Can a bike ever be too fast? Have we lost the excitement of just getting on a bike and blasting the hell out of it for the sheer pleasure of speed – along plain old tarmac? We tested the new Merida Reacto Disc Team-E to find out.
When the bike showed up at GRAN FONDO HQ we could instantly see what it was built for – speed. The bike on test is used by WorldTour team Bahrain Merida, so when those guys are travelling along at 50+ kph they require a machine that makes their lives as easy as possible in the incredibly tough environment they perform in. This bike has been made to reduce drag and be as aero as possible. It’s a pure racing machine for the sprinters and breakaway riders and is focused on improving and building upon the Merida Reacto II, which was Merida’s first fully aero focused bike that Merida launched back in 2013.
Merida Reacto Disc Team-E – Aerodynamics
A bike built for speed cannot look past the influence of Aerodynamics. Merida claim that with improvements to the cockpit, frame and seatpost the Reacto Team-E is 4% more efficient than their previous model. Putting this into layman’s terms they say “A 100 km solo ride on the new Reacto, you’ll save as much energy as riding the same route on a round-tubed road bike, but drafting for 30km of the distance.”
To achieve this type of statement the frame has seen several redesigns to areas such as the seat stays, where they have adopted an inward bend to increase its aero efficiency. Both head tube and seatpost have been slimmed down to also reduce drag. Which translates into a super sleek integrated look and feel for the fork, frame and handlebar stem.
On the new Reacto range there are two models you can buy, the CF4 and CF2 which vary in price due to carbon lay up and integrated Vs semi-integrated cockpit. FSA’s Vision Metron 5D cockpit is completely fully integrated on the CF4 model and semi-integrated on the CF2 model.
On the rim brake version the rear direct mount brake is hidden lower down beneath the chainstays as a further detail to reduce drag. The Disc Brake version got an upgrade as well adding brake coolers to handle the heat of the race. Which according to Merida help cool the brakes 35% quicker; it’ll be interesting to see if other brands follow. The Reacto III is their first model to be running disc brakes, ours was equipped with Shimano Dura Ace.
The seat tube is designed to further enhance drag reduction by curving to hug tight to the rear wheel, but still leaving enough room for 25 mm Continental 4000s. But not that we can imagine you wanting much wider tires as this is counterintuitive to what the bike is made for. Merida equipped our Team-E with DT Swiss PRC 1400 Spline DB 65, these 65 mm deep section wheels are made for slicing through the air. You can feel the effect of the efficiency they give by a noticeable reduction in fatigue levels over routine rides at a higher average speed.
Merida Reacto Disc Team-E – Fit
The Reacto Team-E has two frame setup options: the CF4 is the pro race geometry which we were testing. The CF2 has a semi-integrated cockpit with round handlebar tubes and a 15 mm longer head tube for a more relaxed riding position. It is also available in size XXS, where the CF4 doesn’t have this additional size; which is somewhat surprising with the different sized riders within the pro peloton; the difference between an Andre Greipel to a Caleb Ewan being case in point.
This model has also seen the inclusion of increased flex into the seat post that has three different offsets. The silicon rubber-filled window has been redesigned larger to maximise comfort by damping road vibration. For the CF4 model two lightweight one-piece seatposts have been designed allowing a choice of offset. The two piece which is slightly heavier offers an offset range and can also be used on the CF4 model if required.
– 350 mm length one piece design, 15 mm offset – CF4 model
– 350 mm length one piece design, 25 mm offset – CF4 model
– 350 mm length two piece design, 0-15 mm offset flip-flop head – CF2 model
Merida Reacto Disc Team-E – weight
All models from the Reacto Disc Team-E to the Reacto 8000-E model have the CF4 design, the rest of the models are fitted with the CF2 frame set up.
Weight Difference Reacto CF4 to Reacto CF2 Models:
There isn’t much in it weight wise – 168 g to be precise between the CF4 and CF2 and models. But the CF4 models are typically fitted with higher spec components as well as the fully integrated cockpit. All models are available to buy now.
Weight Difference Reacto II to Reacto III Models:
But when it comes to the difference in weight between the Reacto II and Reacto III this jumps quite substantially with 335 g difference, mainly coming from the frame and fork.
