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The new Merida Reacto Disc Team-E is a fast and responsive aero bike that offers plenty of comfort alongside the all-weather capability of hydraulic disc brakes. This bike is an absolute peach.
Who the hell spends £9,500 on a bike? Not many people, that's for sure. So what's the point in reviewing one? Well, this is the first of the new Reactos we could lay our hands on, plus a lot of the features you see here are common to other bikes in the range.
The most accessible disc brake Reacto is the £2,450 Reacto Disc 5000 while the cheapest carbon fibre rim braked Reacto is the redesigned 4000 at £1,800. Granted, £1,800 is still a lot of cash, but even with my rudimentary grasp of finance and economics I can tell you that it's a lot less than £9,500.
Let's start with aerodynamics because that's what this bike is all about. The Reacto still has NACA Fastback profiles on all tubes apart from the top tube and the seatstays, but Merida has slimmed down the tube shapes for this, the third incarnation, lowered the junction between the seatstays and the seat tube, and now runs those seatstays closer to the rear wheel with a larger outward bend in the lower section, taking advantage of new UCI rules.
Merida has also introduced a one-piece cockpit in the shape of a Vision Metron 5D integrated handlebar/stem. The head tube and top tube have been sculpted to work specifically with that cockpit and its dedicated headset spacers.
The CF4 version of the frame which we have here (I'll explain that term in a minute) also now has a 1 1/4in lower headset bearing rather than the 1 1/2in bearing of the previous model (and the current CF2 version) to reduce the size of the frontal area.
Merida says that the new Reacto is more aerodynamically efficient than the previous version by about 8 watts at 45km/h (28mph). That equates to around 5%. I'm guessing you don't spend your whole life riding at 45km/h, but that's the claim.
Merida also says that the difference in aero efficiency between the rim brake and the disc brake versions of the Reacto is less than 1 watt at 45km/h (28mph).
We can't take bikes to the wind tunnel to see how they perform. Merida's reasoning sounds good in a common sense kind of a way, but that's a different thing entirely so, as usual with aero claims, we're reporting them rather than endorsing them.
Aerodynamic efficiency trumps light weight in the majority of circumstances, but Merida has been busy shaving off the grams all the same. Our complete Merida Reacto Disc Team-E hit the road.cc Scales of Truth at 7.6kg (16.8lb) and this model has a claimed frame weight of 1,030g and a claimed fork weight of 398g. For comparison, the corresponding figures for the rim brake CF4 frame are 1,000g and 368g.
We've pointed out countless times that dropping frame weight is a simple exercise, you just use less material. Job done! The difficulty is maintaining frame stiffness at the same time.
The new Reacto certainly feels as stiff as the old one, and while it doesn't boast the same level of frame rigidity as Merida's Scultura, it doesn't lag too far behind. There's a little less rigidity at the bottom bracket during a full-on sprint or when you get out of the saddle and power up a short climb, but it's hardly noticeable, and the fork feels solid and accurate when you rail hard into a fast bend.
Some aero handlebars and cockpits can flex about a lot when you really haul on them, the skinny top sections being unable to hold firm against the pressure you put on the drops, but that's not the case with the Vision Metron 5D. There's really not much movement here at all.
The overall feeling is one of solidity. The Reacto is quick off the mark and responds beautifully to surges in effort when you're trying to get a gap, close one down or just trying to stick on the wheel of someone who's digging deep.
The Reacto is available in two different geometries, CF4 and CF2. What's all that then? CF4, which you get with the Reacto Disc Team-E, is a lot like the geometry of the Merida Scultura 7000-E that I reviewed recently. The head tube is relatively short and the reach is quite long, putting you into a low and aggressive riding position.
The CF2 geometry that you find on the Reacto Disc 7000-E and Reacto Disc 5000 is still performance orientated but you get a longer head tube which, all other things being equal, puts you into a more upright riding position. I have a large sized CF4 frame here with a 172mm head tube, whereas the head tube is 197mm on a CF2 frame – so it's taller by 25mm, or about an inch.
I was happy with the CF4 geometry because it puts you into an efficient attack mode. You have the feeling that you're in a race position the whole time – which is fine, as long as that's what you're after. You can use headset spacers to raise the front end but you're never going to get a relaxed position here – this is a geometry that's used by the Bahrain Merida Pro Cycling Team in the world's biggest races, after all, it's not supposed to be an endurance/sportive setup. It's your call on this one, but don't just go for CF4 because you think it's more pro and then have your back and neck nagging you forever more that you should have chosen CF2.
With all this talk of aerodynamics and speed it's easy to forget about comfort, but that's an important consideration, even on a performance-minded bike like this. You can't focus your efforts on cranking out big watts if you're feeling battered and bruised in the saddle.
