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Merida Scultura V Team review

1 Dec 2021
Verdict:

The Merida Scultura V Team ticks a lot of boxes but is let down by too much vertical compliance, if such a thing is possible

Cyclist Rating: 
For 
Light • Great handling • Impressive spec
Against 
Seatpost may actually flex too much

The Merida Scultura V Team is the lightweight climbing-focussed race bike used by WorldTour team Bahrain Victorious. It's built around a frame weighing a claimed 822g and, while Merida has a pure aero bike in the form of the Reacto, the new Scultura has aerodynamics features too, most notably fully integrated cables.

Merida Scultura V Team specs

I'll get it out the way now – I'm not a fan of the team replica paint. Not because I'm against emulating one's heroes, but because one day I might like to fit tyres that aren't Continentals; because this bike would have been much prettier without the blue team logos; and because I don't want people thinking my name is Bahrain Victorious. It's James.

There is a more neutral grey and black variant of the Team spec available in some markets – not the UK, currently – or there are some nice alternative colours if you move up or down the range.

For the money, this is a tricked out bike. It's packing the latest Shimano Dura-Ace R9200 Di2 disc groupset, Vision's 1,372g (claimed) 45 SL tubeless wheels, a range-topping, carbon-railed Prologo saddle, a one-piece bar stem, Continental 28mm rubber (with room for 30mm) and it even comes with two carbon bottle cages. A similar spec sees some big name brands charge thousands more. 

However, nice parts and keen pricing does not a top steed make. Out the box I take slight umbrage with the tyres – non-tubeless Continental Grand Prix 5000s – but the retail spec includes the newly launched tubeless Grand Prix 5000 S TR which hadn't yet launched when this test bike was built, so no complaints there.

It's odd to hear of a manufacturer maintaining BB stiffness rather than increasing it but that's precisely what Merida says it has done, although it has sharpened fork stiffness by some 12%. I didn't ride the previous bike (the Scultura 9000-E), but I will say the sprint stiffness for the Scultura V is OK, albeit nowhere near as unflappable as its Reacto stablemate.

But for me, a medium-powerful 80kg rider, the spine of the bike did the job, even factoring in those spindly bars, which are much stiffer to wrench on than to look at.

That said, there is flex, and it's here I nearly parted ways with the Scultura. Its vertical compliance slapped me like a marshmallow-stuffed marigold, time and again, because Merida was set on expunging harshness, 'increasing the exposure of the seatpost by 40mm and increasing the flex between bottom bracket and saddle by 38%'. Thirty-eight per cent! That is monumental, and it tells.

There is noticeable bob the first time you sit on this bike, a spring-like effect where the seatpost bends but without rebound control, such that I felt like I was bouncing as if the rear tyre was too soft.

And you can see where it comes from – lean heavily on the bike and the seatpost flexes substantially at the point where the round 27.2mm seatpost tube becomes flattened to a square. It's not called an S-Flex seatpost for nothing.

 

See you, bob

So where does that leave this bike? First of all, there are huge plus points here. There's the spec, the price and, beyond that, the handling is a treat – the bike sweeping pleasing arcs through corners – and over long distances it feels jolly comfortable.

The Scultura also climbs with gusto, being light and usefully stiff at the front end as well as BB. But seated descending suffered at the hands of this disconcerting bob, and no matter how much I got used to it over longer rides I did re-encounter this sensation going over a speed bump, say, or when switching between bikes.

All this led me to do one thing: change the seatpost to a stiffer one. And it worked, mostly.

 

Gone was the distracting bob, and in its place a more familiar feeling of solidness. However, I still craved more feedback from the bike – it was too smooth. But that's me, my preconceptions of what a road bike 'should be'. Because on further interrogation, if I was riding Roubaix this month, I might find the Scultura V rather perfect.

So the takeaway here? If you're interested, you really need to get to you local bike shop and try it. And don't be afraid to ask them to swap out the seatpost.

Pick of the kit


Giordana Monsoon Lyte jacket, £229.99, bikeloungeonline.com

So they may have spelled 'light' like an early 2000s start-up tech company, and it might not have been a monsoon in these pictures, but I've come to love what Giordana's designers created in the Monsoon Lyte.

It is truly waterproof and has a usefully weatherproof cut, with a high collar and fitted cuffs, plus a pleasingly chunky zipper. Beyond keeping me dry it also does a fine turn of keeping me warm thanks to the eVent material, which is substantial but also breathable enough to not feel stifling. I do wish it had rear pockets though.

Alternatively…


Made to endure

The Scultura Endurance (£3,500) is – you guessed it – a less aggressive version of the Scultura V, using more relaxed geometry and more forgiving tube profiles to increase long distance comfort. It also features mudguard mounts for added versatility.

Made to speed

The Reacto 9000-E (£8,000) is Merida's top spec aero machine, with CFD designed, wind-tunnel tested tube shapes and those now-ubiquitous dropped seatstays many say Merida brought to road bikes first.

Spec

Frame Merida Scultura V Team
Groupset   Shimano Dura-Ace 9200 Di2 Disc
Brakes Shimano Dura-Ace 9200 Di2 Disc
Chainset Shimano Dura-Ace 9200 Di2 Disc
Cassette Shimano Dura-Ace 9200 Di2 Disc
Bars Merida Team SL 1P Integrated bar/stem
Stem Merida Team SL 1P Integrated bar/stem
Seatpost Merida Team SL
Saddle Prologo Scratch M5
Wheels Vision Metron 45 SL Clncher TL Disc, Continental GP5000 28mm tyres
Weight 7.1kg (medium)
Contact merida-bikes.com

All reviews are fully independent and no payments have been made by companies featured in reviews

Price: 
£7,750

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