Merida Warp time trial bike - first look

Plus Scultura and Ride Comp road bikes at Lampre-Merida team launch

The last Italian-owned and managed WorldTour team, Lampre’s fuschia and blue colours have been a fixture in the pro peloton for 20 years. But 2013 sees a significant change, with the lime green of new bike supplier Merida joining in to make the team one of the most visible on the road.

On Friday night in Mallorca, the road team was officially launched in front of 300 employees and media staff. Team manager Giuseppe Saronni was flanked by a number of riders, including Damiano Cunego, Alessandro Petacchi and Filippo Pozzato, and BikeRadar were given our first glimpse of the team’s road and time trial bikes.

The following morning, German designer Jurgen Falke introduced the new Merida Warp time trial bike, aimed at giving the team an edge in stage races. The striking bike has features that bear some resemblance to those of other successful TT bikes, but Falke accepts that creating the fastest frame within UCI regulations will inevitably lead to similarities, because aerodynamics largely dictate form.

After the initial sketches, the aero work began with crazily expensive Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD), then fine-tuning in a wind tunnel. The latter tests revealed that altering the down tube shape had little effect on drag, but that the truncated aerofoil profiles also sported by Trek and BMC did.

Narrow frontal profile and low seatstay height on the Merida Warp

The Warp was originally meant to have Magura’s RT8 hydraulic brakes, but since these couldn’t work with Shimano Di2 levers Merida stuck with a conventional Dura-Ace calliper up front and a direct-mount, side-pull Shimano rear brake mounted under the chainstays behind a bottom bracket shroud. This had less effect on drag than you might think, adding just 1.5W, whereas simply getting the handlebar design right could save about 7W.

The greatest competitors to the Warp are the Specialized Shiv, Trek Speed Concept, Cervelo P5 and Scott Plasma, and Merida say that at 0-degree wind yaw angles – head on – the Warp is faster than all of them, although the others have an edge at varying angles. Bike aerodynamics alone won’t win a race, though – the greatest source of drag by far is the rider, which led Falke and his team to focus on getting the cockpit design right.

Even pro riders on the same team require different time trial positions, so cockpit adjustability was key. Merida have licensed a clever stem design from Swiss designer Andi Muff. 

The intricately CNC-machined aluminium stem contains a large void that hides the Di2 control box and allows all cables apart from the front brake to exit to the frame internally. Other neat features of the stem are the two 10mm wide shims used to adjust fore and aft handlebar position, allowing for reaches of 90, 100 and 110mm.

The internal port allowing cables to exit into the frame

Height adjustments are managed by Merida’s modular head tube design. In its lowest position the stem sits flush with the top tube, but for more height, extra tube sections of 30 or 60mm that incorporate the upper headset bearing seat are screwed into the head tube, and the stem replaced. 

Two wing-shaped base bars are available – flat or sloping with 5cm more drop – and the Vision-made, Merida-designed products allow extensions to be fitted above or below. The arm rest risers can fit onto the base bar or the extensions.

The Warp looks extremely purposeful. It’s fitted with the new Shimano Dura-Ace Di2 11-speed, so new that the team won’t have sufficient supply for at least another month. The battery fits in the seatpost with a charging port on the head tube, and a San Marco saddle, Fulcrum wheels and Continental tubular tyres complete the picture. 

Also launched on Friday were the Scultura Pro 907-E, the Scultura SL 909 and Ride Comp 905, the latter being the basis for Merida’s imminent cobbles bike. We’re told there will also be an updated aero bike launched around the time of the Giro d’Italia in May. For now, Petacchi and Pozzato are riding prototypes of it, with customised dimensions that suit their extreme positions.

For more information see www.merida-bikes.com.

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