As the Evo suggests, this is Merida’s second generation of Reacto. Designed as a race oriented platform, the Reacto exists to offer Merida riders an areodynamic road bike as a foil to their traditionally proportioned Scultura all-rounder. The Reacto is big and angular, a really muscular looking machine. The Reacto reserves round tubes exclusively for the inside of tyres.
There would be no issues in mistaking the Reacto for a time trial bike if you popped on some aero bars and deep section rims. Everything here screams AERO! The front end sits low, putting the rider in an aggressive position by default, and the aero shaped seatpost has a useful flip-flop head which enables the seat clamp to be set back like a regular road bike or moved far forward into a time-trial like position. The down tube and seat tube are tall and narrow, harking back to the days before the popularisation of truncated kamm tail inspired shapes (although Merida does employ this concept also, but not as obviously as some). The real give away is the cable routing: the derailleur cables exit the bar tape and take a short curve before inserting into the top face of the top tube. No cables flapping in the breeze here thank you very much.
The rest of the Reacto is pretty regular stuff, the extensive shaping and aero features haven’t produced a bike chock full of unusual specific parts and components which is great, although mechanics won’t be excited by the convoluted routing of the derailleur cables. Merida makes use of standard Shimano Ultegra direct mount brakes, which keep a low profile and offer excellent tyre clearance. The fork is recessed for maximum aero benefit and the rear brake sits underneath the chainstays as is becoming common place on many bikes. This is due to the purported aerodynamic benefit, as well as offering the designer the freedom to run a bridgeless seat stay which can open up tyre clearance and comfort options. Merida has jumped onto the 386Evo bottom bracket standard, which is effectively a Press Fit 30 bottom bracket shell that has been widened to the spacing of a traditional threaded bottom bracket and cup set-up. The 386Evo shell will not accept a BB30 crank (too narrow) but it will take a regular 24mm spindle (Shimano, SRAM) or 386Evo spindle (30mm, but width of a traditional 24mm spindle).
This allows a really wide, really large diameter bottom bracket shell to be incorporated into the frame, and hence correspondingly large and wide tubes can be built onto this high-stress junction of the frame and the crank interface is well supported. It’s a good option for a bike designed around generous tube profiles and rigidity.
The carbon used is Merida’s second level, with the premium material saved for the team level Reacto frames. Despite this, all other features carry over from the pro level machines. Merida isn’t one to shy away from patented or specially-named features. Of note for the construction of the Reacto is the use of a reinforced resin to enhance frame durability against impacts, and the incorporation of a ‘bio fiber’ to help eliminate high frequency vibrations. The carbon is laid onto silicon molds for compression and curing, rather than inflatable bags. This system affords a more stable surface for the lay up and a consistent compression which should make for a stronger and more durable frame. Merida refers to this as their anti-wrinkle system (AWS). The finish on the Reacto is certainly top-notch, it’s a genuine head turner. The matte finish uni-directional carbon is smooth and perfectly shaped, it looks like it just came out of the mold and had some sharp graphics applied before being sent out, it’s real industrial art. The inside of the tubes are lovely and smooth as promised by the AWS too, a reasonable sign of a high quality manufacturing process.
Merida has really nailed the seat post on the Reacto. Aero posts can be a real pain in the you-know-what in real life, so much so that I often wonder why manufacturers persist in inflicting these designs upon regular Joe Public. They often slip or creak, and their unique shapes mean that it’s usually impossible to source an alternate post. This in turn restricts set-back options for bike fit, and large diameter aero posts can be back-breakingly harsh to ride. The Merida post has a rail clamp mechanism which can be turned 180 degrees, offering a set back or set forward position for the saddle. It’s two posts in one and a fitters dream. The post also has a distinctive cut out not far below its head. The cut out is called ‘S-Flex’, and filled by a rubber bumper. The goal is to allow the post to flex slightly, isolating the rider’s behind from some of the bump force from the road.
So Merida has addressed the two main biomechanical gripes with aero posts, but they also execute the mechanics admirably. The post is secured in the frame by an expanding wedge that sits flush in the top tube. The post itself has a textured surface to improve grip for the wedge, benefiting the security of the post and also reducing the likelihood of over tightening. Our post never slipped, creaked or groaned, and felt absolutely rock solid.
This rock solid feel translates to the road. The S Flex may help a little, but it’s impossible to say without a rigid post to compare with. More road buzz comes through the bars than the saddle for sure. Either way the Reacto offers a bucket load of road feedback, perhaps more than many riders will be comfortable with despite the bio fiber and bridgeless seat stays. Merida has really gone for the jugular with the Reacto, it’s a machine for traveling at speed with no apology and little concession. Smooth roads are a joy, a common characteristic of any decent bike, but the Reacto really glides along. The smooth bearings of the Fulcrum wheels and nice 25mm Continental tyres help too. Even so, a brisk tempo eases you into the drops and the Reacto is happy for you to stay there and drive away for as long as you like.
The lower the speed or rougher the surface, the less dynamic the Reacto feels. This shouldn’t be a surprise as the Reacto has a clear manifesto, it hasn’t miraculously managed to morph into some miracle aero all-rounder too. Coarse but even roads are pretty buzzy, but uneven surfaces are really choppy. Some bikes can be rigid steering and cranking out of the saddle, but have a level of forgiveness when the road is bumpy. The Reacto is absolutely rigid between the front and rear wheel, so bumps translate completely back to the rider. This responsiveness is fantastic on fast and smooth roads, or when riding with an attacking mindset, but the downsides are that the Reacto will readily spin the rear wheel on steep, lumpy or slippery roads if you’re loose applying the power, and every bump on a slow grinding climb feels like it slows your progress.
It’s easy to be impressed by the Reacto. There’s heaps going on and it’s all executed perfectly. Everything works in unison for a smooth and hassle free ride. There are no ‘light’ parts on the Reacto, but this isn’t a climber’s machine. The Ultegra group and Fulcrum wheels are always a welcome sight.
Merida usually plays a strong value game and the Reacto is no different. The frame is a premium piece of equipment with some obvious R & D investment behind it and every part is a solid name brand item, there are no in-house cost cutting components snuck in there.
This bike will polarise, which is fine. When wound up, it really flies. Everything is direct and responsive and works best when under torque and traveling at speed. For an aero bike it’s true to its brief, but it does lack versatility.
What kind of rider are you? Off the front in the drops, testing your rival’s legs or taking a long turn and winding the screws? Step right up, your Merida is ready! Riding around at comfy pace on the hoods, looking for a windy climb on the backroad to somewhere? Keep walking. This is a really solid, well thought out machine that performs as great as it looks at the hand of the right rider.
Frame: CF3 carbon with nano-matrix resinFork Carbon
Stem: FSA Team Issue
Handlebars: FSA Gossamer compact alloy
Saddle: Prologo Zero2
Seat Post: Aero carbon
Shift Levers: Shimano Ultegra 6800
Brakes: Shimano Ultegra direct-mount
Front Derailluer: Shimano Ultegra 6800
Rear Derailluer: Shimano Ultegra 6800
Cassette: Shimano Ultegra 6800 11-28
Crank: Rotor 3D30 52-36
Bottom Bracket: Rotor
Wheels: Fulcrum Quattro 35
Tyres: Continental Grand Sport Race 25mm
Distributor: Advance Traders www.advancetraders.com.au