The Merida Scultura Disc 10K-E road bike is a climber's dream
- Lightweight feel
- Responsive to pedal inputs with impressive stiffness
- Communicative underpinnings
- Stealthy aesthetics
- Disc-brake stopping power
- Ride quality on the firm side
- Lack of integration
It's been four years since Merida launched this particular iteration of its Scultura platform and, despite its age, it's still proving a worthy option as far as the best lightweight bikes are concerned. Piloted by WorldTour outfit Bahrain-McLaren, the Scultura has earned a reputation for its all-round ability but is undoubtedly best enjoyed when treated to a smorgasbord of lumpy terrain where its lightweight properties can be exploited to the maximum.
The bike you see here is the Merida Scultura 10K-E, a 6.75kg disc-brake-equipped race bike outfitted in Shimano's range-topping hydraulic Dura-Ace R9170 Di2 componentry. Is it as accomplished overcoming gravity as Merida claims? Well, we've spent four months testing it to bring you the definitive answer.
Design and aesthetics
This particular Scultura utilises one of the better-looking colourway options in the Merida road bike range, combining a contrasting black and pearlescent metallic white theme that runs through the entire bike. It's pretty stealthy in terms of visual clout and you'll need to give it a deliberate once-over to make out the glossy maker's name on the matte-finished downtube. There's no disputing its credentials.
In terms of frame design, it utilises very much a traditional road bike blueprint. There are no dropped seat stays but it does feature a 'NACA Fastback' semi-aero downtube profile which straddles the lines between aero and traditional tube shaping. And while it may go against the prophetic teachings of aero doctrine the Scultura Disc proves going fast in a straight line isn't everything; ride feel and communication is just as important but more on that later.
The Scultura however, is clearly lacking when it comes to cable integration. There's a fair bit of cable and hose faff going on at the front, the most perplexing of which is the Di2 shifter wires that route through the top tube but other than that it's a really classing-looking package.
As one of the racier models in the range, the Scultura Disc 10K-E is constructed from CF4-grade carbon fibre which is one of two carbon layup grades available in the range, the other being CF2 which is found on the lesser models. The geometry is more aggressive than the CF2 version with a slightly steeper head angle, longer reach and lower stack height. The frame differentiates itself from the rim-brake version by way of thru-axles and flat-mount rear disc brakes, replete with disc cooler vents attached to the chainstay.
Our M/L sized test bike is naturally very light and tips the scales at a feathery 6.86kg without pedals. As the 'E' moniker suggests, it benefits from Shimano's Dura-Ace R9170 Di2 electronic groupset which is a proven recipe when it comes to reliability and performance. Helping keep weight to a minimum is the DT Swiss PRC 1400 Spline DB 35 wheelset. Featuring shallow 35mm rim profile, they've been carefully added to this build to ensure the Scultura overcomes gravity in alacritous fashion.
The balance of the build comprises a combination of Merida's own lightweight accessory range - namely an alloy Expert CC stem, carbon Team SL bar and Team SL seat post and a carbon-railed Prologo NAGO C3 road bike saddle. Merida's Road Expert bar tape and Look Keo Blade Carbon Ceramic pedals complete the bike.
Riding experience and performance
As you'd expect from a bike of this nature the Scultura excels the moment the road turns upwards. As we've already established, it's appreciably light out of the box and the stiff, responsive underpinnings make it an absolute joy to pedal around - regardless of the terrain. Sure, it's not as quick as some of its aero-sculpted rivals when it comes to straight-line shunt but that doesn't mean it's lacking when it comes to rolling efficiency.
In fact, a simple wheel change quickly transforms the way it interacts with flatter terrain. I spent a lot of time experimenting with various rim profiles to find the right combination for the type of terrain that makes up my training routes. In that respect, I found the Enve 65 Foundation wheels a bit too deep and the stock DT Swiss wheels a little shallow but the Vision SC 40 DB seemed to strike the right balance in terms of all-round proficiency. In fact, Merida specs the range-topping Scultura Team-E with a similar wheelset - dubbed Vision Metron 40 TL - which is a testament to this setup's many talents.
With the 40s fitted, the Scultura immediately felt more adept - especially when traversing the leg-sapping terrain of the Surrey Hills. Another thing to consider is the ride quality which is a little on the firmer side but that's par for the course. The only thing I could do was dabble with tyres pressures to help quell some of the road chatter. In stock trim, I rode the 25c Continental GP5000 tyres at 80/90psi (front/rear) while swapping out to the tubeless-tyre-clad Vision SC40s dropped the pressures to 45/55psi front/rear based on my weight of 61kg.
This bike, however, is best enjoyed ridden hard and by softening its characteristics by making it more comfortable only takes away from its racy nature. In that regard, the more I rode it the more I enjoyed the communicative feedback from the touchpoints and standard wheel/tyre combination. The harder pressures, while jarring on the body, paint a purer and detailed picture of what's happening underfoot which gives you the assurance to push harder through corners and trust the front end's impressive grip levels.
One area that could be addressed is the handlebar setup. While I understand, this particular configuration was selected with weight in mind, I'd prefer the bar to be a little girthier for better feel and control.
If it's an unfiltered all-round riding experience that you're after the Merida Scultura Disc 10K-E road bike shouldn't be ignored - it's a climber's dream. Add to that its stealthy appearance, nimble handling characteristics and responsive chassis and it easily finds itself on the podium as far as the best lightweight bikes are concerned.
Yes, it's showing its age now if you consider de rigueur aero-clad appearances of its contemporaries but it's still equipped with the necessary attributes to keep it competitive and relevant - regardless of the terrain at hand.
At £7,900, the Scultura 10K-E still represents a premium purchase but considering the heftier pricepoints of similarly specced bikes dominating the segment, there's no doubting the value the Scultura offers in spades.
Tech Specs: Merida Scultura Disc 10K-E
- RRP: £7,900 / €8,999
- Frame: Merida CF4 carbon
- Size: M/L
- Weight: 6.86kg (M/L, actual)
- Groupset: Shimano Dura-Ace Di2 R9170 hydraulic
- Crankset: Shimano Dura-Ace 52/36T, 172,5mm crankarm
- Cassette: Shimano Dura-Ace, 11-30T
- Wheels: DT Swiss PRC 1400 Spline DB 35
- Tyres: Continental GP5000 25c
- Brakes: Shimano Dura-Ace hydraulic
- Discs: Shimano Dura-Ace RT900 Centerlock, 160mm rotors front/rear
- Bar: Merida Team SL Carbon
- Stem: Merida Expert CC alloy, 100mm
- Seatpost: Merida Team SL Carbon, 27.2mm
- Saddle: Prologo NAGO C3 carbon
Logbook: Merida Scultura Disc 10K-E
- Duration: 4 months
- Rides: 40
- Mileage: 1,535km
- Weather: 15-32 degrees, summer riding
- Ride types: Road
- Terrain: Hilly, undulating
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