Merida may not be the first brand that comes to mind when seeking top-flight performance on the road but that doesn’t mean the Reacto should be overlooked. While Merida may not have the boutique cache that many other brands offer, the Reacto certainly doesn’t lack performance when mixing it with the best aero road bikes. In fact, the Reacto boasts some impressive aero advantages thanks to the brand’s CFD and wind-tunnel testing. Like the previous iterations of the Reacto, refined laboratory score’s prove to translate well when the rubber hits the tarmac and, as Merida is the bike sponsors for Bahrain Mclaren Team in 2020, the CF4 Reacto is the bike of choice for Mark Cavendish.
The Merida Reacto is now in its third iteration and the LTD addition you see here has been released as a showcase for innovation. It also makes do with some well thought out componentry and offers a unique aesthetic compared to Merida’s other bikes.
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Design and aesthetic
Visually the Reacto LTD’s contrasting black and white line colour scheme has been designed to complement the shapes of the frame. Merida says architecture and interior design has been the source of inspiration for the three-block design, creating a ‘fluid interaction between shapes and geometry’ and breaking up the aesthetics-by-numbers look of modern aero road bikes.
The Reacto LTD uses Merida’s CF2 frameset, consisting of slightly heavier carbon fibre stock (a claimed 1150g for an M/L disc frameset) and more relaxed geometry than its CF4 race-bred brother. When compared to the CF4 race machines, a taller headtube of 177mm and a reach of 560cm reduce the aggressive positioning. Headtube and seat tube angle come in at 73- and 73.5-degrees on an M/L (54cm) frame which puts it in the middle of the road when compared to other aero bikes. For those looking to steepen the seat angle, the Reacto features a 15mm setback seatpost head that is flippable to give a 15mm set forward position.
Tube shapes use Merida’s ‘NACA Fastback’ profiling which is based around a truncated teardrop NACA0028 shape (National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics). Aerodynamics are further maximised with dropped stays and an integrated seat clamp to reduce turbulence. Cabling is a little messy when compared to completely integrated methods but Merida has opted for time savings in the workshop rather than micro gains on the road. Aero tubes are not known for their compliance so to stop vibrations Merida uses an S-FLEX seat post. The aero seatpost shape features a cut-out filled in with silicone to bring compliance comparable to a regular round seatpost.
Merida’s set out to equip the Reacto with a well-considered spec and for 99 per cent of riders, the kit supplied will offer more than enough performance. A Shimano Ultegra Di2 groupset blends slick gear changes with lightweight and dependable durability. The choice of a 172.5mm crankset feels a touch long for my liking but they spin well on a PF30 bottom bracket which has so far been creak-free despite some grimey early spring conditions. A bike designed to go fast must be able to come to a stop quickly and Merida has specced 160mm rotors front and back to wrangle speeds. Bigger discs are much better at managing temperature build-up and to further help the dissipation of heat, Merida has added cooling fins that it claims to reduce temperatures by 35 per cent as well as speeds up cooling times. Owing to the fact that I don’t have an alpine descent to put these claims to the test I will have to take Merida’s word on that and so far there’s been no hint of brake fade when tackling fast twisty Scottish hillside roads.
Reynolds AR 58 DB carbon wheelset slip through the wind with urgency and allow confident lines to be cut through high-speed corners. The wide 28mm external and 19mm internal rim width gives good support to the Maxxis High Road tyres. Merida’s Expert SL axle adds to cornering stiffness and includes a neat lever that can be used to remove both axles with its 6mm Allen key plus it works as a 4mm Allen key should you get caught without tools.
The standard cockpit comes from Merida’s Expert CW stock giving a comfortable and controlled position while riding. Three headset spacers allow for some adjustability if you want to commit to a more aggressive position.
Merida has added some thoughtful design features to make the Reacto easy to live with. An integrated toolbox under the saddle houses a slimline multi-tool that has your basic array of Allen keys and screwdrivers for fixes at the side of the road. The small tool will see a lot of wheel-spray and is vulnerable to rust but the odd smear of grease or blast of silicone shine should keep it relatively shiny and free moving. The integrated rear light recessed into the seatpost is a fantastic idea and will appeal to those that like to run daylights or occasionally get caught out by the setting sun. Unfortunately the lights basic design has meant that I’ve had little success making it last a full ride as it is prone to water ingress and appears to suffer from vibrations.
Aero bikes are designed to work best at speed so it’s unsurprising that the Reacto really comes alive when the going gets fast. Spin it up over flat or rolling terrain and the bike refuses to let go of momentum. On fast descents when stooped low over the handlebars any feeling of wind resistance is negligible as the bike continues to pick up speed in the hunt for a nonexisting terminal velocity. All this straight-line speed doesn’t come without its downsides, I experienced a couple of terrifying cross wind moments that required a bit of wrestling but these were on days where the weather could only be described as gale force. Otherwise, the Reacto handles varying wind directions well with enough poise that it was easy to forget to keep both hands on the bars in blustery conditions.
High-speed cornering is excellent and the bike allows body weight to be moved around the cockpit to facilitate direct and precise line choice. Even when hunkered down over the top tube, corners could be confidently manoeuvred at white-knuckle speeds while other riders would sit up and scrub speed. The Reacto is not without its insecurities; under hard braking and when negotiating slow technical switchbacks it can feel a little skittish and nervous.
This feeling of insecurity is likely due to the tyre choice, the Reacto’s powerful disc brakes and descending ability would be much better served with 28mm tyres which could be run at lower pressures to grip the tarmac for a more planted feel. Merida has specced 25mm Maxxis High Road HYPR 120tpi tyre which, despite the tubeless-ready wheelset, are not tubeless compatible themselves so higher pressures are required which reduce the tyre footprint. The Maxxis High Roads still perform their task dutifully, providing decent grip on dry to damp tarmac and shrugging of punctures like a champ. They didn’t even pinch after a nasty confrontation between the rims and a sharp edge of a cattle grid.
When the roads get rough the S-FLEX seatpost works hard to dull big shocks caused by poor road surfaces and unavoidable drains. Smaller vibrations are still pronounced and can be quite acute through the hands which again could be eased with larger tubeless rubber.
You really notice how fast this bike is when riding with others, the Reacto seems to cash in an extra bit of speed for every pedal stroke invested. Drop into a descent, attack the flats or turn into a headwind and the efficiencies of Merida’s tube shapes become clearly apparent. Climbing feels clean and efficient and the slightly more relaxed position will appeal to those who seek a racy bike but want to avoid feeling like a contortionist.
One of Merida’s goals was to offer a well thought out componentry package and each part on the Reacto demonstrates this. Although the £4,000 price point may be a bit dear for some the Merida Reacto still represents a very well priced package that even challenges direct-to-consumer brands.
Logbook: Merida Reacto LTD
- Month: 1.5 months
- Rides: 15
- Mileage: 725km
- Punctures: 0
- Ride types: Training rides, commuting
Specifications: Merida Reacto LTD
- Price: £4,000
- Frame: Reacto Disc CF2
- Size: 54cm
- Weight: 8.21kg
- Groupset: Shimano Ultegra Di2
- Crankset: Shimano Ultegra; 52-36, Shimano CS-R7000; 11-30
- Wheels: Reynolds AR 58 DB wheels
- Brakes: Shimano Ultegra hydraulic (160mm rotors)
- Bar/stem: Merida Expert CW, Merida Expert CW stem
- Seatpost: Merida Expert CW (15mm setback)
- Saddle: Merida Expert CC