Introduction

Merida is no stranger to the cycling world. With partnerships with the likes of Specialized (of which they own 49%) and various other bicycle companies plus their firm commitment in sponsoring professional Road and MTB teams, Merida is certainly no pushover in the realm of cycling.

With their own manufacturing, design and testing facilities (and not surprisingly, used by countless big brands in the industry), Merida has developed, either jointly with their partners or on their own, a plethora of innovative technologies that push the boundaries of cycling equipment design and manufacturing.

Hup Leong proudly sent a spanking new 2014 Merida CF 905 to our office, proclaiming it to be one of the best road bikes available today for cyclists looking for a ride with all the innovations of top end bikes but with lesser strain to the wallet.

Equipment and Aesthetics

The bike looks understated in very handsome way, with its Merida Lampre pink and green overtones, it looks almost Rapha-esque in a way.

Equipment

The bike that landed on our doorsteps came equipped with the latest Shimano Ultegra 11-speed groupset, a frame-matching Prologo saddle and Fulcrum Racing Comp wheel-set (with Lampre-inspired pink highlights!).  Merida has swapped the cranks in favour of an FSA alloy crank and brake calipers with its own branded one (Merida Pro line), both with matching colours to the overall Lampre scheme.

The technologies incorporated into this particular frame, in Merida’s own words.

– Nano Matrix Carbon

Carbon bikes are often subject to considerable strain. To increase the quality of the used material, MERIDA utilizes this premium technology: The carbon mats are enriched with special nanoparticles that strengthen the matrix of the epoxy resin. In this way, the impact resistance of the final component construction can be increased successfully by up to 40 %. “Nano Matrix Carbon” refines all MERIDA high-end bikes of Model Year 2014.

– Flex Stay

Road bikes and MTB hardtails lack a suspension system at the rear. In this way, they do not only reach their low weight but also turn each pilot-provided watt into propulsion. Yet a rigid rear stay transmits any shocks directly to the rider as well – this affects the athlete’s performance potential. But not in the case of our “Flex Stay” seat and chain stays: Their special design absorbs surface bumps and reduces occurring vibrations.

– X-Taper 1.5

The headtube tapers from 1 1/8 to 1.5 inches in diameter, thus combining low weight and maximum stiffness, which is essential for reliable line choices in technically demanding sections.

      

The bike looks understated in very handsome way, with its Merida Lampre pink and green overtones, it looks almost Rapha-esque in a way. It appealed to me as a ‘pretty yet handsome’ bike and should fit well with the tastes of both sexes. The full build comes with aesthetically matching Prologo saddle, FSA crankset and Fulcrum Racing Comp wheel-set.  It does not have that loud design that some may fancy but in the wake of fancy painted bikes on the roads today, The CF 905 is a breath of fresh air with its friendly, unassuming appearance!

 

Ride Impressions

The Merida did well and was stable throughout this episode, delivering the goods when the short sprint required it. I was impressed, I was happy.

 

The setup was almost perfect for me so no problems getting on the bike and feeling comfortable almost immediately. The first portion of my route included some short distance on cobble-stones-like pavement and it was apparent that this bike transmitted road feel very well indeed and was not at all neither ‘dead’ nor ‘muted’. I’ve had my share of riding experience before and this was very close to a steel-bike feel, and that’s saying a lot, for a carbon frame!

On about 5km of ECP service road, the bike moved along smoothly and seemed to keep speed well. This was my first time trying out Shimano’s 11-speed system and I must say that it’s an improvement over the last 10-speed iteration; the additional 11th-cog at the rear is just one thing but the shifting have been vastly improved and to me, greatly appreciated. The rear clicks into cogs assuredly with very little effort on the drifters (brake-shifters) and front shifting is simply amazing ‘almost’ Di2-like. It’s a much more refined 11-speed system compared to Campagnolo but this is down it preference of course because I do feel the Campagnolo system shifts a bit faster and give a more mechanical feel.

The Fulcrum Racing Comp, which comes with this setup, is more of a mid-entry level road wheelset. Its rolls very well indeed and I have no doubt on it being a hardy and reliable wheelset over time.

As I approached the coastal road, a group of fixies was already on my tail for quite a while (and mind you this was at 5.30am!) at a leisurely pace of 28km/h. They were a friendly bunch I think and one of them overtook me and pushed up the group pace up to 35km/h. As he started to slow down, I took the opportunity to make a short sprint to take the lead again. I sped past the leader, motioning all of them to follow and led at 38-40km/h for about 1km. The Merida did well and was stable throughout this episode, delivering the goods when the short sprint required it. I was impressed, I was happy.

Of course, all nice rides come to an end, as I needed to head back. I slowed down and motioned for the fixie group to pass and carry on by themselves. Of course a good thumbs-up were given to them (being an occasional fixie/singlespeed rider myself, I’ve learned to respect the one geared rider). I would have advised them to wear proper helmets and other safety equipment but did not have the opportunity to do so.

A great workout, nice unexpected company and a great ride to boot; I was happy. The CF 905 performed well, above expectations. A very pleasant surprise indeed!

 

Final Thoughts

While this is not the highest specified bike in Merida’s 2014 road range, for a bike under 3kSGD, I honestly feel that it’s a really an impressive bike for the money. Make no mistake… this bike is more than sufficient for most of us mere mortals! As is, the build is good enough for most of us and over time, minor upgrades can be done (eg. change of wheelset or crank set) could be done in stages according to needs, as the user sees fit.

I liked the rather subdued road feel on the saddle, yet highly responsive front-end handling and the stiff + responsive drivetrain. The wheelbase of the 54cm frame for me, felt very stable and assured. The bike was obedient to my every stroke of the pedal and my ever so slight movements on the handlebar.

Those looking for a racing + sportive frame to fit within a restrained budget should really consider at the Scultura CF 905 as a potential candidate. Not only does it ride good, it looks good as well!