A lively and confidence-inspiring endurance bike that's more than a little gravel curious
- Wonderfully compliant leaf spring-inspired frame
- Lively handling
- 35mm tyre clearance
- Mudguard mounts
- Pressfit BB
- Non-tubeless tyre
Merida has launched a brand new endurance road bike, the Scultura Endurance which features new geometry and some tailored details suited to riders who are looking to cover long miles in comfort. The new Scultura Endurance fills the gap between the aggressive geometry of the Scultura and Reacto and the comfort geometry of Merida’s Silex gravel bike.
Previously, Merida filled the endurance road category gap with the Mission Road. Using the Mission CX frameset and rejigging the components to accommodate double chainsets and slick tyres, it managed to do a decent job transferring its CX capabilities to munch up road miles.
However, Merida has clearly seen an opportunity here to improve this format by ditching the Mission’s cyclo-cross bike traits and instead choosing to redesign and apply the lessons learned from the gravel world into a new reworked endurance platform.
Design and aesthetics
The new range is based around an all-new frame. Merida grades its carbon and uses CF3 for the Scultura Endurance range - this sits in between its super-light CF4 carbon used on its aggressive high-end bikes and the lower-grade CF2 which generally has a more passive geometry suited to those that are not racing and are maybe not as flexible.
The frame shapes themselves appear to be a blend of the Scultura’s downtube and chainstays which likely maintains stiffness and the Silex’s headtube, flattened top tube, seat tube junction and slim stays. Merida claims a medium frame weighs 1,124g (including frame hardware) and 411g for the uncut fork.
The geometry is a blend of many of Merida’s current bikes, labelled as ‘road sports geometry’, which most in common with Merida’s current CF2 Scultura and Reacto bikes. Merida has chosen the numbers to find a middle ground between the on- and off-road bikes with more of a leaning towards on-road performance. The Scultura Endurance is not a tarmac only bike and Merida has embraced the all-road approach to allow riders to tackle unexpected surfaces that can be a part of taking on long rides in unfamiliar territory.
The 73-degree head angle is two degrees steeper than the Silex but 11mm taller at the front than the CF2 Scultura and Reacto. Reach has been made shorter than the CF2 frames, set at 380mm for medium to accommodate a more upright and relaxed position putting less pressure on the body. Longer 418mm chainstay length offset the shortening at the front of the bike to extends the wheelbase out to 1,001mm (medium) for steadier handling characteristics.
In the wake of gravel bike progression, the all-road concept has emerged making endurance bikes even more capable. The more upright-yet-longer geometry goes hand-in-hand with the increase in tyre clearance. The full range is stocked with 32mm tyres as standard and the frame and fork have room for up to a 35mm slick tyre. Combined with the road gravel hybrid geometry, the Scultura Endurance becomes a bike that will more than excel on rough and cobbled surfaces and, if needed, venture beyond the tarmac onto light gravel roads.
Not just relying on the cushioning from the 32mm tyres, Merida has engineered the shape of the rear end to improve compliance by creating a leaf-spring effect. The flat seat stays, chainstays and a subtle scoop out of the seat tube all contribute to the reduction of road vibrations being transmitted through to the rider.
Frame detailing has seen a number of notable developments when compared to Merida’s other bikes. The front sees Merida’s new Wire Port, which routes cables and hoses through the headset cover rather than into the downtube, making for a much neater cockpit and avoiding any risk of frame rub from the cables. The seat clamp is similar to the internal wedge used on the Reacto, yet further refined for an ultra-clean look.
All-weather riders can fit the bike with mudguards using a removable seat stay bridge and hidden mounts on the inside of the fork legs and seat stays. The bikes come with 160mm rotors but if this isn’t enough for you, Merida says that you can run 180mm if needed.
The remaining details are distinctly Merida - from its disc cooling fins on the fork and chainstay to a multitool that stashes under the saddle. The frame has a press-fit bottom bracket (BB86) and Merida Expert SL 12mm through-axles with removable levers.
The range of four new Scultura Endurance bikes all use the same frameset and only differ in componentry. The lowest Scultura Endurance 4000 is equipped with Shimano 105 which is upgraded to mechanical Ultegra for the 5000 model. The move up to the 6000 bike replaces the Merida OEM wheels with a Fulcrum Racing 700 DB wheelset.
We have got our hands on the top-of-the-range Scultura Endurance 7000-E which sees some major upgrades. The kit is reflective of a bike that has been designed to be ridden not only long distances but in all-weather conditions.
Core components comprise Shimano’s Ultegra Di2 drivetrain and brakes, and a DT Swiss wheelset. The only negative is the thin rubbery Merida Road Expert bar tape. With little in the way of vibration dampening, it gives a direct bar feel and will be best ridden with gloves on long distances.
Although the 32mm Conti Grand Prix 4 seasons is an excellent tyre for puncture resistance and the additional width welcoming, frustratingly they aren’t tubeless compatible. The wheelset is tubeless-ready so if you want to gain the extra grip, lower rolling resistance and puncture protection of a tubeless tyre setup you will need to budget in some new tyres and valves.
