Merida knows what it’s doing with aluminium frames, but the Scultura 903 still astonishes. Forget the spec — most of which is decent anyway — at its heart this is a superb aluminium road bike.
Brakes are poor and underpowered
Rather bloated total weight of 9.6kg
While the Merida Scultura 903 may feature a very similar colourway to the Lampre pro squad’s team-issue Scultura CF Team-E, that top-end carbon race machine sports a smorgasbord of hi-tech components, headlined with a Dura-Ace Di2 electronic gearset. Here we have to make do with rather less fancy components and a metal frame, but let’s not be downhearted.
After all, it’s hard not to be impressed by the finish, even if the purple and green Lampre team colours are a little gaudy. Everything has been colour-matched, and there are some nice visual details, such as the Lampre and Continental Tyres decals. The welds are also very neat, there is a fulsome amount of internal cable routing, and we are indulged with a carbon fork up front.
Bend it, shape it
The triple-butted aluminium frame has been shaped very nicely, too. There’s a Specialized-esque bow to the top tube, but the most interesting feature is the bend at the top of the seatstays. We’ve seen seatstays with more gradual curves, but we don’t think we’ve ever seen seatstays with such pronounced bends at the top. All the tubes have interesting profiles. None are perfectly round, none are too square edged. The top tube even features a cloverleaf shape as it meets the seat tube.
The Shimano Tiagra groupset works very well initially, and most of it is very good — the front mech in particular is a beauty. But the rear mech is sensitive to cable tension and you’ll find gear changes become hesitant as the cable stretches. The Merida-branded caliper brakes are also very poor, even after they’ve bedded in.
But that’s the only area that really needs addressing. All the contact points are good; the saddle is rather comfy; and Merida even specs a carbon seatpost. The Alex-rimmed, Tiagra-hubbed wheels perform well, too, although they contribute to the rather bloated 9.6kg total weight.
So far, so typical for an aluminium bike at this price point. But this is where things get exciting, because the result of all that frame design is a super smooth, super plush ride. We really can’t praise it enough — it’s certainly among the very best sub-£1,000 bikes, and probably one of the best riding aluminium frames at any price.
The Scultura 903 copes with anything up to moderately bumpy surfaces very well, and even over really poor roads the majority of the buzz only resonates to the front — the rear remains well insulated. Add to that an inherent eagerness which allows you to achieve speed very quickly and then easily continue to cruise there. Climbing is positive, too, with out of the saddle efforts actually feeling fun. And handling is superbly balanced and perfectly direct. It’s simply a fantastic bike to ride.
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