Merida’s Scultura is the brand's longest serving model, sitting alongside the sportive specific Ride and aero-optimised Reacto. It’s still the main staple of Merida’s professional riders as its combination of lightweight, race-bred geometry and stiff chassis meets the needs of top cyclists.
This frameset is undoubtedly an attractive one, with the continuous arch of the flattened ovalised top tube flowing through to super skinny seatstays that meet the large but multi-shaped chainstays giving the impression of a super-short rear end. The chainstay length of 408mm is short, but not massively so; it’s more a trick of the sculpted aggressive styling.
The tapered head-tube houses a lightweight carbon fork
Our XL test bike mixes a steep 73.5-degree head angle with a 73-degree seat. It certainly gives the bike a real get-up and go nature, as you ride you feel pitched forward, on top of the gear and ready to ride at pace.
The head tube and down tube both look massively oversized compared with the slender top tube and seatstays, but on the road the Scultura feels hugely accomplished. It's stiff and responsive when cranking hard, yet smooth through the seat of your pants at the same time.
As gradients start to rise the sensible gearing and sharpness of the chassis help overcome the middling weight and basic, fairly hefty wheels. The Merida rims (by Alex) are mated to Formula cartridge bearing hubs via 24 butted spokes front and rear, and laced in a paired design they certainly look desirably trick compared with a standard spoke pattern.
They also show plenty of lateral strength, so they don’t flex when hammering hard and they stayed true throughout our test. The Continental rubber they're wrapped in adds a touch of class; the flexible carcass and tacky compound add both traction and smoothness on extended uphill efforts.
Once we’d crested our test ride and headed back down the Scultura felt responsive and natural-handling through tight twists and sharp turns. It's only hampered by some very average brakes in the form of the own-brand Merida Pro units.
These do follow the classic dual-pivot design and have proper cartridge brake blocks. We found a lot of inertia in the action, though, and a lack of both bite and feel when we needed full-on power.
The smooth-riding Scultura hides a lot of technology under its skin
Bear in mind that the Scultura frame weighs in around the kilo mark, and the matching fork is similarly svelte for the money. It’s packed with such technology as the optimised carbon layup of the rear end, which is designed to offer comfort-giving flex.
The main tubes use Merida’s double wall construction, in which a bracing inner wall adds bags of stiffness without compromising weight or ride feel. That’s a lot of tech packed into a bike at this price.
That means compromises in the form of the brakes, and a non-series R500 Shimano crankset, begin to make sense. The latter item weighs a little more than Ultegra but, unlike the brakes, its performance is top-notch.
The FSA cockpit features one of our preferred bar shapes with the combination of a wing-shaped ovalised top section and super compact drop. It’s a mid-level alloy unit, with the stem being the same grade.
Keeping with the competent stuff, the 27.2mm carbon post is topped with a slender own-brand saddle. The shape and padding are just what the doctor ordered, though the glossy surface gets slippery when wet.
Overall the 5000 is an excellent steed, combining truly racy handling with decent levels of comfort thanks to its smooth ride. It does however deserve better kit to complete the package.
The middleweight wheels are fine training items, though we’d want something better come more important rides. They, and the brakes, just don’t keep up with the Scultura’s ample potential for high-speed handling. At the price its still one hell of a good bike, but with a few judicial upgrades it’d be one of the greats.