The previous generation Reacto – Mark II – was noticeably more comfortable than many other aero bikes out there and the new version moves things further forward again.
Merida has redesigned the Reacto's seatstays to improve comfort and its S-Flex seatpost now has a slimmer cross section than previously and a larger 'window'. The seatpost's carbon fibre is moulded in such a way that there's a notch that sits just below the clamp in order to allow more movement at the saddle (you can call it vertical compliance if you like). The gap this leaves is filled with a silicone rubber insert, but it's the fact that the carbon is moulded in this way rather than the properties of the insert that improve the Reacto's ride quality, according to Merida.
Don't make the mistake of thinking the S-Flex seatpost is a marketing gimmick. That was my initial instinct but the Reacto is certainly very comfortable, especially for an aero road bike with clearance for tyres no wider than 25mm (this applies to both rim brake and disc brake models). Some aero road bikes leave you pining for wider tyres and lower pressures, but I've felt perfectly comfortable riding this bike on all sorts of dodgy road surfaces over the past few weeks.
The Vision Metron 5D cockpit is pretty comfortable too. The tops might be shaped for aerodynamics but they have the secondary benefit of filling the whole of your palms when you're resting your hands up there, and those tops bend forward at 10 degrees from the centre. This feels a bit odd at first but you soon get used to it.
I really like the shape of the drops too, with a flattish section below the levers and plenty of rearward extension, so there's scope for adjusting your hand position while staying low and aero.
The Prologo Zero II PAS CPC saddle is another excellent component although, as we all know, saddles are a matter of personal taste. The CPC material on the surface is a super-grippy elastic polymer and it provided enough friction to stop me ever inching forward when down on the drops and giving it the beans.
All in all, I've no hesitation in describing the Reacto as one of the most comfortable aero bikes I've ever ridden.
The Merida Reacto Disc Team-E is the high-end model in the range – the posho one – built up with a Shimano Dura-Ace groupset, including Di2 electronic shifting and hydraulic disc brakes, and DT Swiss PRC 1400 Spline 65 carbon clinchers.
It's hard to fault Dura-Ace. It works superbly, it's lightweight, it's easy to charge (the junction box is hidden in a compartment on the underside of the Vision Metron 5D cockpit) and the brakes are excellent in all conditions. I won't go into the detail here but suffice to say that it's exceptionally good, as you'd expect of Shimano's flagship road groupset. I'd say the 52/36-tooth chainset is a good choice for most people who are likely to buy this bike, matched up to an 11-28t cassette.
The DT Swiss PRC 1400 Spline 65 wheels are excellent too (we'll be reviewing the rim brake version separately soon), with 65mm-deep carbon rims (18mm inner width, 24.8mm outer width) and 240 hubs. Although the Continental Grand Prix 4000S tyres aren't tubeless, the wheels are, if you want to go down that route at some stage.
If you don't have the odd £9,500 booting around to spend on a bike, the £3,850 Reacto Disc 7000-E comes with a Shimano Ultegra Di2 groupset and the £2,450 Reacto Disc 5000 gets the mechanical version of Ultegra.
The Merida Reacto Disc Team-E is well into superbike territory. The cutoff for road.cc's Superbike of the Year – coming soon to a website near you – is £3,500, so this bike makes it with six grand to spare. It's the most expensive bike we're reviewed in 2017 and the same price as the Bianchi Oltre XR4 Super Record we tested last year (although that bike is now £10,600). The Dura-Ace Di2 version of the Oltre XR4 (rim brake only) is £9,600.
Giant's Propel Advanced SL 0 Disc is £8,999. Like the Merida, it's an aero road bike with disc brakes, a Shimano Dura-Ace Di2 groupset, but with Giant's own SLR 0 Aero Disc wheels.
Specialized's Venge ViAS Disc Di2 S-Works is £9,000, and that's a Dura-Ace build too. Again, the biggest spec difference is the wheelset, this bike coming with Roval CLX 64 Discs; at 64mm they're a similar depth to the Merida's DT Swiss PRC 1400 Spline 65s.
Finally, Trek's Madone 9.9 is £9,500, exactly the same price as the Merida. That's wall-to-wall Dura-Ace Di2 with Bontrager Aeolus 5 D3 tubeless ready wheels, although that's a rim brake bike. There's no disc brake Madone yet. We're guessing (and it is a guess) that'll arrive in 2018.
The Merida Reacto Disc Team-E is an excellent pro-level race bike. It's designed for aero efficiency, it's fast to react, it's comfortable and it has a superb spec. Okay, not many people are going to fork out £9,500, but the more accessible models in the range look very attractive indeed.
Exceptional aero road bike that offers fast reactions, a stunning spec and plenty of comfort
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Merida Reacto Disc Team-E
Size tested: Large
About the bike
State the frame and fork material and method of construction. List the components used to build up the bike.
