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review

Merida Scultura Limited 2023

8
£3,000.00

VERDICT:

8
10
Sweet-handling race bike with an impressively comfortable ride
Rides like a proper race bike
Impressive comfort for a stiff bike
Wheels improve value against the competition
It deserves better tyres
Weight: 
8,550g

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The Merida Scultura Limited shares the same geometry as the top-end models used by the pros, but in a more affordable package. It delivers a cracking ride, and while this sort of money used to see you getting a higher spec groupset, the inclusion of deep-section carbon fibre rims (our test bike had SL35s, production models have SL45s) means that performance doesn't suffer. Check out our guide to the best road bikes for up to £3,000 to see how it compares.

If your budget can't stretch to the Scultura Team and its £8k price tag, but you still want a high-performance road machine with great geometry and impressive comfort, the Scultura Limited fits the bill.

The carbon fibre in its CF3 frame and fork might not be to the same performance level as the top flight CF5 found on the Team, but the geometry is the same, the comfort is just as pleasing, and you are getting a lot of bike for the money.

Frame, Fork & Performance

Merida separates its carbon frames and forks into levels, with CF2 at the bottom in terms of performance and CF5 at the top.

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2022 Merida Scultura Limited - frame detail.jpg

This CF3 model is a bit heavier, not quite as stiff, and the comfort levels aren't quite as refined as the CF5, but – and this is a big but – unless you've ridden both, you'd barely notice the difference.

The Limited with its CF3 frame and fork is still a belter.

2022 Merida Scultura Limited - riding 2.jpg

Although the boxy looking tube junctions and semi-aero tube profiles all give the Scultura a firm look, the ride is on the supple side.

2022 Merida Scultura Limited - seat tube junction.jpg

Some of that is down to the fact that this fifth generation Scultura frame has dropped and relatively slender seatstays, but a lot of it must be down to the carbon lay-up, as this is still a very stiff frame, ideal for powering out of the bends, climbing hard or just when smashing the hell out of the pedals for the sake of it.

2022 Merida Scultura Limited - riding 4.jpg

I'd say this gives the Scultura a better ride quality than other aero-ish bikes such as the Tifosi Auriga or the Moda Finale, while being just as stiff.

The Scultura comes fitted with 28mm tyres, although it will accept 30mm wide ones if you want to boost comfort even further.

2022 Merida Scultura Limited - clearance.jpg

Merida has specced the geometry to suit the performance of the stiff frame, with measurements and angles that gives the Scultura Limited quick, precise handling and a nimble, eager personality when you want it to get a shift on.

I'll go into the numbers in a minute, but let's just say this bike is fun in the bends. The steering is quick, and thanks to the stiff fork, very precise.

2022 Merida Scultura Limited - riding 3.jpg

I loved riding this bike on fast, technical descents as the front end just goes where you point it – there is no vagueness in the steering as feedback is spot on. And with the sub-one-metre wheelbase (medium size), the Scultura changes direction quickly and feels planted on the road too.

The front end is low, thanks to a short head tube, and paired with the amount of seatpost I was running makes for a low centre of gravity, even when riding on the hoods. This gives the Merida an even more confident feel through the corners.

2022 Merida Scultura Limited - riding 5.jpg

On the whole, this bike just feels on it. Perfect if you want the handling of a peloton-ready race machine but without the price tag, and are happy to accept a small weight penalty.

Geometry & sizing

The Scultura Limited is available in six sizes ranging from XS through to XL, which covers top tube lengths from 520mm through to 590mm.

Ours is a medium with a 560mm top tube, 501mm seat tube and a 140mm head tube. The wheelbase is 990mm overall, with chainstays of just 408mm in length.

The head angle is 73.5 degrees, which is the same as the seat angle. Stack and reach figures are 557mm and 395mm respectively.

2022 Merida Scultura Limited - head tube junction.jpg

Overall, the geometry has a racy edge to it, as befits a bike of this style.

Finishing kit

The Limited uses Shimano's well-proven R7000 105 mechanical groupset with a compact 50/34-tooth chainset paired to an 11-30T cassette. That's an ideal spread of gears for those of us who don't race but still want high enough gears for some speed work, with a tall enough bailout ratio for the climbs.

