Merida Scultura 9000 – review - Road Cycling UK

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Merida Scultura 9000 – review

It's super light and super slick, but have Merida shaved off a little too much?

Six one litre bottles of water weigh more than this bike. Think about that for a minute. And if you add two 500ml bidons to one you’re upping the bike’s weight by nearly 20 percent, which is pretty crazy. The funny thing is, this isn’t even the lightest version of Merida’s Scultura SL, that prize goes to the Scultura Superlite Ltd which drops over a kilo to get things down to 4.52kg, light enough that any climbing issues will be solidly down to you, not it.

Both that version of the Scultura and our test bike are built around a 680g frame, which is a testament to modern carbon manufacturing. The idea that something so light can be strong enough to withstand the rigours of road riding and, more importantly, hitting potholes, is amazing and it does make you wonder where the limits of carbon lie. Needless to say, it’s best not to think about hitting a pothole at 30mph on a bike with a frame weighing slightly more than bottle of Coke, because that sort of mindset leads to tentative riding, which itself leads to poor cornering and over-braking. Calm, Mike, calm.

Part of the reason for my slightly reticent attitude towards the bike is because when our Editor went on the launch of the Scultura SL last year, he was told by Jurgen Falke, Merida’s Director of Products, that the Lampre-Merida pro team weren’t using the top end CF5 frame because of concerns about how it would hold up in certain situations. Situations like the top tube being clamped on top of a team car, barreling into a speed bump, or even sitting on it prior to a race. I figured that if a top flight pro, with all their bike handling ability and probably around 10 fewer kgs of body weight than me might be cautious, I probably should be too.

This is the CF5 frame’s top tube. Merida suggest you don’t sit on this before a race. Although you shouldn’t sit on it at any other times either, to be honest.

On the other hand, you only live once, so the first thing I did was strap the bike to the back of the car and drive two hours across the country for my first ride. A lot of the journey was on windy, single lane roads with more than a few potholes, and since this thing costs seven and a half grand, whether or not it can survive a car journey is quite an important factor. Anyway, long story short, I got to the other end and the bike was absolutely fine, which I was rather pleased about as, I imagine, Merida will be to learn that their pride and joy didn’t meet its end at the hands of a Vauxhall Corsa.

  • Specification

  • Price: £7,500
  • Size tested: 56
  • Sizes available: 44, 47, 50, 52, 54, 56, 59
  • Weight: 5.8kg
  • Website: Merida

In all honesty, I was pretty excited to get out and about on the Scultura 9000. Joking aside it’s a top flight bike, and specced with kit that you’ll struggle to beat on any account. Merida have wisely stuck SRAM Red 22 on here which, as the lightest groupset on the market, was really the only choice for a bike designed to be as light as possible. one small change is the switch of the SRAM chain for a KMC X11SL DLC, which claims to be one of the lightest on the market (at 243g for a full chain, it’s hard to argue).

They’ve also gone big with the wheels, choosing a set of DT Swiss’s latest RC 28 Spline Mon Chasseral which, although their name is quite the mouthful, come in at a claimed 1,250g for a set of clinchers. Yep, clinchers. You might have seen these in our RCUK 100, and I can tell you they look just a good in the flesh as they do in the studio photography. Fortunately, the one place Merida haven’t looked to drop weight is tyres. Mind you, Continental’s GP4000S II are hardly heavy, even the 25mm versions used here, but most consumers appreciate a tyre with a little more longevity than a paper-thin race model, even if most consumers won’t be looking to buy a nearly eight grand bike…

DT Swiss’s RC28 Spline Mon Chasseral wheels complete the build and, at 1,250g for the set, they’re a suitably lightweight choice for a super light bike

Up front, FSA provide the cockpit, and their K-Force bars and stem are a lovely addition to the build and in their compact guise as well, with 25mm less drop than the Ergo versions, which is a little friendlier to the amateur rider. Topping it all off is Selle Italia’s SLR Kit Carbonio saddle, a known quantity to me as it’s very similar to the Selle Italia saddle on my own bike, and another top flight addition to a build that’s cut no corners. Just as well given the price tag.

One other little design quirk is the decision to mount the rear brake underneath the bottom bracket. It’s a direct mount brake, and the fact that SRAM don’t currently offer one in their lineup means that Merida have had to go with an own branded model instead. The main issue with BB mounted brakes is that they get all sorts of gunk all over them very quickly, and that can reduce efficiency. I’d love to say that these were the exception but, in all fairness, the rear brake is decent at best and when you combine that with a carbon braking surface on the wheels, this one is average if you’re lucky. Having said that, moving the brake there does allow for a little more flex in the seatstays, which is certainly part of the reason that the ride quality is very nice.

One of the interesting things with super light bikes like the Scultura 9000 is how they feel underneath you as you ride. There’s almost a floaty feeling, and it’s quite disconcerting to being with, especially when you rise out of the saddle and the bike moves around far more readily than you might be used to. As I said, though, the overall ride quality of the bike is good despite the obvious stiffness that a bike this light requires to make it safe to ride. Having ridden both this and Merida’s aero bike the Reacto in the past, you can certainly see why the Scultura will be the bike of choice when Lampre Merida reach the cobbled classics season.

The rear brake being under the bottom bracket allows for more flex in the seatstays and results in a little more comfort in the ride

It’s stiff enough that you still feel like you’re getting out what you put in, but the ride takes a little of the edge off the road, making it a very enjoyable bike indeed. The one area I don’t think it excels in is moments that require large power outputs, like sprinting or short, punchy climbs. I found myself staying in the saddle more with the Scultura than my own bikes, mostly because I didn’t feel that it had quite the same reaction when I rose up to tackle 10 percent or greater inclines. Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t exactly have watts to spare, but even considering that I just feel that the bike lacks a little something in that department.

Handling is a funny one. Because the bike’s so light you can pretty much throw it around anywhere you want with ease, but the handling is definitely on the racing side, meaning that it’s what newer riders might describe as ‘jumpy’. Small movements and shifts in balance easily move the bike around so you have to be sure and confident and never more so than when you’re descending.

Going downhill it’s definitely a ride for the more experienced cyclist. The quick handling in the hands of an excellent descender (and certainly a better descender than me) would make the bike a real asset, and while it doesn’t hold the road with the same surety that, say, Bianchi Specialissima does, it is very good.

The flip side of the BB mounted rear brake is that it gets dirty very quickly. I didn’t rub any extra mud on for this shot, because I didn’t need to.

Conclusion

First up, this bike rides very well. It’s a quality bike and you could certainly do an awful lot worse – if that isn’t an appallingly obvious thing to say about a nearly eight grand bike. In all honesty, if I were going to buy one of these I’d go for one of the models with the CF4 frame, like the Team edition, rather than this top end CF5 version. While having a bike that weighs in under 6kg might be attractive, the response you’d get from a slightly heavier frameset – and we’re only talking maybe 100g here – would probably be more impressive not to mention the security you’d get from knowing that it could be clamped onto a car or hit a pothole without any worries. While lighter is undeniably more impressive, it’s not always necessarily better, and it’s worth thinking about what qualities you want in a bike before you buy one of these.

Pros

– Top spec matches the super light frameset
– Fast handling makes for an exciting ride
– Weighs under 5.8kg

Cons

– The light weight comes with slight long term – and self confessed by Merida – concerns about durability
– BB mounted rear brake is average
– Maybe the frame is a little too light?

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