Is 2021 the year of the all-rounder? Road bikes have become increasingly specialised in recent years, with lightweight, aero and endurance the three dominant categories, but this summer’s launches have pointed towards a trend for race bikes that can do a bit of everything – and that includes the 2021 Merida Reacto Team-E.
I’ve generally been a fan of Merida’s Reacto bikes since the original version was launched in 2011. Aero road bikes tend to suit my style of riding.
Yes, they may weigh a little more than they should (and so do I…) but they carry and hold speed like no other drop-bar bikes.
Taking the edge off
With the previous-generation Reacto, Merida brought some comfort into the equation with the S-Flex seatpost. It wasn’t Madone IsoSpeed comfortable, but it took the edge off rough surfaces really well.
The new bike attempts to improve comfort further with its reshaped frame and re-configured carbon layup, but vitally Merida has dropped weight too.
The last high-grade Reacto I rode weighed upwards of half-a-kilo more than this model (and that one didn’t have 55mm-deep wheels).
Almost every other next-generation bike emerging from this year’s launches, from Cannondale’s SuperSix EVO (our current Bike of the Year) to Trek’s new Emonda, BMC’s new Teammachine and Specialized’s latest Tarmac SL7, has seen a lightweight ‘GC’ bike (the bike the brands expect the majority of their pro team riders to choose) become more aero.
Merida has flipped that on its head and taken its most aerodynamic race bike and made it lighter and more comfortable. The question remains, however, has it succeeded? Well, quite simply, yes.
The Reacto’s geometry is pretty slammed, with a 592mm reach on my XL test bike (you can find the full geometry table in our launch story) and a long 402mm reach. The head angle (74 degrees) and seat angle (73 degrees) are also both on the steep side, imbuing the bike with a real urgency in its handling.
This Reacto is absolutely at its best on flat-out fast roads and rolling terrain – it’s hard to explain just how good it feels going fast. It’s a bike that feels arrow-like. Slim and narrow, cutting through the wind with relative ease, and handling head and crosswinds without drama.
The same can be said for the Vision Metron 55 SL TLR wheels. TLR refers to these being tubeless-compatible wheels and, while I’d like to have tried the bike set up that way, they come with non-tubeless Continental Grand Prix 5000 tyres in a 25mm size.
Still, if you’re not going tubeless then Conti’s GP 5000s are arguably the next best thing when it comes to road bike tyres.
The GP5000s are the main challenger to my current favourite tyre, the Vittoria Corsa G+, and catching up fast (I have loads more miles under my belt on the Vittorias, which swings the balance in their favour).
Climbing performance is usually the downfall of a full-on aero bike, but the Reacto impressed, helped by its stiffness through the bottom bracket. At 7.9kg it’s not the lightest out there, but that is for a XL aero bike with mid-section wheels.
And yes, I know £9,000 is clearly a lot of money for the Reacto Team-E, but not many of Merida’s rivals can offer the same equipment levels for the same amount. On Specialized’s new Tarmac, for instance, you’re looking at £10,500 for an equivalent spec.
I also appreciate that Merida has set up the buttons on top of the Dura-Ace shifters to enable upshifts (right hand) and downshifts (left hand) when riding on the hoods.
The gearing setup of a 52/36t chainset and 11-30t cassette is about as racy as standard bike builds come nowadays, which says a lot about gearing trends in recent years, and I found it to be plenty no matter how the road turned on my ride.
As for the rest of the bike, the Vision Metron 5D cockpit, with its angled aero-bladed shape, has lots of good handholds and the semi-compact drop saw me spend far more time down in a flat-out race position than I normally do (which had a positive effect on my average speed).
At the rear, the premium, carbon-railed Prologo Nack Scratch saddle is firm but I found it very comfortable. As ever, saddles are such a personal thing that it’s hard to recommend one to everyone.
Merida Reacto Team-E first impressions
I’m hugely impressed with the new Reacto, and maybe, just maybe, Merida making an aero bike more versatile – rather than opting to make a lightweight GC bike more aero – could be the right approach.
|Price||EUR €10299.00GBP £9000.00|
Merida carbon bottle cage
|Brakes||Shimano Dura-Ace BR-RS9170 with RT900 centre lock 160mm rotors|
|Cranks||52/36 Shimano Dura-Ace power meter (R9100 - P)|
|Fork||CF5 Carbon with integrated disc cooler (claimed 457g)|
|Frame||CF5 Carbon with integrated disc cooler, and direct rear mech mount (claimed 965g size medium)|
|Front derailleur||Shimano Dura-Ace Di2|
|Handlebar||Handlebar and stem - one-piece Vision Metron 5D|
|Rear derailleur||Shimano Dura-Ace Di2|
|Saddle||Prologo Scratch M5 Nack|
|Seatpost||Reacto S-Flex aero post with integrated light|
|Shifter||Shimano Dura-Ace Di2|
|Stem||Stem and handlebar - one-piece Vision Metron 5D|
|Tyres||Continental Gran Prix 5000 25mm|
|Wheels||Vision Metron 55SL TLR|