2022 Merida Scultura Limited - drivetrain.jpg

Merida has also specced 160mm RT-54 rotors front and rear.

2022 Merida Scultura Limited - rear disc brake.jpg

We've covered the performance and quality of 105 loads of times, so I won't go into a huge amount of detail – you can just read the review here for the groupset, and this review for the hydraulic disc brake components.

2022 Merida Scultura Limited - lever.jpg

As for the rest of the kit, the majority of it is Merida branded, although the stem is from FSA with its SMR ACR, which is designed to funnel the brake hoses and gear cables down through the head tube and into the frame and fork for that smooth look I mentioned earlier. Length depends on frame size, with this medium frame coming with a 110mm.

2022 Merida Scultura Limited - stem.jpg

The Merida Expert SL handlebar is aluminium and has quite a rounded profile for the drops which I got on well with. The 420mm fitted to the test bike bike worked a treat, giving a balance of quick handling and comfort. Again, bigger and smaller frames get a different width handlebar.

2022 Merida Scultura Limited - bars 1.jpg

The Expert CC seatpost is full carbon fibre and comes with 15mm of setback. It's held in place in the frame by way of an expanding wedge type clamp, something that remained secure throughout reviewing with no slippage to report.

2022 Merida Scultura Limited - seat post bolt.jpg

Merida also supplies the saddle, also called the Expert SL, and on the whole I liked it thanks to its curved shape.

2022 Merida Scultura Limited - saddle 3.jpg

Wheels and tyres

Probably the biggest bonus regarding the build is the set of deep-section carbon fibre wheels, something you don't often see for this kind of money (and you can't see here, as our bike had slightly shallower hoops on).

The actual wheels you should get are Merida Team SL45s (not SL35s), which have an inner width of 19mm, making them well suited to various sizes of road tyres. 

The hubs are set up to accept Center Lock brake discs, and they can also be run tubeless. The SL35s felt quick out on the road, and remained true throughout the review period, so I'm confident the SL45s will behave just as well but you'll get that aero bonus of the 45mm-deep rims.

2022 Merida Scultura Limited - rim and tyre.jpg

Wrapped around each is a Continental Ultra Sport III tyre. These are decent all-rounders, in fact I'd say they perform much better than their price would have you expect, giving a great balance of grip and speed. Durability is looking good, too, both in terms of wear rate and puncture resistance.

Get to the spring and summer months, though, and the Limited could do with something more performance orientated, so there is definitely upgrade potential there.

Value

Gone are the days of £3k getting you a road bike equipped with Shimano Ultegra Di2 or similar. Many of the big brands have models sporting 105 mechanical for even more money than the Scultura.

Specialized, for example, has the Tarmac SL6 Sport for £3,500, which comes with 105 and DT Swiss alloy wheels, while Trek has the Emonda SL 5 for £3,250.

Giant's TCR Advanced Pro Disc 2 costs £3,299 and comes with the 105 groupset and deep-section wheels.

Overall, I think this shows the Merida to be pretty good value for money against the opposition.

Conclusion

The Scultura Limited is a great bike. It has the stiff and firm ride of a fast road bike, but maintains enough comfort that you can be out for hours on end. It's a good looking bike too, and well specced for the money.

Verdict

Sweet-handling race bike with an impressively comfortable ride

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road.cc test report

Make and model: Merida Scultura Limited

Size tested: Medium, 56cm

About the bike

List the components used to build up the bike.

WHEELSET: MERIDA TEAM SL45

FRONT TYRE: Continental Ultra Sport III

REAR TYRE: Continental Ultra Sport III

HUBS: MERIDA EXPERT SL

CRANK: Shimano 105

BOTTOM BRACKET: SM-BB71-41B, Pressfit 86.5

CASSETTE: Shimano CS-R7000

CHAIN: KMC X11

SHIFTERS: Shimano 105 Disc

FRONT DERAILLEUR: Shimano 105

REAR DERAILLEUR: Shimano 105

BRAKE LEVER: Shimano 105

BRAKES: Shimano 105

ROTORS: Shimano RT54

HEADSET: FSA ACR

STEM FSA: SMR ACR

STEM SIZE: 90 mm-XXS/XS, 100 mm-S, 110 mm-M, 120 mm-L/XL

HANDLEBAR: MERIDA EXPERT SL

GRIP: MERIDA ROAD Expert

SEAT POST: MERIDA EXPERT CC

SEAT CLAMP: MERIDA EXPERT

SADDLE: MERIDA EXPERT SL

Tell us what the bike is for and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about the bike?

