There’s no doubt a design playbook has been doing the rounds within WorldTour-level road bike brands, and it seems Merida is the latest company to have flicked through the pages and given its lightweight race bike the all-rounder and disc-only overhaul.
Merida’s Scultura Team has long offered a rather traditional aesthetic with seatstays that meet the top tube, somewhat round tube shapes, and exposed cabling at the front end. However, that is all set to change for 2022 with a wholly new fifth-generation Scultura Team from the German-designed, Taiwanese-owned company.
Bahrain-Victorious has been racing this new disc-only bike for a number of months but Merida was seemingly waiting for Shimano to finally lift the curtain from its new Dura-Ace groupset before officially releasing details of the Scultura Team. We’re yet to get our hands on the new bike for review, but here are the key things to know.
Lighter, aero, and more comfortable
Merida is claiming that its fifth-generation Scultura Team is lighter, has less drag, and is more comfortable than its predecessor. And is often the case from the company, you can expect this new bike to provide better bang for your buck than some other top-tier race offerings (unless you’re in North America, in which case it’s not available).
The new Scultura employs NACA-style truncated airfoil profiles similar to those seen on the company’s fairly fresh Reacto aero bike, especially around the head tube and fork. The new Scultura also sees the chainstays dropped, the seatpost clamp integrated, and a wholly new cockpit that conceals the cables (more on this below). All told, Merida is claiming the new Scultura Team saves approximately 10 watts of drag at 45 km/h over the previous version. It now sits approximately midway between the previous Scultura and Reacto in terms of aerodynamic efficiency.
Merida states that despite the more aero design, a refinement in the carbon lay-up and a wider usage of a higher modulus carbon fibre has resulted in the new frameset being 38 g lighter than before (a 4% reduction). A painted medium frame is quoted at 822 g, while the matching fork sits at 389 g.
According to the company, bottom bracket stiffness is supposedly unchanged from the previous Scultura, while fork stiffness is said to have increased by 12%. Meanwhile, the new bike is said to be over 30% more comfortable, but it’s important to note that this claim seems to be mostly based on the ability to fit wider tyres, while the increased amount of exposed seatpost is credited with the remaining improvements.
That tyre clearance now officially sits at 30 mm. Merida has indicated that this figure is playing it safe to ensure compatibility with all rim and tyre combinations. For example, it has been confirmed that Continental GP5000 tyres in a 32 mm width fit without issue. The bike comes fitted with 28 mm tyres.
The disc-only frameset continues with Merida’s unique disc cooler concept that aims to provide heat sinks for the brake calipers. These aluminium inserts have been tweaked to provide improved access to the bleeding ports of Shimano’s new calipers.
Merida has moved to a Shimano-style PF86 pressfit bottom bracket shell, a match to the new Reacto. And while the company may have moved to an internal seatpost binder, it has stuck with a regular 27.2 mm round seatpost – a surprisingly rare and welcomed sight amongst WorldTour-level machines.
While the Scultura has been given a substantial overhaul, the geometry figures haven’t changed. The new Scultura remains an exact fit and handling match with the Reacto.
A new cockpit and a supported steerer tube
The new Scultura Team comes fitted with Merida’s new one-piece Team SL handlebar and stem. Said to weigh approximately 320 g, this new cockpit is available with stem lengths ranging from 90-120 mm and in bar widths of 400-440 mm. Merida will provide its own computer mounts for use with the bar.
Interestingly, Merida has moulded in brake hose guides for simpler routing, but in turn, the cockpit is for use with wireless electronic shifters only (such as new 12-speed Dura-Ace and SRAM AXS). We’ve seen a number of bikes in recent times move to an electronic-only design, but Merida is perhaps the first big company to announce something that’s specific to wireless.
Like so many other integrated cockpit designs, Merida’s approach is to run the brake hoses through the top headset bearing. The company states its design matches that of FSA’s ACR and is therefore cross-compatible. Merida has also speculated that Enve’s new concealed cable components should be compatible, too.
However, Merida’s design does appear to improve on usability when compared to something like FSA’s ACR system. Namely, Merida has designed its system so that you can place the split headset spacers on top of the stem to dial in your handlebar height without committing to cutting the steerer tube. And of course, the internal brake hose routing is another point of difference that should help speed up the still-tedious process if a headset bearing ever needs replacing.
Finally, Merida has clearly put some thought into the long-term safety element of its system and seems to have produced a design that should keep the carbon fibre steerer safer from headset bearing wear and stem compression. They’re calling it the “Force Diffuser” and it appears to be a tube insert that reinforces the round steerer tube from the stem clamp zone and down past the top headset bearing. Combined with what looks to be a long compression expander this should prove to be a reliably safe system.
It’s a welcomed detail, but it remains to be seen as to whether it’ll wholly protect the steerer from wear related to rear brake hose rub.
Pricing and other models?
Designed to be a close replica to what the Bahrain-Victorious team uses, the Scultura Team is equipped with Shimano’s Dura-Ace 12 speed Di2 groupset including the crank-based power meter, and Vision’s new Metron 45 SL disc tubeless wheels. This model will retail for £7,750 / €9,999 / AU$11,499. However, getting your hands on one may be a struggle. For example, industry component shortages means this new bike won’t be landing in Australia until this time next year! Check with sellers in your local region for availability.
For now, Merida has only released the details of its top-level team-issue complete bike using a CF5-level frame, but there will surely be more affordable options to come. You can expect those details to be released toward the end of this year or early next year, with the delay more than likely related to supply restraints.