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Merida Scultura 9000

This one's light... really light

Right at the top end of road bike manufacturing there are two niches at the moment. Some companies have been developing really, really aerodynamic bikes (think Trek’s new Madone) while others have been trying to build super-crazy light bikes like the Merida Scultura.

Out of curiosity, we stuck the Scultura 9000 Merida sent to us for the RCUK100 onto the scales and it weighed in at a very impressive 5.8kg for a 56cm. Just under six kilos is really, really light for a bike – you’re riding a bike a full kilogramme lighter than anything in the pro peloton.

Come to think of it, it’s pretty light for anything, let alone a bike. A three-year-old child might weigh about 12kg so carrying this bike around the zoo on a Sunday afternoon would be a far easier task than carrying them on your shoulders. However, chances are if you own this bike then you’ll want to spend your entire Sunday riding it.

The Scultura 9000 weighs in at a very impressive 5.8kg for a 56cm. Just under six kilos is really, really light for a bike

The best part, though, for anyone who really wants to go light, is that this isn’t even the lightest Scultura Merida make. That prize goes to the top-tier Scultura 9000 Ltd, a ten grand superbike which tips the scales at an astonishing 4.55kg, making it the lightest production road bike on the market. It’s 100g lighter than Trek’s Emonda SLR 10 and makes Fuji’s 4.96kg SL 1.1 look like it had too good a time at Christmas.

Still, 5.8kg isn’t half bad and if someone put a gun to our head we suppose we could settle for this one. The basis for any bike this light is the frame, and Merida have managed to make this one a mere 750g, although the frame used on the Ltd is even lighter at 680g.

You won’t be winning time trials on it, but that little bit of energy you’ll save on the flat you’ll be glad of when you’re busting up the climbs

But it wasn’t just a case of making the frame as light as possible. Merida included ‘bio fibres’ in the construction with the goal of smoothing the ride and soaking up road vibrations, and they also overhauled the tubes to give them a more aerodynamic bend.

Now, don’t get us wrong, the 9000 is far from an aero bike – Merida have the Reacto Evo for that – but with aerodynamics being so important plenty of manufacturers are deciding to make aero concessions in even their lightest machines. Look at Canyon’s updated Ultimate CF SLX for another example.

The top and downtubes are a truncated airfoil shape – like a Kammtail design – where the trailing edges of the tubes have been cut off to save weight, while extracting some sort of aero advantage. The slim headtube, where the lower headset bearing has been reduced in size from 1-1/2″ to 1-1/4″, is another example of an aero concession on the frame. Merida have also repositioned the rear brake under the bottom bracket and internalised all the cable routing to add a couple more aero-focused touches.

Merida were serious enough about the aerodynamics that they even took the Scultura into the wind tunnel – because if you’re going to do it you may as well do it properly, right? They say the drag figures for the new bike fall somewhere between the old Scultura and the latest Reacto Evo aero bike. You won’t be winning time trials on it, -well, you might be if you’re strong enough – but that little bit of energy you’ll save on the flat you’ll be glad of when you’re busting up the climbs.

Carbon frame technology has moved on an awful lot in the last decade. In 2006, Merida released their first Scultura – a bike with a frame weight of 1,100g. In those ten years, they’ve managed to bring the frame down to 680g o the Ltd, reducing the weight of the frame by 40 per cent – a pretty remarkable achievement. Having said that, Merida do think 750g is the practical limit for carbon frames right now, as even that means the tubing is down to 0.4mm thick in certain places, and with tubing so thin it’s difficult to make sure the frame has the required strength.

Apparently the 680g version of the 9000 has 15-20 percent less head tube stiffness, and the tubing can be fragile enough that, for example, a clamped frame on the top of a team car could be damaged by a driver getting a little over enthusiastic through a series of speed bumps.

The ‘regular’ Scultura frame, however, is what the Lampre-Merida team will be using alongside the Reacto Evo through the 2016 season. We spent five hours on the Scultura across two rides at the bike’s launch at the Giro d’Italia in May – the second of which squeezed in 2,000m of climbing in three hours. It was uphill from the off in the steep hills north of San Remo and the Scultura was more than a willing partner on such terrain – as you’d expect from a bike so light, with the frame feeling solid through the downtube and bottom bracket, and reacting well to accelerations both in the saddle and when having to get a bit more aggressive on the pedals.

The roads in that part of Italy are rarely smooth and the Scultura offered enough comfort not to end the ride feeling bashed up. While we’re rarely fans of a rear brake positioned behind the bottom bracket, Merida say that by removing it from the seatstays, they’ve been able to add more flex to that area. One area where the frame doesn’t flex, however, is at the headtube, and the Scultura descends with aplomb – the handling is razorsharp but reassuring – with one particular descent in Italy one of the most technical we’ve ridden.

While the 5.8kg Scultura 9000 we have here will set you back £7,500 in this super-light build, the exact same pro-level, 780g frame is specced on the £5,000 Scultura Team replica with Shimano Dura-Ace and £2,300 Scultura 6000 with Shimano Ultegra.

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