At Raw Cycles and Skatepark, we are proud distributors of the Merida brand. We love its German design, its race bred technology and their relentless pursuit of aerodynamics. We are well used to seeing 2013 world road race champion Rui Costa push his Merida Reacto to world beating heights but presuming his lack of availability we asked Limerick CC A3 rider Dave Bourke to fill us in on how his new steed was performing early season:
“At first glance the Scultura is refined and streamlined. The colour scheme is neat and impressive. The frame is a carbon monocoque, completed by Shimano 105 group-set, Fulcrum Racing Sport wheels that have quality hubs that just keep turning, and perhaps typical of Merida’s attention to detail is the Control Tech finishing kit. For the price-to-model ratio here, you don’t usually get that level of quality components right throughout. The guys at Raw sized me up for the bike and I was good to go. You can look at a new bike in all its glory for ages but the proof of the pudding is in the eating. Just as well my appetite was all there as the first assignment was two open race outings right here in Limerick.
Firstly the Michael Shiels Trophy in Broadford, a pan flat circuit of 14km six times, served as a handicapped race from A1 to A3. So by definition this was going to be fast, and a chance to see how responsive the bike would be in the company of Páidí O’Brien, Simon Ryan and the likes. It didn’t disappoint, in fact it more than pleasantly surprised. Normally I position myself well coming into a corner as I lose a few places in the thunderous dashes out of them, but by lap 2 I knew the bike was almost willing me forwards and I was gaining net position quite comfortably. Allow me to jump to the end of the race momentarily as it’s important to point out that while the frame is responsive and stiff where you need it to be, it didn’t come at a price of being heavy legged at the end of the race. The frame is flexible where you need forgiveness and Merida seems to have their home work done well on the rear and chain stays set up. I can’t blame anyone but myself for not getting up in the sprint at the end. My legs allowed me to get into the heel of the hunt but I could only look on as the minor places that were left as scraps to the main bunch by the successful break away were snatched up just in front of me.
One week later, fresh and confident with my new Scultura and last week’s performance, a very different task lay in front of me in the form of Rás Luimní. Being Round 1 of Cycling Ireland’s new National League, this race was sure to attract the ‘quality’ from all over the country. Over 120 of us set off on a circuit that is only underestimated once. With one stretch that is less of a hill and more so a series of punitive drags and unrelenting bumps, mixed with exposed straights, fast stretches and a dead surface, you know your body is going to suffer. This 31km loop tests mind, body and bike! It was hard to manoeuvre up the bunch in what was a high speed first lap, but the hills at the start of the 2nd lap allowed me to advance forwards. My climbing technique is to push/pull simultaneously, and as I did, the Merida gave me purchase I just hadn’t felt before. This is the feedback you are looking for from a bike. Getting to the front now seemed all too easy. When I got there, an attack had already succeeded in getting away, I checked with team mates to see if we were represented, which we weren’t so I put my front wheel into open country without a moments hesitation and bridged over to a few other chasers. The bunch weren’t satisfied to let us go but you knew there was quality in the break up front as the attacks were coming thick and fast. I gave the legs a mini break to recover from my initial unsuccessful foray and then went for it again, this time bridging cleanly 150 metres to 7 other guys, all in the mood for work. We quickly found rhythm and everyone contributed. We confidently and quickly put time into those behind us and it wasn’t long before we could see we were making progress on the lead group of 4. As we cornered off the Bruff Road towards Herbertstown, and again towards Caherconlish, the Merida allowed me every confidence to either finish the corner as I started or to check mid corner if needed be without any need to compensate for it.
Being away that early in a top race was actually new for me. Like many fella’s with even half a sprint on them, I’m happy enough to play the ‘wait and see’ game, but this Merida Scultura is so responsive, I abandoned my typical race conservatism and went for it. Again, its my own shortcomings that I threw the kitchen sink into catching the early attackers, meaning I almost popped by the time our chase group caught them but if I didn’t retreat then I would have blown beyond recovery come the hill at the start of lap 3. So retreat I did, but I did so knowing that my fitness and bike combination have me in more competitive stead than perhaps any previous March. And so I am now looking at the calendar and thinking in a way I have never done before in terms of race selection and potential for points finishes. I am very satisfied that my winter training and fitness gained combined with the zippy responsiveness of the Merida will help me progress beyond my two previous best finishes (both 11th) in A3 level and help me progress to points finishes soon.”
We’ll check in on David later again in the season to see how things are going for him. Remember, we provide a comprehensive software driven bike fitting service in-store. We also stock a range of Merida bikes for road, MTB and kids. Thanks for reading!