MERIDA REACTO 3OO
£999 › Aero road bike that cuts a sharp and distinctive swathe
This test includes aluminium allrounders, a discbraked all-roader and this aero road bike. It’s all straight lines inherited from the Reacto Evo carbon bikes ridden by the Bahrain-Merida team, so forget curves, this is all windcheating profiles and a super-sized carbon aero seatpost. The technology involved has swallowed a fair wodge of cash, so there’s a step down in componentry, and at nearly 10kg it’s heavier than the Cannondale, Giant and Specialized bikes.
But weight is actually something of a red herring when it comes to performance. It’s lovely to pick up a bike and find the weight is barely detectable, but if Chris Boardman had been riding his hour record on a bike a kilogram heavier, the difference in his distance would have been measured in tens of metres at most. The science says that aerodynamics virtually always trumps low weight, the exceptions being when you’re accelerating and climbing, fighting against gravity rather than just air resistance. Okay, if you’ve got the budget you can have low weight and aerodynamics, but at this price aero should be king.
On our regular test routes, taking in long, largely flat commutes and longer rides with some challenging Mendip climbs, this was the fastest bike of the lot. The differences were small and without a power meter there’s always a subjective element to the effort, not to mention the impact that wind and weather can also have. Still saving a few seconds over a 16-mile commute isn’t bad if you’re looking for marginal gains.
This raciness is matched by the gearing. The 10-speed Shimano Tiagra is a level down from 105 but mechanically similar, and for an unashamedly aggressive bike the pro-compact 52/36 and 12-28 pairing makes perfect sense; this isn’t a bike for Sunday afternoon dawdles. The
setup does make hills more of an effort though – the 36/28 bottom gear is much bigger than the Giant’s and Specialized’s, so you’ll be cranking rather than spinning. In fact, steeper climbs are the only place we lost time, and even then, only fractionally.
In keeping with the Reacto’s aero credentials the rear brake is a directmount unit tucked behind the bottom bracket, and this gets an upgrade to cartridge brake blocks unlike the non-cartridge front. The result is average braking and a rear blocks that will fill with road crud due to its low-slung position.
It’s much more positive when it comes to handling and comfort. We thought this bike would be brutal – it isn’t. The large blunt-backed carbon seatpost actually soaks up a fair bit of road buzz, though the frame can’t disguise the bigger bumps. The seatpost echoes the shape of the seat-tube, which along with the down-tube and fork has a teardrop profile that delivers aerodynamic efficiency without causing air turbulence. It’s stiff, too, aided by the tapered head-tube, but it handles impeccably. The handlebar has flattened tops, for another marginal aero gain and added comfort when you’re on the tops.
Merida’s Reacto was a bit of a surprise. It overcame its weight handicap to deliver a fast, fuss-free ride with a minor gripe regarding braking but more comfort than we expected. You want to go fast? Then aero would seem to be the way to go.
Below There are a lot of aero features in the Reacto’s frame Bottom The rear wheel cutout tightens the rear end but the brake is awkwardly placed
The Merida overcomes its weight handicap to deliver a fast, fuss-free ride