Take a company with a reputation for some of the most advanced, well-researched, high-performing, World Cup record breaking mountain bikes in the world, wave the carrot of a Tour de France Pro Team in front on them, and what do they come up with? The Scultura SL.
Merida’s new offering on the road front packs all the things that matter into a road frame – stiffness, comfort, handling, light (but not ridiculously light) weight, and sex appeal. No wonder people are keen to find out more about it.
The difference between the SL and the Pro frames comes down to the ratio of ultra-high mod carbon fibres used resulting in 130-150gms of extra weight on the Pro. That’s it. As far as technology and design research goes, both frames share the same territory.
Advances in stiffness and acceleration are largely due to the BB386EVO bottom bracket. The wider shell is accompanied by some fat tubing down low and seems to be one of the first things people comment on when they see this bike for the first time.
Comfort is taken care of at the rear by Merida’s trademark FLEX stay system, and the new Bio Fiber Damping Compound (the latter is also included in the fork as well). Fancy sounding concepts which mean that the design principles and materials used soak up vibration so you get all the benefits of a stiff frame, but without uncomfortable feedback from harsh roads. This not only makes the bike a pleasure for long training sessions and all day rides but is reported to help the bike maintain better contact with the ground assisting with control at speed.
Internal cabling keeps the cables lasting longer, while maintaining nice clean lines and the visual appeal of the bike. While the 907 comes with a standard Shimano Ultegra build, the frame is made ready for a Di2 conversion if electronic shifting is an upgrade you want to make later on.
On the road, my best expectations were blown. The bike accelarates so quick on climbs I found myself skipping the back wheel and smoothing out my riding style as a result. It’s about half a kilo lighter than the Merida Reacto 907 I rode last year and holds its speed up climbs noticably easier as a result.
Also, in comparison to the Reacto, the bottom bracket is lower making the whole bike sit closer to the ground. The difference in handling is a combination of highly noticeable and super thrilling at the same time. The bike feels so stable at speed that I find myself soaring past other roadies on bunch rides without so much as a pedal stroke, or any sensations of being out of control.
The short chain stays up the nimble handling of the bike, as do the fast rolling and reliable Fulcrum Racing 3 wheels. The racey geometry up front keeps the steering quick, while the ‘double chamber’ fork design – in combination with the Bio Fiber Damping Compound – is successful in preventing any uncomfortable road vibration reaching the hands.
Walking the Scultura Pro 907 out of my local bike shop, the Bicycle Garage in Lilyfield, I felt a little bit silly. I absolutely didn’t need a new road bike, but ongoing support from Merida Australia for mountain bike racing means I had the opportunity to upgrade. And I had a feeling this one was going to be special.
With the nimble handling and fast acceleration of the highest-end road bikes, and a build that keeps the price point low and the durability high, Merida’s Scultura Pro 907 pretty much sells itself. The Australian retail price of $3599 is surprisingly cheap given the ride feel on offer – it’s also nice to see the price point for this level of bike drop from around $4000 a couple of years ago despite the technology available making leaps and bounds. This makes the bike easy to recommend to anyone enjoying lots of road miles, training for fitness or for racing, or who simply wants to be competitive against their mates on the weekends.
Thank you Merida Australia and the Bicycle Garage Lilyfield for enabling me to ride bikes I might only dream about otherwise. Thank you also to Jeremy at Bicycle Garage for the bike fit and for helping me tweak the new rig so it feels even better still. I’m enjoying riding so much, the only way I can stop is by slowing down for long enough to look forward to the next ride as well!
Photos: Kath Bicknell. Yes, they are mountain bike pedals. (If the shoe fits….)