Merida Reacto DA LTD review£3,500.00

Pro bike-lookalike aero racer

BikeRadar score3.5/5

The Reacto DA LTD shares its aero-road frame design with the Reacto Team as ridden by Lampre-Merida – and it loudly shouts its racing intentions while boasting a price tag near half that of the pro version. As it turns out, this is an incredibly impressive ride, though there are obvious shortcomings in putting Shimano Dura-Ace on a bike of this price.

    The 2015 merida reacto da ltd, so much bike for the money - but far from perfect :
    The 2015 merida reacto da ltd, so much bike for the money - but far from perfect :

    2015 Merida Reacto DA LTD

    Ride and handling: stiff, controlled, speedy and surprisingly smooth

    Looking like a purpose-built wind-tunnel machine, the Reacto is one surprising ride and makes a far better all-round racer than its looks might lead you to believe.

    Despite the mid-depth wheels and aero frame, the Reacto is stable within crosswinds with only minimal, controlled buffeting. This enables you to relax on the off-days and means you don't have to fight the bike on exposed climbs.

    Get out of the saddle and sprint for the finish line and you’re greeted by an impressive level of frame stiffness, with little discernible flex – though it still offers enough road hold that power isn’t wasted.

    Perhaps the most surprising aspect of the Reacto though is in its ride quality. Considering its aero claims and torsional frame stiffness, this is a smooth riding machine.

    Sure, it’s no comfort bike, but by no means does it beat you senseless either. This compliance adds a level of stability on rough descents and allows you to efficiently put down the power while on the edge of the saddle, without interruption from imperfect roads.

    Climbing on the Reacto is also surprisingly good, no doubt again thanks to the softness that means you can sit comfortably and focus on your output. Given the semi-carbon wheels, which are heavier than similarly priced shallower hoops, this isn’t a particularly lightweight ride at 7.82kg without pedals or cages. But despite the extra weight, the bike leaps into action when called upon, albeit without the swiftness of true elite racing machines (which of course cost far more).

    The merida reacto da ltd is a little sibling of what the worldtour lampre-merida team ride: the merida reacto da ltd is a little sibling of what the worldtour lampre-merida team ride
    The merida reacto da ltd is a little sibling of what the worldtour lampre-merida team ride: the merida reacto da ltd is a little sibling of what the worldtour lampre-merida team ride

    It took some time to gauge the Reacto's character – but it's worth getting to know

    Handling is a familiar experience, with the angles closely inline with other popular race bikes. It’s reactive to input, without being overly twitchy; but with a bottom bracket on the high side, you’ll want to get your weight low in the corners to get the most from it.

    The six sizes on offer each go in increments of 10-15mm for the effective top tube; these will serve the majority of rider heights, except those at the extremes. The head tube length is kept respectably short for the option of an aggressive position, but a generous steerer tube length is left for people seeking a more upright ride.

    Frame: German engineering meets Taiwanese manufacturing powerhouse

    Designed in Germany, the Reacto has been shown to be one of the fastest bikes in a wind tunnel environment. While the DA LTD model tested here features a cheaper grade carbon, CF3, than the CF4 high-modulus material the Lampre-Merida team ride, the frames share the same casts and therefore the same aerodynamic advantages, mostly through Merida's NACA Fastback aero tubing.

    Helping with the stiffness, an oversized bb386evo bottom bracket gives plenty of room for the wide box-section chainstays and a beefy down tube:
    Helping with the stiffness, an oversized bb386evo bottom bracket gives plenty of room for the wide box-section chainstays and a beefy down tube:

    Cunky chainstays make use of the wide BB386EVO bottom bracket shell

    There’s no denying the Reacto is an edgy-looking ride – out front there’s the semi-integrated fork design, which flows into a deep and thin down tube. This all harmonises with ultra-aero looking seatstays that unusually join the sides of the wheel-hugging aero seat tube.

    Wild aero trickery and design continues with cable routing that enters behind the headset, with gear cables routed from the handlebar via a special stem top cap. The direct-mount brakes add little drag, with the rear being hidden beneath the chainstays.

    While many of these aero tricks might lead one to expect a rough ride, our experiences – as mentioned above – proved otherwise. Obviously the way the carbon is laid is a crucial factor – such technologies as the silicone bladders used to ensure consistent compaction of the carbon for no weak points; the Nano particles used within the resin for greater impact resistance; and flax fibres in the fork and rear end are said to help dampen vibration.

