Creating a disc version of a rim-braked model isn’t simply a case of shifting brake mounts, as the brake forces involved necessitate re-engineering much of the frame and fork to counteract them without ruining the ride. As one of the world’s biggest bike manufacturers, Merida doesn’t do things by halves, but economies of scale do mean that it can offer excellent quality for a reasonable price.
Following 2015’s launch of the newest Scultura World Tour race bike, 2016 saw the debut of the Scultura Disc. This 6000 model sits third in line to the throne of the Team version, whose competitive geometry has a 20mm shorter head tube in my 56cm size. But the Disc 6000 costs over £4,000 less.
First impressions of that 190mm head tube and limited saddle to bar drop in my preferred frame size were a concern, as there was no choice but to run the bar around 25mm higher than usual, but the details impressed.
Whatever the road condition, the Scultura offers up a smooth ride Robert Smith / Immediate Media
It might stand tall, but both the down and seat tubes are formed with truncated aerofoils, while the bridgeless seatstays morph from round at the dropouts through flattened, and top out with small Kamm Tail profiles sweeping bow-like in to the flattened top tube.
The BB86 bottom bracket area is sizeable and sprouts a pair of purposefully deep and boxy asymmetric chainstays.
Despite its sub-1,000g frame, the complete bike’s 8.46kg isn’t exceptionally light, but from the saddle it feels well balanced and lively, and soon banished any performance preconceptions.
Often an area where we advise upgrading, the Merida’s Fulcrum wheelset has great pickup, swift acceleration and enough rigidity to really enhance the bike’s handling. The rims measure 23mm externally, are 28mm deep with opposing asymmetric profiles front and rear, and have just 21 spokes each. Grippy 25mm Continental Grandsport Race tyres plump up to 26mm, and there’s clearance for 28mm tyres.
CNC-milled fins provide additional cooling on long descents Robert Smith / Immediate Media
Merida is the first company to include the Focus-designed RAT (Rapid Axle Technology) 12mm thru-axle system, although it’s so a quick to use that I’m surprised it’s taken so long. Wheel removal is just a lever flick and a quarter turn of the axle before withdrawing it, no tools needed.
This solid connection between the wheels and frameset results in superbly crisp and precise steering, breeding confidence in every scenario. High speed flicks, sudden direction changes under braking and rough surface stability are all similarly undramatic, and that added air volume is a huge help.
The ride is incredibly smooth even on the roughest tarmac, and despite the tall position, the Scultura Disc is extremely quick, accelerating like a whippet and climbing very well too, thanks to impressive frame and wheelset stiffness. On constantly rolling, testing terrain it was easy to carry speed through downhill bends and power over the rises, resulting in very brisk progress.
The Scultura Disc 6000 comes with Shimano RS685 hydraulic levers, Ultegra, 11-28 cassette, 50/34 chain rings BikeRadar
A complete Ultegra compact drivetrain brings sensibly-geared refinement, with Ultegra-equivalent flat mount hydraulic disc brakes and 160mm Ice Tech rotors that provide quiet, powerful and progressive stopping. Merida has added its own disc cooler beneath the rear caliper, as it believes its position reduces the amount of cooling airflow it receives. A neat forged aluminium component with CNC milled fins that rest on the outside of the chainstay, it’s claimed to make a great difference during long descents.
My cockpit’s FSA bar differs from the Merida alloy bar listed as standard, but the other own-branded finishing kit was faultless, and the Prologo Kappa 3 saddle isn’t only colour matched, but has a level of support and cushioning that suits the rider in a hurry just as much as those riding a century.
By the end of one 80-mile ride aboard the Scultura Disc, I wouldn’t have swapped it for any of the other bikes on test in our Road Bike of the Year category, no matter how racy, and I felt fresh enough to do it again.