Merida is based in Taiwan and started producing frames for other manufacturers 30 years ago. The company soon caught on to the idea of entering the market with its own bikes, and in recent years the brand has become more widely known, aided by the use of Merida bikes by international Mtb squads in both the Olympic and Commonwealth Games.
The radically sloping top tube of a true compact frame design like Giant's range can look a bit odd in the larger sizes, and Merida has sensibly opted for a semi-compact design here, with the frame moulded in a single operation. Frame sizes are based on the distance between the centre of the bottom bracket to the top of the seat tube and the range comprises 50, 53, 56 and 59cm sizes. Frame weight is said to be around 1.2kg in the 56cm size and the geometry is pretty much what we would expect to see - our 56cm (Large) model has a 73 degree head angle and a fork offset of 4.5cm to produce 6cm of trail.
Like the Trek Madone 5.2 that we tested in the November issue (C 189), the Scultura's handling leans more to the comfort end of the spectrum so those who want to feel every nuance of the road surface when gunning for the sprint finish should look elsewhere. The vertical compliance more than makes up for this, though, and the comfort factor delays the onset of fatigue on longer rides, making it an ideal choice for sportifs.
For an outlay of around £1,600 in total, I would spec the Scultura with Shimano Ultegra or Campagnolo Centaur finishing kit, leaving around £300 for hand-built Harry Rowland wheels, with Michelin tyres and Ritchey WCS parts.