    Merida's 's-flex' seatpost does work, but the elastomer absorber is mostly for show :
    Merida's 's-flex' seatpost does work, but the elastomer absorber is mostly for show :

    Merida's S-Flex seatpost really does work

    Further contributing to the ride is the ‘S-Flex’ seatpost, with its integrated elastomer wedge. While the clip-in elastomer is mostly for show, the obvious thin section in the post works and makes a noticeable improvement to regular aero posts.  

    Placed inside the top tube, the internal seat post clamp works with an expanding wedge. Confusingly, Merida engraves a maximum torque of 8nm on the clamp itself, while a frame sticker nearby specifies a 6.5nm maximum. 

    While our DA LTD model features mechanical gearing, the frame is equally ready to accept Di2, including a pre-existing slot within the proprietary seatpost for an internal battery.

    And a final note on this trick seat-post is the flippable head, which allows for a huge set-back range adjustment if you’re looking to use the Reacto for triathlon racing. Sadly, with so much going on in the post, we did experience consistent creaking that only disappeared once we carefully greased the head and used Loctite on the bolts.

    Equipment: Full of quality with one major letdown, so don’t call it a Dura-Ace bike

    As indicated by the 'DA' in the model name, Shimano flagship Dura-Ace 11-speed gearing is present on this ride. Given the frame quality and carbon wheels, this is no small feat and attempts to show just what great value this racer is – but sadly it’s not all roses.

    It may not shift as nicely as a shimano crank, but the rotor 3d30 crank is light and plenty stiff:
    It may not shift as nicely as a shimano crank, but the rotor 3d30 crank is light and plenty stiff:

    Rotor is known for its oval rings, but these cranks use standard round versions

    Although Shimano cranks still set the benchmark for shift quality, the Rotor 3D30 BB386EVO models included gave us little reason for complaint. The cold-forged arms show no sign of flex and the weight is nothing to scoff at. We especially liked the versatile semi-compact 52/36T gearing, and linked with the Shimano 105 11-28T cassette, it provides an enormous range.

    The Vision Trimax T42 clinchers, meanwhile – effectively a wheelset from FSA – are a great aesthetic and performance match to the bike. Despite the 1720g paired weight, they spin up respectably well and are well-behaved in heavy crosswinds.

    Where carbon wheels can often cause issues for everyday use, these feature an alloy braking surface for durability and consistent braking, while bladed steel spokes with external nipples makes servicing simple.

    Wrapping the wheels are the benchmark GP4000S Continentals in a generous 23c. They're much-loved by many testers and are one of the best all-rounder performance options.

    No matter what we tried, the tektro brakes could not be adjusted to center over the rims:
    No matter what we tried, the tektro brakes could not be adjusted to center over the rims:

    The Tektro brakes are no doubt the bike's weakest point

    With such a drivetrain and wheels included, things are looking pretty stellar, but unfortunately there's one key component choice that near ruins this ride. That'll be the brakes.

    Listed as a ‘Reacto brake’, the direct-mount calipers on this model are, in fact, just generic models from braking OEM-specialist Tektro. Direct-mount (AKA twin-post) brakes are meant to offer a brake setup that provides for incredible braking power and control, but the Tektros on our sample proved to offer anything but.

    No matter what we tried, both brakes wouldn’t adjust to contact the rims squarely; instead we had to settle with the brakes near rubbing on one side of the wheel, with an enormous gap on the other. In use, this makes for a spongy brake feel as the rim gets pushed aside until the other pads contacts, in turn ruining braking power and affecting handling as the wheel is forced under lateral flex.

    While we can’t speak for the tolerances of the brakes beyond our sample, if they're anywhere close to this they must go. Replacing these calipers with a matching Shimano system would be a wise and beneficial choice – but one that bumps up the bike’s price.

    Helping the Reacto recover its dignity from those miserable anchors are a proven FSA Team Issue carbon-wrapped (alloy core) stem and handlebar along with a quality Prologo saddle. 

    Not at all a common thing, merida includes a carbon bottle cage with the reacto. although you'll likely want to buy a second one to match, so clever:
    Not at all a common thing, merida includes a carbon bottle cage with the reacto. although you'll likely want to buy a second one to match, so clever:

    Nice gift, Merida include a matching carbon bottle cage

    And despite the brakes being such an oversight, Merida has still shown great attention to detail in supplying a matching carbon bottle cage. Another nice touch is fitting the inner tubes with quality valve-extenders, making finding replacement tubes for the deep wheels just that bit easier.  

    We’ve grown attached to the Merida Reacto DA LTD – it does everything we'd ask of a performance bike, and at a price that doesn’t make you nervous every time you see a stick across the road. The only thing stopping this ride from gaining a more impressive score is… the very fact it doesn’t stop.

    Click or swipe through the image gallery above for a closer look at the Reacto's features

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