While the previous Scultura frame was a fairly straightforward, straight tube format, Merida have found their flow, structurally and ride-wise, with the new 2013 frame.
The continuous arch of the ovalised down tube, flattened A-frame ‘Flex Stays’ and skinny 27.2mm carbon seatpost build a ride that feels tautly sprung and eager to go from the outset.
Spin the pedals at a smooth cadence and it glides up gradients, with a buoyant, momentum-sustaining spring. It’s not the stiffest when you jump up and stamp, but it’s no slouch attacking out of corners or jumping the group halfway up a hill.
Responsive Mavic Aksium Race wheels and a low overall weight mean you can light up the pace repeatedly on combative climbs without regretting it. It also meant the Scultura was always one of the first to surge ahead as climbs started to plateau at the top, getting over the brow easily and spinning quickly into a gap.
The ratios of the compact chainset keep your knees intact even up extended pitches. The bike’s smoothness across rough sections pays increasing dividends the longer you ride it, and the cockpit is well shaped and stiff enough to be accurate without jarring you.
The front end is high enough for creaky back comfort if you leave all the spacers in, but low enough to create a proper racer feel. Despite the smoothing effect of the wishbone top line of the frame, the accuracy of the fork and head tube means you can push it hard through corners.
There’s plenty of feedback for reaching the edge of adhesion without a dose of road rash and the Vittoria tyres are smoother rolling and more surefooted in corners than most mid-price rubber. It’s stable enough for back pocket snacking between summits and it takes deep section wheels and gusty days in its stride too.
Detailing like the blended seat tube, top tube centre strake (a fin-like reinforcing extension) and curved seat collar base sync well with the curved frame. While the outer cable running through the top tube adds grams, frame weight is okay.
Perfect frame and rear triangle alignment is great to see, confirmation of the expertise of one of the world’s largest bike manufacturers.