The Merida Scultura Team is the latest update to the brand’s lightweight, all-round road bike platform. It’s a WorldTour-level machine that offers a superb ride, with racy handling and improved aerodynamic performance, along with a near-faultless spec.
As a result, the Scultura Team take the ‘performance bike’ title in our 2022 Bike of the Year awards.
Like many brands that sponsor WorldTour professional teams, Merida has gone down the route of making its lightweight bike more aerodynamic, while still keeping as close as possible to that magic 6.8kg figure (the UCI’s arbitrary minimum weight limit for competition bicycles).
Best of all, though, it has managed this at a price point far below the rest, making this one of the best-value superbikes available today.
Back to the drawing board
While the previous Scultura IV made limited use of Kamm-tail aerofoil tube shapes on the down tube and seat tube, this latest iteration takes a far more holistic approach to aerodynamics.
The entire bike has now received the aero treatment, with Merida claiming it offers a 4.2 per cent reduction in drag (around 10 watts at 45kph) compared with the previous model.
Impressively, this gain comes without a weight penalty on the frame, which Merida claims has in fact shed 38g of mass (claimed weight for a size medium frame is 822g).
It’s an archetypal WorldTour race bike – aero tubes, long and low geometry, dropped seatstays and integrated handlebar. It’s got it all.
Up front, a new integrated handlebar and stem completely hide any gear and brake cables. It makes for the kind of slick front end that’s now almost de rigueur on bikes such as this.
The new Scultura also has 30mm of tyre clearance front and rear, which is plenty for the type of fast road rides it’s designed for.
Merida Scultura Team geometry and ride feel
On the road, the Scultura delivers on its racy promise in spades.
The geometry is identical to that of the Merida Reacto, one of the best aero road bikes available. That means an aggressive, stretched-out riding position, with relatively steep 73.5-degree head tube and seat tube angles.
Compared with a size 56cm Cervélo R5 Disc, a size medium Scultura has 6mm more reach, 15mm less stack and a wheelbase that’s 3mm shorter.
|Seat angle (degrees)||74.5||74||74||73.5||73||73|
|Head angle (degrees)||70.5||72||72.5||73.5||73.5||74|
|Seat tube (mm)||435||458||481||501||521||550|
|Top tube (mm)||520||535||545||560||575||590|
|Head tube (mm)||105||112||128||140||155||176|
|Bottom bracket drop (mm)||70||70||66||66||66||66|
|Fork length (mm)||385||385||385||385||385||385|
This all makes for handling that feels lively and reactive to your inputs, a sensation further enhanced by the low weight of the front end and the Vision Metron 45 SL Disc wheels (more on these later).
Despite the Scultura’s relatively slim tubes, it nevertheless still feels plenty stiff while pedalling, both in and out of the saddle.
We’re often told proprietary D-shaped seatposts offer increased compliance versus standard round ones.
The round, 27.2mm Merida Team SL carbon seatpost specced here, combined with the skinny dropped seatstays and supple 700x28c Continental GP5000 clincher tyres, offers plenty of rear-end comfort, though.
Should the seatpost ever need replacing or upgrading, then aftermarket options are plentiful.
Just as fully integrated cable routing can be divisive, so can integrated handlebar and stem arrangements.
Intuitively, integrated cockpits make perfect sense on a bike designed for peak performance in every regard and, in isolation, the Merida Team SL 1P integrated cockpit is hard to fault.
It has a great shape, feels resolute when yanking on the drops out of the saddle, and has slim aero tops, which are very comfortable to hold while climbing.
Stock bikes come with a cockpit matched to their size, with the stem length and handlebar width increasing in line with the frame size.
Merida says the Team SL 1P integrated cockpit can be purchased separately from distributors in 15 sizes, with stem lengths from 90-130mm and handlebar widths of 400-440mm, for €399.
Creative solutions to this issue do exist, such as the adjustable-width handlebars on the 2021 Canyon Aeroad, but there’s a simpler solution – a well-designed non-integrated setup.
If you can’t find exactly what you want in that range, then the small aerodynamic gain from smoothing out the stem and handlebar interface may not be worth a larger potential compromise in bike fit, either in terms of comfort or overall aerodynamics (given body position is the largest contributor to overall system drag).
Fortunately, the Scultura has a round, 1 1/8in steerer, so you could swap out the integrated cockpit for the FSA SMR ACR stem, as seen on cheaper Scultura and Reacto models, such as the Reacto 6000. Available in lengths from 90 to 130mm, it would then enable you to use any 31.8mm road handlebar you like.
Merida Scultura Team finishing kit
That specific qualm aside, the Scultura Team’s build specification is undeniably excellent in every area.
The Vision Metron 45 SL Disc wheels are perfect for a bike such as this. The 45mm-deep, 31mm-wide (external width) rims offer a tangible aerodynamic advantage over shallower rims, while still being light enough (claimed weight for the set is 1,372g) to deliver that sensation of low inertia on climbs that weight weenies seem to value so highly.
The rims are built around Vision’s own PRS hubs, using 21/24 straight-pull aero spokes front and rear, in a 2:1 lacing pattern. High-quality, ABS self-locking spoke nipples are also used, which should mean the spokes retain the correct tension for longer.
