PASSION AND COURAGE

Challenging times are probably one of the best situations where it brings out the best qualities in a person.  This can be said of Merida’s founder Ike Tseng, because it was during one of his overseas trips to the U.S.A. in the early 1970s that he came across a bicycle shop with a note on the door that stated that they do not accept any bikes for repairs if it was made in Taiwan, because of the bad quality.  This encounter drove Tseng to start Merida Industry Co. Ltd. and his first production plant opened in Taiwan in September of 1972.  Ike Tseng’s motto was “move with passion and courage, and his company’s name Merida was derived from the rough translation of three syllables “Me-Ri-Da”, which shows the company’s direction to only manufacture high quality and beautiful looking bikes.  1988 was another big milestone for Ike Tseng when he launched the brand MERIDA, to manufacture a complete range of sophisticated and internationally recognized bikes.

ASIAN MARKET

Launched specifically for the Asian market, the Scultura 400 is an entry level budget friendly road bike that’s not only tame on the wallet, but still manages to ooze sophistication while coupled with some truly innovative design features.  Offered in a range of six frame sizes from XS, which has an effective top tube length of 47cm, up to a rather huge XL frame with a 59cm top tube.  Painted in a stealthy combination of black, red and grey, the matt finish paintwork has a really cool look to it and you can never go wrong with this classic colour scheme.  It is paired with a carbon composite fork and loads of Merida’s very own contact point hardware like the Road Anatonic OS handlebar which is clamped to a Merida Pro / ControlTech stem, the Merida Race 5 saddle sits atop a Merida carbon H SB15 27.2 seat post.

INNOVATIONS

The frame is made from Merida’s premium high quality grade Triple Butted Prolite 66 material which is a high strength 6066 aluminum alloy that has a triple butted wall that is not only light but just as durable as well, while offering the optimum Stiffness-To-Weight ratio possible.  The joints have smooth welds, due to a specific type of welding technology that creates smooth joins without sacrificing any strength and rigidity at the welds.

The frame tubes also utilize a delicate hydraulic process called Hydro Forming System to three dimensionally shape the aluminum alloy tubes by forcing hot oil into the tubes at very high pressures from the inside therefore shaping the tubes.

And at the front of the bike, the X-Taper head tube is an externally butted tube with a mighty 1-1/2 inch steering bearing at the bottom along with a slightly smaller 1-1/8 inch bearing at the top and matched with a tapered shaft carbon fork which adds stiffness while offering precise steering performance.  The Merida Carbon fork is a delight in itself, vibration damping is outstanding and the lateral stiffness can be felt when braking hard in the front, which makes the bike steer very reliably.

Another surprising feature of this bike is the internal cable routing which normally can only be found in high end frames, with brake and shift cables running inside the tube sections of the frame, it vastly improves the aesthetics of the bike, giving it a clean and uncluttered look.  Even the cable entry and exit points have special inlet and outlet points that not only look great, but protects the cables from a lot of unwanted dirt and grime.  The beautiful and chunky seat clamp is also very unique, because clamp bolts are usually located at the rear of the clamp, this one is at the front, allowing for Merida’s logo to be clearly printed on it at the rear portion.

COMPONENTS

The Merida Scultura 400 doesn’t disappoint when it comes to gearing hardware, fitted with the latest Shimano 105 11 speed groupo, this groupset offers class leading technology while keeping the price tag very reasonable.  Critical components like the shifters, rear derailleur and cassette enjoy the 105 badges to enable the bike to shift smoothly, upshifts while under pressure on hill climbs also don’t reveal any hint of sticking or difficulty in shifting to the bigger gears, downshifts are equally smooth with every click of the shifter moving the chain down each of the 10 more gears precisely.  The forceful brakes are Merida’s very own brand and provide plenty of stopping power on the Alexrims Comp 24 alloy wheels that have been fitted with Maxxis Dolemites 23 folding tyres.

VERDICT

This test bike weighed in at a hefty 8.8 kilograms and the weight can be felt when you are sprinting, it feels a bit clumsy during acceleration but once this bike is at speed, the added weight seems to even out the road vibrations.  With such a weight handicap, gravity will be your nemesis when going up hills and slopes, but once you reach altitude, you will be rewarded with a smooth, stable and firm ride down.  Overall, the ride is quite smooth in itself but don’t expect the kind of road vibration absorption as compared to a carbon frame.  For a bike in this price range, I can safely say that with all the design features and innovations that can be found on this bike, you will be getting a lot more bang for your buck than you would expect.

To read more on Scultura 400 and other Merida models, please click on this link: http://2014.merida-bikes.com/