FIRST RIDES

£2400 › A smooth, solid and sta­ble ride

Cycling Plus - - CONTENTS -

Merida Scul­tura Disc 6000, Cervélo S2 105, Spe­cial­ized S-Works Venge ViAS eTap Disc, Ar­gon 18 Ni­tro­gen, Bianchi Ol­tre X1

Cre­at­ing a disc ver­sion of a rim-braked model isn’t sim­ply a case of shift­ing brake mounts, as the brake forces in­volved ne­ces­si­tate re-en­gi­neer­ing much of the frame and fork to coun­ter­act them with­out ru­in­ing the ride. As one of the world’s big­gest bike man­u­fac­tur­ers, Merida doesn’t do things by halves, but economies of scale do mean that it can of­fer ex­cel­lent qual­ity for a rea­son­able price.

Fol­low­ing 2015’s launch of the lat­est Scul­tura World Tour race bike, 2016 saw the de­but of the Scul­tura Disc. This 6000 model sits third in line to the throne of the Team ver­sion, whose com­pet­i­tive ge­om­e­try has a 20mm shorter head-tube in our 56cm size. But the Disc 6000 costs over £4000 less.

First im­pres­sions of that 190mm head­tube, and lim­ited sad­dle to bar drop in our pre­ferred frame size were a con­cern, as there was no choice but to run the bar around 25mm higher than usual, but the de­tails im­pressed. It might stand tall, but both the down- and seat­tubes are formed with trun­cated aero­foils, while the bridge­less

seat­stays morph from round at the dropouts through flat­tened, and top out with small Kamm Tail (short­ened tail) pro­files sweep­ing bow-like in to the flat­tened top­tube. The BB86 bot­tom bracket area is size­able, and sprouts a pair of pur­pose­fully deep and boxy asym­met­ric chain­stays.

De­spite its sub-1000g frame, the com­plete bike’s 8.46kg weight isn’t ex­cep­tion­ally light, but from the sad­dle it feels well bal­anced and lively, and soon ban­ished any per­for­mance pre­con­cep­tions. The Merida’s Ful­crum wheelset has great pickup, swift ac­cel­er­a­tion and enough rigid­ity to en­hance the bike’s han­dling. The rims mea­sure 23mm ex­ter­nally, are 28mm deep with op­pos­ing asym­met­ric pro­files front and rear, and have just 21 spokes each. Grippy 25mm Con­ti­nen­tal Grand Sport Race tyres plump up to 26mm, and there’s clear­ance for 28mm tyres.

Merida is the first com­pany to in­clude the Fo­cus-de­signed RAT (Rapid Axle Tech­nol­ogy) 12mm thru-axle sys­tem, al­though it’s so quick to use we’re sur­prised it’s taken so long. Wheel re­moval is just a lever flick and a quar­ter turn of the axle be­fore with­draw­ing it, no tools needed. This solid con­nec­tion be­tween the wheels and frame­set re­sults in crisp and pre­cise steer­ing. High-speed flicks, sud­den di­rec­tion changes un­der brak­ing and rough sur­face sta­bil­ity are all sim­i­larly un­dra­matic, and that added air vol­ume is a huge help.

The ride is in­cred­i­bly smooth even on the rough­est tar­mac, and de­spite the tall po­si­tion, the Scul­tura Disc is ex­tremely quick, ac­cel­er­at­ing like a whip­pet and climb­ing very well too, thanks to im­pres­sive frame and wheelset stiff­ness. On con­stantly rolling, test­ing ter­rain it was easy to carry speed through down­hill bends and power over the rises.

An Ul­te­gra com­pact driv­e­train brings sen­si­bly-geared re­fine­ment, with Ul­te­gra-equiv­a­lent flat­mount hy­draulic disc brakes and 160mm Ice Tech ro­tors that pro­vide pow­er­ful and pro­gres­sive stop­ping. Merida’s added its own disc cooler be­neath the rear cal­liper, as it be­lieves its po­si­tion re­duces the amount of cool­ing air­flow it re­ceives. A neat forged alu­minium com­po­nent with CNC-milled fins that rest on the out­side of the chain­stay, it’s claimed to make a big dif­fer­ence dur­ing long de­scents.

Our cock­pit’s FSA bar dif­fers from the Merida al­loy bar listed as stan­dard, but the other own­branded fin­ish­ing kit was fault­less, and the Prol­ogo Kappa 3 sad­dle isn’t only colour matched, but has a level of sup­port and cush­ion­ing that suits the rider in a hurry and those rid­ing a cen­tury. By the end of one 80-mile ride, we wouldn’t have swapped it for any of our other bikes, and we felt fresh enough to do it again.

SPEC­I­FI­CA­TION Weight 8.46kg (56cm) Frame Scul­tura Disc CF2 Fork Full car­bon, 12mm thru-axle Groupset Shi­mano RS685 hy­draulic levers, Ul­te­gra, 50/34, 11-28 Brakes Shi­mano RS805 cal­lipers, 160mm ro­tors Wheels Ful­crum Rac­ing Ex­pert DB Fin­ish­ing kit FSA Gos­samer al­loy bar, Merida Ex­pert stem and car­bon seat­post, Prol­ogo Kappa 3 sad­dle, 25mm Con­ti­nen­tal Grand Sport Race tyres

What­ever the road con­di­tion, the Scul­tura offers up a smooth ride

Be­low CNC-milled fins pro­vide ad­di­tional cool­ing on long de­scents Bot­tom De­spite our ini­tial con­cerns over the Merida’s shorter head-tube we were still im­pressed by the de­tails

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