Shod with excellent 700x28c Continental GP5000 clincher tyres, it’s a super-fast combination, which makes the bike shine.
For 2022, the Scultura will be specced with the new tubeless-ready Continental GP5000 S TR tyres, meaning riders who wish to run a tubeless setup will simply need to add a couple of tubeless valves and some sealant.
I did notice the front rim was occasionally prone to minor steering deviations from catching sudden gusts of wind. Nevertheless, I’d be happy to use these wheels in all kinds of weather, because the increase in riding speed is too addictive.
As with any deep-section rims, it’s just worth being careful about riding no-handed on blustery days.
The Prologo Scratch M5 Nack saddle isn’t my favourite in terms of shape. Individual preferences aside, though, it’s a high-quality, lightweight perch, which won’t need upgrading if it suits your rear end.
As usual with Merida road bikes, you also get the disc-cooler fins. These are said to act as an extra heat sink for the hydraulic brakes, meaning overheating them is less likely.
For someone like myself, who weighs around 64kg and doesn’t live in a mountainous area, they’re definitely overkill when combined with the 160mm Shimano MT900 rotors specced on the Scultura.
But they don’t detract from the performance of the bike in any way (the design has been revised from previous versions, which could scratch the heels of your shoes), so I’d happily just leave them in place.
One of the draws for this bike is undoubtedly the new Shimano Dura-Ace Di2 R9200 groupset.
The new semi-wireless, electronic groupset is, as you’d expect, a top performer in every way, and is well worthy of its place on a WorldTour-spec race bike.
Rear shifting is as quick and precise as ever, and the front shifting is arguably the best available right now.
The move to 12-speed isn’t a game-changer, but it’s nevertheless nice to have the extra gear when you need it, whether that’s in the form of an easier lowest gear or a cassette with tighter ratios than an 11-speed equivalent.
That Merida has also been able to include the new Shimano Dura-Ace R9200-P dual-sided power meter at this price point, with no compromises elsewhere, is astonishing.
This represents value for money even major direct-sales brands such as Canyon struggle to match. A similarly specced Canyon Ultimate CFR costs £8,249/€8,499 and doesn’t include a power meter, for example.
Merida Scultura Team bottom line
For those who want a lightweight, all-round race bike with a best-of-the-best build, the Merida Scultura Team is an extremely compelling option.
It feels rapid on all terrains and offers an exciting ride quality that encourages you to ride harder and faster. That it also costs far less than many of its competitors only sweetens the deal.
The only obvious fault is the dearth of size options for the integrated handlebar. If the stock option fits you perfectly, then it’s obviously no issue at all, but if not you may need to factor in some extra time and cost to get it changed.
Still, given the difference in price between the Scultura and most other WorldTour-spec road bikes, it’s entirely possible you could get that done and still have change left over.
Performance Bike of the Year 2022 | How we tested
Whether you’re riding up or down hills, in a straight line or through tight corners, jostling for positions in a bunch or simply going for that KOM you’ve always dreamt of, the best performance road bikes are wicked-fast and inspire confidence. They should make you feel a little bit like Tadej Pogačar, even if your legs can’t back it up.
With that in mind, we challenged the contenders primarily to an onslaught of technical, hilly routes and fast-paced rides around south Bristol.
Given most riders don’t have a fleet of bikes or a professional mechanic at their beck and call, we also considered how easy each bike is to live with and service.
Can you customise the fit or are you stuck with what comes as stock? Are the deep-section wheels usable in all conditions, or will windy days have you questioning how much you want to go out on a ride? Is it comfortable enough for a long day in the saddle when the roads are less than perfect?
All of the bikes featured in this year’s Performance Bike of the Year test are at the upper end of the pricing scale, with premium groupsets and parts showcasing the best contemporary equipment, but most are also available in cheaper specs if your budget doesn’t stretch as far.
Our Performance Bike of the Year contenders are:
- Bianchi Specialissima Dura-Ace Di2
- Cervélo R5 Disc Force eTap AXS
- Lapierre Xelius SL 9.0
- Merida Scultura Team
- Scott Addict RC10
|Price||EUR €9999.00GBP £8000.00|
|Available sizes||XXS, XS, S, M, L, XL|
|Handlebar||Merida Team SL 1P Integrated|
|Tyres||Continental GP5000 clincher, 700x28c|
|Stem||Merida Team SL 1P Integrated|
|Shifter||Shimano Dura-Ace R9270|
|Seatpost||Merida Team SL|
|Saddle||Prologo Scratch M5 Nack|
|Rear derailleur||Shimano Dura-Ace R9270|
|Bottom bracket||Shimano Dura-Ace BB86|
|Front derailleur||Shimano Dura-Ace R9270|
|Frame||Merida Scultura CF5 V|
|Fork||Merida Scultura CF5 V|
|Cranks||Shimano Dura-Ace R9200-P, 52/36T|
|Cassette||Shimano R9200, 11-30T|
|Brakes||Shimano Dura-Ace R9200 hydraulic disc|
|Wheels||Vision Metron 45 SL Clincher TL Disc|