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Merida Scultura Team review

Lightweight and aero pro-tour rig with 12-speed Shimano Dura-Ace R9200 seriously impresses

Our rating 
4.5 out of 5 star rating 4.5
GBP £7,750.00 RRP | AUD $11,499.00
Pack shot of the Merida Scultura Team road bike

Our review

Stellar specification, superb ride and not as expensive as its rivals
Pros: Stunning spec; swift, smooth and very special
Cons: Rattling valve; team replica aesthetics not for everyone
Skip to view product specifications

This is the fifth generation of the Merida Scultura Team, a key bike in the line-up that has in the past always been the lightweight alternative to the aerodynamic Merida Reacto.

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The Scultura is the bike that Merida’s WorldTour riders choose for hard riding and mountainous days of racing.

This latest generation however brings in more in the way of aerodynamics than ever before, being updated in a similar fashion to the likes of the Cannondale SuperSix EVO, the Specialized Tarmac SL7 and the Giant TCR, which all, in their most recent guises anyway, aim to blend lightness and aero efficiency, making for the ideal all-round racer’s tool.

Merida Scultura Team aero tweaking

This new Scultura brings numerous aero touches to the frame design, and that’s beyond the ovalised tubing of the down tube which, from its looks, I could only describe as ‘Kammtail lite’.

Kammtail relates to aero tube shapes with long extended tails that are chopped; these almost D-shaped tubes ‘cheat’ the air into acting as if the long-tapered tail was in place, but make for a stronger shape torsionally – these are also much lighter than aero tube shapes.

The first major change is the front end. Merida has taken the integrated one-piece bar and stem design from the Reacto and reimagined it here.

The new Team SL one-piece bar and stem (320g, claimed) locks into teardrop-shaped headset spacers and fully internalises the hydraulic hoses for the brakes.

If you’re wondering about gear cables/wires, those aren’t an issue here because this model only comes replete with Shimano’s all-new semi-wireless Dura-Ace Di2 R9200 groupset.

The bar itself has an aero-shaped topped which is much more slender than most.

The semi-compact drop and long-effective stem positively encourage you to get into a fast, low riding position instantly, while the handlebar has the brilliant knack of feeling rock solid and stiff when sprinting down in the drops or honking on the hoods when attacking a climb.

Yet over rougher buzzy roads, it helps to neutralise any vibrations reaching your hands – it’s a very clever design and one of the many highlights of this team-issue machine.

Merida Scultura Team road bike
The seatstay design drops further down the seat tube and provides plenty of clearance around the rear wheel.
Russell Burton / Immediate Media

Further aero tweaks include a new hidden seat clamp and dropping the seatstays further down the seat tube. It gives the Scultura a silhouette that’ll be familiar to fans of the latest SuperSix EVO or the Tarmac SL7.

The stays themselves spread out from the seat tube junction broader than most before angling downwards towards the dropouts, creating plenty of space so as not to compromise airflow by smoothing the path out and away from the spinning rear wheel.

Merida tells us that this means significant drag reduction over the outgoing Scultura Team IV. When comparing to data from the old bike, you should expect a claimed reduction in drag of 9.8 watts at 45km/h. Merida tells us this data comes from wind tunnel testing with a rider on the bike.

Merida Scultura Team road bike
ProLogo’s Scratch M5 with carbon rails sits atop Merida’s S-Flex carbon post.
Russell Burton / Immediate Media

It’s interesting to see that Merida has stuck with a standard 27.2mm round post rather than the D-shape chosen by most of its rivals.

The S-Flex post, however, does change its profile a few inches below the saddle clamp flattening the tube and allowing for some flex, to help null road buzz.

Merida Scultura Team geometry

XXSXSSMLXL
Seat angle (degrees)74.5747473.57373
Head angle (degrees)70.57272.573.573.574
Chainstay (mm)408408408408408408
Seat tube (mm)435458481501521550
Top tube (mm)520535545560575590
Head tube (mm)105112128140155176
Bottom bracket drop (mm)707066666666
Wheelbase (mm)98598298999010001010
Stack (mm)517529542557571593
Reach (mm)377383390395400409
Fork length (mm)385385385385385385

Merida Scultura Team superbike kit

Merida Scultura Team road bike
Vision’s new Metron SL 45 wheels are impressively light at a claimed 1,372g a pair.
Russell Burton / Immediate Media

The Scultura’s specification sheet reads like a wish list of some of the best components around.

