If so was it a problem?
How would you describe the steering? Was it lively neutral or unresponsive? Lively.
Tell us some more about the handling. How did the bike feel overall? Did it do particular things well or badly?
The handling here is fast and very precise, which makes it a lot of fun to ride hard into technical corners.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's comfort? would you recommend any changes?
I got on well with the saddle and the handlebar shape is pleasing.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's stiffness? would you recommend any changes?
I was impressed with how stiff the Vision wheels felt when accelerating hard out of the saddle.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's efficiency? would you recommend any changes?
Those wheels are also very light, which makes the bike feel nippy from a standing start.
Tell us some more about the drivetrain. Anything you particularly did or didn't like? Any components which didn't work well together?
The new Di2 groupset still has the excellent crisp shifting of its predecessor, and the 12-speed cassette gives you an extra bailout gear for the hills.
Wheels and tyres
Tell us some more about the wheels.Did they work well in the conditions you encountered? Would you change the wheels? If so what for?
A great set of lightweight deep-section wheels which really suit the performance of the bike.
Tell us some more about the tyres. Did they work well in the conditions you encountered? Would you change the tyres? If so what for?
Expensive when it comes to replacing them, but I think they are some of the fastest and grippiest tyres out there that don't sacrifice durability.
Tell us some more about the controls. Any particularly good or bad components? How would the controls work for larger or smaller riders?
I was a fan of the whole build. It's great quality and I got on well with the shape of the shallow drops of the handlebar.
Did you enjoy riding the bike? Yes
Would you consider buying the bike? Yes
Would you recommend the bike to a friend? Yes
How does the price compare to that of similar bikes in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?
The Scultura Team is well priced compared with many of the peloton-ready race bikes on the market, especially when you consider the inclusion of a power meter.
Use this box to explain your overall score
Merida has done a very good job of delivering a bike with this much stiffness that can still provide comfort levels that allow you to ride all day at speed. Also factoring in the great handling and spec level for the money, there is very little to dislike. It's excellent.
About the tester
I usually ride: This month's test bike My best bike is: B'Twin Ultra CF draped in the latest bling test components
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: time trialling, commuting, club rides, sportives, fixed/singlespeed,
With 20 years of road cycling and over 150,000 miles in his legs it's safe to say Stu is happiest when on the bike whatever the weather. Since writing his first review for road.cc back in 2009 he has also had a career in engineering including 3D-CAD design and product development, so has a real passion for all of the latest technology coming through in the industry but is also a sucker for a classic steel frame, skinny tyres, rim brakes and a damn good paintjob.
His fascination with gravel bikes is getting out of control too!