£999 › Aero road bike that cuts a sharp and dis­tinc­tive swathe

Cycling Plus - - ROAD TEST -

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

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