Continental’s GP5000 tyres make any bike feel better and Merida has been sensible in speccing the 28mm wide version here.

It adds enough volume to keep things smooth on less than optimum roads and provides resilience to punctures, as well as being one of the fastest rolling and best gripping tyres on the market.

These are wrapped around Vision’s latest lightweight version of the venerable Metron wheelset, here in a 45mm depth.

This latest edition features Vision’s new PRS freehub with its 72-tooth ratchet engagement which means a 5-degree engagement point: to put that in context, that’s 24 per cent quicker than the old 6-pawl freehub, and faster than DT Swiss’ well-regarded hubs to boot.

This wheelset adds to the Merida’s feel of instantaneous reaction to acceleration.

Merida Scultura Team road bike
Slick integration and fully hidden brake hoses are the order of the day on the Scultura.
Russell Burton / Immediate Media

The rim’s 31mm external width is optimised for 28mm tyres and internally the 21mm width does the same. They are tubeless-ready should you want to make the switch away from inner tubes and the claimed weight of 1,372g a pair is impressively svelte for a 45mm deep wheelset.

The wheels do impress hugely, but they also play a part in my only niggle with the Team as a whole – the drilled valve holes are slightly oversized, which meant a rattling inner tube valve.

I fitted a valve hole guard sticker and the problem was solved, but when you’re dealing with a bike that’s at the very pinnacle of tech (and pricing) the smallest details do matter.

The drivetrain is the biggest story with the Team’s specification sheet in that it features Shimano’s latest flagship Dura-Ace groupset.

The new Di2 R9200 brings one more gear to the party moving to a 12-speed cassette and bringing it in-line with SRAM’s flagship wireless Red AXS.

Though, unlike SRAM, Shimano has stuck steadfastly to gearing we all know. Here that means combining a 52/36 chainset with an 11-30 cassette.

The biggest change you can feel is with gear progression – the range of 11-12-13-14-15-16-17-19-21-24-27-30 means single-tooth jumps from 11 to 19. Bringing back the 16-tooth sprocket, which is often missed on wider cassettes like this, is superb.

The 16 is where I’ve spent pretty much most of my time riding the Merida and having slick close jumps around it makes the most of the switch up to 12 gears.

Shimano claims this new version of Di2 has 58 per cent faster rear shifting and 45 per cent faster front shifts over the outgoing R9100 Di2.

Though we are only dealing with fractions of a second here, so on the road it’s hard to distinguish any real speed improvements. Plus, it’s not like Dura-Ace Di2 ever felt laborious moving between gears.

The bigger story is the switch to a semi-wireless system, which means no more wires from the levers, no more control box to hang from the stem or insert in a bar end, or integrate into the frame either.

Recharging takes place from a port on the rear mech, and the levers require a button cell in each, which Shimano tells us should have a two-year life between changes.

Shifting is as swift and accurate as you’d ever need it to be and, finally, Shimano has listened and integrated Bluetooth into the system so now you can access all of Di2’s extras feature from an app on your phone.

I allocated the hidden buttons atop the shifter hoods to operate (switch between) Garmin head unit screens. If you’re a head unit tinkerer or like to rotate through screens, this means you can do it without taking a hand off of your bar.

Merida Scultura Team road bike
Merida includes the new Dura-Ace dual-sided power meter with the Scultura Team.
Russell Burton / Immediate Media

Merida hasn’t skimped on the spec at all, as it’s also included Shimano’s new dual-sided Dura-Ace crank power meter into the bargain.

Braking on the new Dura-Ace is better than ever thanks to the adoption of Servo-Wave tech (taken from the excellent GRX gravel groupsets).