FRAME Reacto Disc CF4 carbon
FORK Superlite full carbon tapered fork with 12mm through axle
DERAILLEURS Shimano Dura-Ace Di2
SHIFTERS Shimano Dura-Ace disc, 22 speed, Di2
BRAKE LEVER Shimano Dura-Ace
BRAKES Shimano Dura-Ace hydraulic disc brakes, 160mm rotors, centerlock
CHAINWHEEL Shimano Dura-Ace 52-36 teeth
BBSET FSA 386-BB30 PF6000
CHAIN KMC X11SL DLC
FREEWHEEL Shimano CS-9100, 11 speed, 11-28 teeth
TIRES Continental Grand Prix 4000S 25c folding
HANDLEBAR and STEM Vision Metron 5D full carbon integrated bar and stem
HEADSET FSA Reacto CF
SEATPOST Reacto carbon superlite [Di2 ready]
SADDLE Prologo Zero II pas CPC
Tell us what the bike is for
It's an aero race bike.
Frame and fork
Tell us about the build quality and finish of the frame and fork?
It's exceptionally good. A lot of people like the blue, red and gold Bahrain Merida finish. The Bahrain logos are just stickers so you can remove them easily if you're worried about looking like a wannabe pro rider.
Tell us about the materials used in the frame and fork?
Both the frame and the fork are full carbon.
The frame features the same heat sink that's used on the Merida Scultura disc bikes to reduce the buildup of temperature while braking.
Tell us about the geometry of the frame and fork?
It's a race geometry which gives you a low riding position. This is the CF4 version of the bike with quite a low head tube (172mm on the large version of the bike). Other CF2 bikes in the range have a taller head tube for a slightly more relaxed riding position.
How was the bike in terms of height and reach? How did it compare to other bikes of the same stated size?
Divide the stack height (572mm) by the reach (400mm) and you get 1.42, indicating that this is quite an aggressive setup.
Riding the bike
Was the bike comfortable to ride? Tell us how you felt about the ride quality.
The Reacto Disc Team-E is comfortable for an aero bike that can take tyres no wider than 25mm. A lot of this is down to the S-Flex seatpost which, as the name suggests, is designed to allow a degree of movement at the saddle. It flexes just slightly to take the edge off lumps and bumps.
Did the bike feel stiff in the right places? Did any part of the bike feel too stiff or too flexible?
There are stiffer bikes out there, such as Merida's own Scultura, but the Reacto doesn't lag far behind.
How did the bike transfer power? Did it feel efficient?
Was there any toe-clip overlap with the front wheel? If so
A little but not a problem.
How would you describe the steering? Was it lively Direct.
Tell us some more about the handling. How did the bike feel overall? Did it do particular things well or badly?
It's a bike that's easy to manoevre. The handling is sharp and direct.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's comfort? would you recommend any changes?
The S-Flex seatpost is designed specifically to smooth the ride and it does a good job. I got on well with the Prologo saddle too.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's stiffness? would you recommend any changes?
I'd stick with this lot, thanks.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's efficiency? would you recommend any changes?
I got on well with the 65mm-deep DT Swiss PRC 1400 Spline 65 carbon clinchers. They can occasionally catch a gust on a very windy day but they're generally easy to control.
Wheels and tyres
Tell us some more about the tyres. Did they work well in the conditions you encountered? Would you change the tyres? If so
You can't go wrong with Continental Grand Prix 4000S.
Did you enjoy riding the bike? Yes
Would you consider buying the bike? If I had that sort of cash floating around... which is pretty unlikely!
Would you recommend the bike to a friend? Yes
Use this box to explain your overall score
Most comparable bikes from the major brands are within about £500 of this. If you're choosing between them by comparing spec sheets, it might well come down to which wheels you prefer. If you were to average the performance and value scores you'd end up with an overall score of 8, but I reckon this bike is a belter and it deserves a 9, so I'm overruling myself here!
About the tester
I usually ride: My best bike is:
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Most days I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: commuting, club rides, sportives, general fitness riding
Mat has been in cycling media since 1996, on titles including BikeRadar, Total Bike, Total Mountain Bike, What Mountain Bike and Mountain Biking UK, and he has been editor of 220 Triathlon and Cycling Plus. Mat has been road.cc technical editor for over a decade, testing bikes, fettling the latest kit, and trying out the most up-to-the-minute clothing. We send him off around the world to get all the news from launches and shows too. He has won his category in Ironman UK 70.3 and finished on the podium in both marathons he has run. Mat is a Cambridge graduate who did a post-grad in magazine journalism, and he is a winner of the Cycling Media Award for Specialist Online Writer. Now over 50, he's riding road and gravel bikes most days for fun and fitness rather than training for competitions.