Merida Reacto CF4 – Geometry
|Top tube length
|Seat tube angle
|Head tube angle
Merida Reacto Disc Team-E – Design
The new Merida Reacto looks sleek and like it means business, there’s no hiding what it’s made for, it screams aero. The colour schemes on the whole are very conservative, but work, but you can still guarantee that from the frame design alone you’ll still get noticed out on your weekend ride.
The seat post clamp looks like it should be easy to use but it was a little fiddly to adjust, and doesn’t blend into the ascetics of the frame quite as much as you would hope it to, but this is personal preference with those of you, who like us fetish the clean line. Another slight moan is regarding the cabling around the headtube, this could be tidied up, having it stroke your knee every rotation whilst climbing out the saddle can be a little off-putting to say the least.
Merida Reacto Disc Team-E – Test Ride
Machines that are made for racing have to be agile and light with the ability to inspire confidence in the rider as they are required to push to their limits both physically and mentally. Here the Merida Reacto Disc Team-E doesn’t disappoint, it feels stable, and very responsive. The weighting of the bike helps give the feeling of being rooted to the ground. Whilst being stiff, the seat stays add some unexpected comfort to this Pro-Peloton race machine.
As soon as you swing a leg over this bike it’s ready to go. You set off and cruising along feels effortless, so you knock it up a gear and start to fly. The frame stiffness ensures acceleration is greeted with instantaneous propulsion forward. The geometry of the bike is aggressive which is to be expected by a race bike, but it allows you to hug tight to the frame – there’s a need for some good core strength. By being in this position means your centre of gravity is lower and you feel more control over the bike when pushing into corners. This position requires some getting used to if you previously haven’t ridden like this, although stem spacers can help higher or lower your position as preferred.
The flat top of the handlebars also provides a comfy cradle for the forearms for those TT style moments; and in this position the gear shifting on top of the hoods also makes for easier access, more about this later.
The whole bike feels controlled and smooth when cornering, weight feels evenly distributed with a stable front end, there’s no twitchiness. The DT Swiss disc wheels show no deflection in handling force through braking or into tight bends. Cutting through the air like a knife the depth of wheel needs extra caution when riding in cross winds. You can feel the bike being pushed around underneath you, even when larger vehicles pass by you can feel the bike veer slightly from the draft.
The Shimano disc brakes are incredible, braking evenly they hold the bike on course and maintain a true line. Even on steep downhills and sharp braking the whole bike feels strong and balanced which makes it easy not to lock up the rear wheel. The feeling of safety they give you can’t be underestimated and we can’t praise them enough. Good work, Shimano! The new Dura Ace Di2 lives up to its reputation with smooth gear shifting; this model is fitted with shifting buttons on top of the hoods, which allow up and down gear changes on the rear cassette, it’s part of the new redesign of the Di2. Shimano have still to confirm if they will be extending this to Ultegra Di2, but you can imagine it is definitely on the cards.
At first this feels like one of those pointless gimmicks marketing is trying to convince you that life is incomplete without, that is until you’re climbing out of the saddle, then changing gear with a light press of the thumb does mean not having to re-adjust your hand position. All of a sudden it no longer feels like a luxury but a necessity that you don’t know how you’ve lived without…well not quite, but it’s certainly helpful. The hood controls can also be hooked up, via Bluetooth, to a Garmin computer to scroll from screen to screen. Phew, life is now complete!
If speed is your thing then the Merida Reacto Disc Team-E delivers. It’s fast, furious and wills you with confidence giving stability to push your limits. The careful consideration Merida have given to aerodynamics makes you want to tuck in and pedal as fast as humanly possible. This bike is not only quick to respond but reminds you how much fun riding full throttle can be. Can a bike ever be too fast? Not when it comes to just plain old riding over tarmac.
Words: Hannah Troop | Photo: Valentin Rühl
For more information head to merida-bikes.com
Merida Reacto – Prices
Did you enjoy this article? If so, we would be stoked if you decide to support us with a monthly contribution. By becoming a supporter of GRAN FONDO, you will help secure a sustainable future for high-quality cycling journalism. Click here to learn more.