Merida says, "Team Bahrain Victorious put the fifth generation Scultura thoroughly through its paces, winning mountain top stages of the Tour de France and the Vuelta a Espana before the bike was even launched.

Gen 5 keeps the Scultura's fabled lightweight, agility and rider comfort focus and even manages to improve on both measures.

The Scultura now incorporates learnings from the Reacto in terms of aerodynamics; they now share the same race proven geometry.

Improving weight, comfort and aerodynamics requires plenty of engineering ingenuity. Round tubes are lighter than aero profiled tubes, fatter tyres are more comfortable but less aerodynamic. There are always compromises to be made."

The Scultura Limited is an all-round race bike that balances performance, speed and stiffness.

Where does this model sit in the range? Tell us briefly about the cheaper options and the more expensive options

The Scultura range kicks off with the aluminium-framed Rim 100 at £885 and tops out with the Scultura 10K which costs... errr... £10K.

The Limited sits third in the line-up of carbon bikes, out of a range of eight.

Frame and fork

Overall rating for frame and fork
 
8/10

Tell us about the build quality and finish of the frame and fork?

The build quality is to a high standard and the black/silver colour scheme looks very smart too.

Tell us about the materials used in the frame and fork?

Merida uses differing grades of carbon fibre on its bikes, with CF2 at the bottom of the performance range, and CF5 at the top. The Limited uses CF3 for both the frame and the fork.

Tell us about the geometry of the frame and fork?

The geometry is on the racy side, with a relatively steep head angle and short head tube, which makes the handling feel fast.

How was the bike in terms of height and reach? How did it compare to other bikes of the same stated size?

The stack and reach figures are very typical of a race bike of this size.

Riding the bike

Was the bike comfortable to ride? Tell us how you felt about the ride quality.

Comfort is impressive considering the stiffness of the frame.

Did the bike feel stiff in the right places? Did any part of the bike feel too stiff or too flexible?

Stiffness throughout the bike is ideal for hard efforts.

How did the bike transfer power? Did it feel efficient?

Power transfer through the lower half of the frame is impressive thanks to the large bottom bracket junction.

Was there any toe-clip overlap with the front wheel? If so was it a problem?

No.

How would you describe the steering? Was it lively neutral or unresponsive? Responsive.

Tell us some more about the handling. How did the bike feel overall? Did it do particular things well or badly?

The handling on the Limited is quick, just on the right side of twitchy, which makes it fun if you like to ride fast on technical descents.

Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's comfort? would you recommend any changes?

I got on well with the shape of the saddle.

Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's stiffness? would you recommend any changes?

The SL35 wheels are stiff enough, especially when getting the power down while out of the saddle, and in theory the SL45s that should come with the Limited will be just the same but with an extra aero boost on the flat.

Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's efficiency? would you recommend any changes?

The 45mm-deep wheels will bring an extra level of efficiency on the flat and will work well alongside the frame and fork design.

Rate the bike for efficiency of power transfer:
 
8/10
Rate the bike for acceleration:
 
8/10
Rate the bike for sprinting:
 
8/10
Rate the bike for high speed stability:
 
8/10
Rate the bike for cruising speed stability:
 
8/10
Rate the bike for low speed stability:
 
7/10
Rate the bike for flat cornering:
 
7/10
Rate the bike for cornering on descents:
 
8/10
Rate the bike for climbing:
 
8/10

The drivetrain

Rate the drivetrain for performance:
 
9/10
Rate the drivetrain for durability:
 
8/10
Rate the drivetrain for weight:
 
8/10

Tell us some more about the drivetrain. Anything you particularly did or didn't like? Any components which didn't work well together?