Merida isn't offering any women’s specific builds however smaller riders will be pleased to see Shimano’s R8025 lever specced on the XXS, XS, S sizes for better lever ergonomics for riders with smaller hands. Although this is only available on mechanical drivetrain equipped bikes, not the 7000-E we tested.
Having ridden both Merida’s CF4 geometry and Silex gravel bike, the influences from these two bikes are evident in the Scultura Endurance. Stability traits from the Silex have made the bike feel very planted and the neutral handling of the slackened CF4 geometry results in a predictable characteristic when faced with corners. Combine these together and you're left with a bike that is well suited to fast-paced endurance rides
The Scultura Endurance isn’t built for out-and-out speed, after all its an endurance road bike, but it still feels spritely covering flat ground or taking on climbs. If your idea of performance is luxurious grand tourer rather than snarling drag racer then there is a lot to like about the Scultura Endurance.
When riding long distances efficiency is the key and each pedal stroke invested into the Scultura Endurance it returns excellent value that's paid in forwarding momentum. The high front end makes for a comfortable riding position without sterilizing the feeling of performance, it also means the drops are easily usable allowing a tucked down position and encouraging spirited riding if you want to tap out a quick pace along flat or rolling sections of road. If you do need to lay down some extra wattage to crest a climb, the bike quickly responds and smoothly surges forward with no complaints.
Endurance bikes are often written off as boring due to the relaxed geometry, softer frames and more upright position which dull the exciting status quo qualities of race bikes. However, the Scultura Endurance shares much the same geometry as the racey Scultura so handling is still very sharp and lively. This plays extremely well with the stability from the longer chainstays and is topped off with the very composed frame characteristics. For riders nervous on descents the Scultura Endurance is not just reassuring but confidence-inspiring. Rider cornering input is immediately implemented and as the bike is leaned in feels utterly planted. Even on weather-worn and broken tarmac the compliance of the frame and plump tyres feel glued to the surface when other bikes on smaller tyres and stiffer frames show their insecurities and become nervous or skittery.
Interestingly Merida says that the Scultura Endurance is 90% on-road and 10% off-road. I was intrigued to find out what this 10% actually equated to and couldn't resist taking the Scultura Endurance beyond the tarmac. Leaving the road revealed just how comfortable the frame is. On these rougher surfaces, the full spectrum of compliance from Merida’s leaf spring stays was clearly discernible as the frame smoothed high-frequency chatter and dulled sharper edges wonderfully. Matched with the 32mm tyres means the Scultura Endurance is quite capable of gravel-lite / groad / gravé surfaces as long as the conditions don't call for side knobs. This performance only further frustrates the fact the bike doesn't come with tubeless tyres to get the full potential from the bike.
Considering the recent trend we have seen for gravel racers to choose repurposed road bikes when the course allows, Sandy Floren's Trek Emonda gravel-lite race bike or Peter Stetina's gravel-adapted Canyon Ultimate CF SLX for examples, mean that the sporty handling, composed nature and clearance for 35mm tyres could see the Merida Scultura Endurance easily turn its hand to smooth and fast off-road riding. For most riders interested in the Scultura Endurance, Californian gravel racing is probably not the intended purpose. For the everyday rider looking for a road bike that offers performance without harshness, the Scultura Endurance makes a valid candidate.
The Scultura Endurance has a comfortable yet efficient ride position along with forgiving frame and generous tyre clearance which makes it feel sure footed and gives a huge boost of confidence on the road. It isn’t a bike that is unsettled easily, when reacting to avoid road imperfections the bike handles itself with poise and surety.
Not only is this reworked bike a new approach for Merida towards the needs of endurance and all-road riders but it shows a distinct evolution of their bikes as they continue to refine geometries and features based on rider experiences and needs. The endurance badge hasn’t dampened its performance, a higher front end and longer wheelbase do enough to increase comfort without dampening overall speed and are sacrifices that riders who aren't interested in riding on the rivet are likely to be willing to make.
Logbook: Merida Scultura Endurance 7000-E
- Time: 3 months
- Rides: 8
- Mileage: 569.2km
- Punctures: 0
- Ride types: Road, gravel
Specifications: Merida Scultura Endurance 7000-E
- Price: £3.500.00 / €4,199.00
- Frame: SCULTURA ENDURANCE CF3 frame
- Size: Medium
- Groupset: Shimano Ultegra Di2
- Crankset: Shimano Ultegra; 50-34, Shimano CS-HG700; 11-34
- Wheels: DT Swiss E1850 Spline DB23 wheelset
- Brakes: Shimano Ultegra hydraulic (160mm rotors)
- Bar/stem: Merida Expert SL handlebar, Merida Expert CW stem
- Seatpost: Merida Expert
- Saddle: Merida Expert CC
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