This means when you pull the brake lever, the initial pad travel is fast, meaning you get little feeling of free travel before the brake is engaging.

The power then ramps up as it acts on the rotor, giving you a feeling of progressive incremental stopping power with exceptional levels of control.

If you’re still a disc brake sceptic, then I believe that Servo Wave braking like this will win you over.

Merida Scultura Team ride impressions

Male cyclist in orange riding the Merida Scultura Team road bike
The Scultura retains its lightweight origins and brings in aerodynamics.
Russell Burton / Immediate Media

On the road, all I can say is the new Scultura feels fast – very fast.

The chassis stiffness means it responds instantly to changes in pace – stomp on the pedals and the Scultura rises to the challenge with ease, and it’s impressive for a bike with such little mass to feel so resolute and composed when you’re thrashing away at your own power limits.

The frame’s claimed weight of 822g (medium) sheds 40g over the previous model, which may not sound much, but dropping weight while significantly improving claimed aero performance is not to be sniffed at.

The ride position is as you’d expect – long and low. With a 603mm stack on my XL test bike and a long reach of 409mm, you’re in a fast flat ride position all the time.

Handling wise, the Scultura feels more than quick enough. It doesn’t have the instantaneous reactions of the SuperSix EVO or TCR, and that’s because Merida has mirrored the geometry of the aero-focused Reacto, making it easier for its pro riders to switch between models throughout a Grand Tour.

That said, the Scultura feels nimble enough and never nervous, though it is at its best-mannered riding at high speeds in a straight line.

It doesn’t become unsettled by tight turns or complex combinations on fast descents, however to my mind it doesn’t have quite the same confidence-inspiring traits as the TCR or EVO. Though, to be honest, that is splitting hairs when a bike is this good.

Merida Scultura Team bottom line

Male cyclist in orange riding the Merida Scultura Team road bike
The all-new 5th generation Merida Scultura really impresses.
Russell Burton / Immediate Media

Overall, the Scultura Team is a wonderfully impressive machine, and its handling is sublimely balanced. Fast yet controlled, the ride quality is exemplary in its smoothness.

On the downside, there is that rattling valve and personally, I’m not the biggest fan of the team replica look.

Thankfully, Merida offers a black and chrome version which would be my choice, but that’s my personal issue, not the bike’s.

The big story however is the price. At £7,750 for a ride that is this well-equipped, with flagship gearing, a pro-level power meter, plus Pro Tour-proven wheels to boot, the Merida deserves proper consideration.

Especially when you look at Merida’s competitors; at the time of writing, the Cannondale SuperSix EVO Hi-Mod in a similar Dura-Ace Di2 build is £11,500, Specialized’s S-Works Tarmac SL7 is also £11,500, Team Ineos’s Pinarello Dogma F is £11,000 and our current 2021 Superbike of the Year, the Giant TCR Advanced 0, is £9,999.

Male cyclist in orange riding the Merida Scultura Team road bike
The ride quality is exemplary in its smoothness.
Russell Burton / Immediate Media

All of these top-end bikes are significantly more expensive. As surprising as it may sound, this makes the £7,750 Merida Scultura Team something of a bargain if you really are looking for a bike that packs in the best of everything.

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So, I’d summarise, watch out Specialized, Cannondale, Giant et al – you may have just met your match.

Product Specifications

Product

Price AUD $11499.00GBP £7750.00
Weight 7.2kg (XL)
Brand Merida

Features

Features Bottle cages: 2 x Merida SL carbon
Available sizes XXS, XS, M, L, XL
Brakes Shimano Dura-Ace hydraulic disc
Chain Shimano
Cranks Shimano Dura-Ace, 52/36
Fork Carbon
Frame Carbon
Front derailleur Shimano Dura Ace Di2
Handlebar Merida Team SL
Rear derailleur Shimano Dura Ace Di2
Saddle Prologo Scratch M5
Seatpost Merida S-Flex carbon
Shifter Shimano Dura Ace Di2
Stem Merida Team SL
Tyres Continental Gran Prix 5000 28mm clincher
Wheels Vision Metron 45 SL carbon