Words Liam Friary
Images Cameron Mackenzie
RRP $4,999
Distributor Advance Traders

The Merida Scultura Limited blends top-end performance into an affordable package. The latter should be your focus if you have visited the supermarket, gas station, paid rent, a mortgage or bought anything recently! This bike punches above its weight with great geometry, impressive comfort and a solid wheelset.

Merida separates its carbon frames and forks into levels, with CF2 at the bottom in terms of performance and CF5 at the top. The Scultura Limited is a CF3 model which is slightly heavier; it lacks a touch of stiffness and some comfort as compared with the CF5. This is barley noticeable to most riders, however. 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. This fifth generation Scultura frame has dropped, and relatively slender, seatstays, but must have a decent carbon lay-up, as it’s a very stiff frame which makes it ideal for attacking, climbing hard and powering out of corners. Whilst the aero features are integrated, it’s firmly Merida’s climb/comfort/all-round race bike, while the Merida Reacto is their outright aero frame.

The Scultura Limited comes with a Shimano 105 R7000 groupset. So, perhaps it’s not the most current 12-speed groupset, but the 105 R7000 still offers good functionality and performance. The chainring is a compact 50/34-tooth crankset paired with 11-30 tooth cassette which gives you plenty of range. Too keep the price low, Merida opted for Shimano’s non-series RT54 rotors. These are very usable and functional but perhaps don’t have the premium aesthetics of the 105 rotors. The seatpost is a Merida Expert CC carbon model, incorporating a 15mm setback. The saddle is a Merida Expert SL model with alloy rails. As for the cockpit, Merida uses 420mm-wide Expert SL alloy handlebar in a size medium (440mm in a size large and above), paired to a 110mm FSA alloy stem. For my rather broad frame, the 440m on size large suited me. The nice thing about this budget conscious bike is the inclusion of a mid-depth carbon wheelset, its own Team SL35 model. So, they are an entry to the world of carbon wheels and are tubeless-compatible. However, the spokes aren’t bladed, instead using standard stainless steel, and the rims aren’t 21mm (current trend) they are 19mm. The hubs, while acceptable, don’t bite with much ferocity. That said, these performed well during the test period and had good efficiency and stiffness. These wheels were laced with clincher-only 700 x 28c Continental Ultra Sport tyres which were fine. But if I were to keep the bike, I’d switch out to tubeless-ready 700 x 30c tyres.

I often came back from these rides thinking this bike was a great entry point into high pedigree race bikes. And, perhaps most importantly, it doesn’t break the bank. Maybe with that bit of change left over, you could buy a few upgrades.

On the road, the Scultura Limited behaves very well. The winter and early spring meant for lots of riding around home. It was a good chance to get to grips with the bike. The handling is impressive, as is its stiffness. I did find it reasonably comfortable, but it could have had a touch more compliance. I often came back from these rides thinking this bike was a great entry point into high pedigree race bikes. And, perhaps most importantly, it doesn’t break the bank. Maybe with that bit of change left over, you could buy a few upgrades. I think some of the spec choices unfortunately do influence the overall ride quality. One of these gripes is around the Continental Ultra Sport tubed tyres as, whilst they have good grip, they don’t encourage you to really rail the corners or bomb descents. As noted earlier, I think a good set of tubeless tyres run at lower pressures would easily sort this. Another gripe is the brakes. Whilst I think there’s adequate braking, you can’t push super-hard into corners. I think changing out the rotors from the non-series to 105-spec rotors would sort this. Don’t get me wrong; this is a great bike for the price point and these aren’t massive niggles, just something to point out.

The overall ride quality of the Scultura Limited was good. During the long test period there were many rides around a few hours in length, and a heap around three – four hours long. Whilst it’s stiff and performs like a race bike, it doesn’t compromise comfort. The frame is CF3 carbon which offers similar levels of desirable performance – stiffness and compliance – as CF5, as seen in Merida’s high-end race bikes, while adding a small amount of weight. On the flats, the modern-aero frame feels at home holding speed well and slicing through cross winds. The 35mm wheel depth was adequate at not getting pushed about in these winds. The frame, which features NACA Fastback aero tubing, also helps in the cross winds and all-out flat speed. The 27.2mm round with 15mm setback seatpost offers decent mitigation against light road buzz. Another bonus is that the saddle comes with an integrated multi-tool set in between the rails. Super handy for roadside wrenching and, as it stashed under the seat, it means you always have it. The bike’s a great all-rounder and does everything from climbing to all-out speed, and everything in between, relatively well.

The Scultura Limited delivers on good price with race bike pedigree. Of course, there’s a few spec choices that could be worked on but, as an overall package, it’s bloody great value. It’s perhaps not the most boujee but still comes with good aesthetics and, for the most part, offers decent performance right away. The Merida Scultura Limited is a good bike that blends comfort with stiffness, which makes for more ride time.