Shimano's mechanical 105 is dependable and offers great performance.

Wheels and tyres

Rate the wheels for performance:
 
8/10
Rate the wheels for durability:
 
8/10
Rate the wheels for weight:
 
7/10
Rate the wheels for comfort:
 
7/10

Tell us some more about the wheels.Did they work well in the conditions you encountered? Would you change the wheels? If so what for?

Our test bike came with SL35s, a good quality set of wheels all round; production models will have SL45 deep-section rims, which is impressive for this sort of money.

Rate the tyres for performance:
 
7/10
Rate the tyres for durability:
 
8/10
Rate the tyres for weight:
 
7/10
Rate the tyres for comfort:
 
7/10

Tell us some more about the tyres. Did they work well in the conditions you encountered? Would you change the tyres? If so what for?

Good tyres for fast training and general riding, although the Limited does deserve something faster and grippier in the dry months.

Controls

Rate the controls for performance:
 
8/10
Rate the controls for durability:
 
8/10
Rate the controls for weight:
 
7/10
Rate the controls for comfort:
 
7/10

Tell us some more about the controls. Any particularly good or bad components? How would the controls work for larger or smaller riders?

Neat touches like the stem give the Merida a clean look, and the rest of the kit works well too.

Your summary

Did you enjoy riding the bike? Yes

Would you consider buying the bike? Yes

Would you recommend the bike to a friend? Yes

How does the price compare to that of similar bikes in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?

It's noticeably cheaper than a lot of similar bikes from the other big brands, as you can see from the review.

Rate the bike overall for performance:
 
8/10
Rate the bike overall for value:
 
6/10

Use this box to explain your overall score

This is a great bike to ride, especially if you want a race bike that is also comfortable enough to ride for many hours without beating you up. Against the competition it is well specced for the money, too. It's very good.

Overall rating: 8/10

About the tester

Age: 44  Height: 180cm  Weight: 76kg

I usually ride: This month's test bike  My best bike is: B'Twin Ultra CF draped in the latest bling test components

I've been riding for: Over 20 years  I ride: Every day  I would class myself as: Expert

I regularly do the following types of riding: time trialling, commuting, club rides, sportives, fixed/singlespeed,

As part of the tech team here at F-At Digital, senior product reviewer Stu spends the majority of his time writing in-depth reviews for road.cc, off-road.cc and ebiketips using the knowledge gained from testing over 1,500 pieces of kit (plus 100's of bikes) since starting out as a freelancer back in 2009. After first throwing his leg over a race bike back in 2000, Stu's ridden more than 170,000 miles on road, time-trial, track, and gravel bikes, and while he's put his racing days behind him, he still likes to smash the pedals rather than take things easy. With a background in design and engineering, he has an obsession with how things are developed and manufactured, has a borderline fetish for handbuilt metal frames and finds a rim braked road bike very aesthetically pleasing!

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4 comments

Avatar
stub | 11 months ago
1 like

I've got a 2020 Scultura 7000e which cost £3,000 (slightly reduced) and came with Shimano Ultegra Di2. It's a fabulous bike - especially now with a team SL carbon bar and a set of Vision SC40db wheels. Looks like the geometry of the new Scultura CF3 models is the same as the CF5 models, whereas the older models the CF3 had slightly more relaxed geometry. I really like my old CF3 bike so am reluctant to upgrade at the moment.

Merida have been turning out cracking bikes for a while. 
 

Avatar
Secret_squirrel | 11 months ago
2 likes

I've ridden an older Sculptura and it was both fun and comfy.

This looks like a well considered package and assuming its not a complete lard bucket (I'd guess 8.5kg but nowhere seems to have the weight listed), with the deep section wheels, I would expect this to be one of the fastest bikes you can get for the money retail-wise.

Great value. (for 2023 versions of value)

Avatar
KDee replied to Secret_squirrel | 11 months ago
1 like

(for 2023 versions of value)...Exactly! When I first read the review last night I thought "that's good value", then gave myself a good slap. 

Avatar
quiff replied to Secret_squirrel | 11 months ago
0 likes

8.55kg according to the summary box near the top - think that's usually road.cc 'scales of truth' weight?

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