Merida unveil Scultura Disc - to be used by Lampre-Merida at Paris-Roubaix - Road Cycling UK

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Merida unveil Scultura Disc – to be used by Lampre-Merida at Paris-Roubaix

New disc machine with cooling fins and RAT axles already ridden at the Tour of Flanders

Merida have officially launched a new disc brake version of their lightweight Scultura road bike, having debuted it with the Lampre-Merida first at the Three Days of de Panne, and then last weekend’s Tour of Flanders. It will also be ridden at this weekend’s Paris-Roubaix.

The new Scultura Disc frame will come in three versions: a top-level carbon CF4 (with aggressive race geometry) frame at 900g, a CF2 mid-level carbon frame that dips just below the kilo mark, and a ‘Lite’ aluminium frame at just under 1.5kg – the latter two of which have a more relaxed, endurance-based geometry.

– Merida Scultura Disc first ride review –

The frame shares many of the features of the existing Scultura, updated last year, but has a new fork and beefed up rear triangle to cope with disc brakes, while Merida have also introduced cooling fins to help dissipate heat from the rear rotor, and used Focus’ RAT quick release-style axles.

We’re at the launch in Belgium ahead of Paris-Roubaix. Here’s what Merida have told us about the Scultura Disc, before we get the chance to ride it for ourselves on the cobbles of Flanders and Roubaix:

  • Three disc-specific frames based on existing Scultura platform
  • 160mm rotors and 12mm thru-axles front and rear
  • ‘Merida Disc Cooler’ fins to improve rear brake heat dissipation
  • Rapid Axle Technology for quick wheel changes
  • Clearance for 28mm tyres
  • Update (12/04/16): read our first ride review of the Scultura Disc
Merida have launched a disc-specific version of the Scultura

Discs make a splash

The Tour of Flanders marked the first time an entire team used disc brakes in a WorldTour event but Lampre-Merida, aboard the Scultura Disc, remain in the minority, with rim brakes still very much the order of the day.

The pros and cons of disc brakes in the WorldTour Tour peloton – and in the real world – have been a hotly debated, and so far bike brands, the UCI and race organisers haven’t yet reached absolute consensus for a widespread standard or the neutral service required to be able to support the whole field.

However, in line with the latest communiqué from the UCI, which states that neutral service vehicles must carry thru-axle disc wheels with 160mm rotors, Merida’s head of product design, Jürgen Falke, says that the Scultura Disc will meet this, with a 12x100mm axle in the front, and 12x142mm in the rear.

The Scultura Disc frame uses Shimano’s flat mount disc brake standard, with the show bikes at launch equipped with Shimano Dura-Ace Di2 shifting components, a Rotor chainset and Fulcrum Racing Quattro carbon wheels, though consumer specs and pricing are to be confirmed.

The Lampre-Merida team made history by using the Merida Scultura Disc at the Tour of Flanders (Pic: Sirotti)

Brake cooling innovation

Merida’s engineers have done their homework and come up with a solution to deal with hot disc temperatures under heavy use. One of the major concerns with all brakes under load is the potential for fade, when there’s no longer sufficient friction to adequately deceleration – whether called into action on a greasy wet cobbled road or a devilishly fast mountain descent. Their solution? The Merida Disc Cooler. Neat.

Installed the at the rear brake only, as the front is naturally cooled by facing the wind, and mounted in between the chainstay and the caliper, the system takes the form of a seven centimetre cast alloy insert, which is designed to catch the inevitably reduced airflow at the rear of the bike, increasing the surface area for maximum heat dissipation. It’s a solution that comes with a relatively meagre weight penalty of only 14g.

In lab conditions, Merida say the device reduces the brake temperature by 35 degrees for under four minutes of constant light braking, and also results in increased braking recovery, because the maximum temperature is reduced when compared to the same Shimano brake system without the insert. The frame can take 160/180mm rotors, while Falke points out that 140mm rotors aren’t recommended because he believes they won’t be able to safely support and stop a heavier rider in the region of 100kg.

Merida have developed a fin cooling system for the rear brake

An axle so simple, it’s child’s play

In order to achieve fast and easy access to wheels and tyres, Merida have included a Rapid Axle Technology (RAT) axle which originates from German brand Focus.

The axle has obvious benefits for pros, where swapping in and out punctured wheels quickly in the heat of a race is vital – and arguably quicker, says Falke, than their rim equivalents.

In the real world, the axle system is as simple as quick release has been for normal roadies for a long time now. You release the quick release-style handle, give it half a turn, pull it out, and the wheel drops out. Simple. So simple, in fact, that it makes you wonder why finding a solution as simple as this has taken so long, or why the wider industry isn’t banging down Focus’ door for the specs too.

Still light and nifty

Given the regular Scultura’s lightweight nature – just 740g – and the extra strength needed to house disc brakes, the Scultura Disc is no longer the out-and-out mountain goat it’s rim brake sibling is.

But it’s still no heavyweight, coming in at 900g for the CF4, sub-1kg for the CF2, and sub-1.5kg for the Lite frameset versions. However, while Falke says super-lightweight construction wasn’t the the most important goal for the Scultura Disc, it remained a key consideration, particularly in winning over pro riders.

“It’s especially important for Pro Tour riders; [the dilemma is always] how much weight do I take with me uphill so that I get better braking going downhill?” he says.

Merida have removed the Scultura’s brake bridge to improve comfort and make room for 28mm tyres

Naturally, the extra weight in the frame comes from the extra fortification needed to support the use of disc brakes, but Merida claim that the changes are so minimal that the performance statistics are virtually identical to the rim brake Scultura.

The only changes necessary to accommodate disc brakes have been to extend the chainstays by eight millimetres to meet Shimano’s directive for disc machines (and fit wider 28mm tyres comfortably), and extra beef in the front fork and rear triangle to deal with the lopsided forces associated with disc brakes.

Comfort a priority

Comfort is key for any bike being used for Paris-Roubaix and, alongside real world testing, Merida built a jig when developing the Scultura Disc to replicate riding on rough roads, and using the results to fine-tune the design.

That means there’s no seatstay bridge, so the frame can comfortably take 28mm tyres – a key factor in improving comfort on a frame which Merida say already offers decent levels of compliance. While the Scultura Disc frame can’t quite match the rim brake version in terms of deflection, due to the extra material in the fork, it’s only a claimed ten per cent worse off in that area while the rest of the bike matches up to the rim brake frame.

Prices, full specs and availability will be published here when they become available.

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