Bicycle Review: Merida Reacto Evo Team (2014)

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As far as mountain bikes go, Merida seems to have mastered all the tricks of the trade, launching iconic models with impressive innovations along the years. Concerning road bikes, they have some catching up to do, but fear not as the Taiwanese brand sits only marginally behind the household names of this category. So, if reputation or tradition fade in front of actual riding performance, you should definitely check out Merida’s 2014 prodigy, the Reacto Evo Team.

Who does this road bicycle suit?

Merida switched the approach for this season, and forwarded an aero road bike as the basic model that is used on a regular basis by the Lampre-Merida team. We’ve already debated the aero road bicycles issue, but just as a short reminder, we mention that they are road bikes with enhanced aerodynamic features. For this achievement the manufacturer had to add some grams to the overall weight of the frame, and had to sacrifice some of the general comfort. However, neither of these two represent major setbacks, as performance in certain conditions is only improved, while prejudice about the pain inflicted by a too aero position on the bike miraculously vanishes. Or, if it insists on not vanishing too quickly, they fade away at one point. Cutting the long story short, Merida Reacto Evo Team sits among the best of its class, easily competing with fabled brands as far as performance goes, and offering exactly the amount of confort required to enjoy a ride on a 5-star bike.

Reacto Evo Team’s frame

The story of the Reacto Evo Team begins with the development of the Warp TT, started by Juergen Falke and his R&D team. UCI regulations concerning road race standards set the final form of the Reacto, but the essence remained unaltered: a stiff and aerodynamically efficient frame. About 200 grams heavier than the Scultura SL, which was Lampre’s weapon of choice last year, its performances are claimed to be similar to those of a regular road bike on slopes that have a gradient up to 7%, but better when it comes to rolling on flat terrain. While the latter claim is hard to question, the first one may or may not be totally true, but at least the extra stiffness provides an optimal power transfer. So, basically if you lose some time uphill, rest assure you will recover it on the flat sections.

Talking about confort, however, is a longer story. This is a chapter where the matter tends to be very personal, but there are a few statements that are universally valid. An aero road bike will not be very soft on your back, and Merida Reacto Evo Team is an aero road bike. You will probably feel most bounces generated by uneven roads, but you will also have a very stiff piece of equipment under you, that receives and sends further your pedalling energy with almost no losses along the way.

The position on the bicycle is very aero, with the stem situated very low, and only a limited possibility to raise it. Reacto Evo Team isn’t made for joy rides, being very responsive, and offering a very race-orientated position. However, some problems may occur when in sidewind conditions due to its increased agility, and its aerodynamic profile of the wheels.

And as far as looks are concerned, it’s a matter of taste and what you consider beautiful in terms of tubing. Extra points are scored by the bike thanks to its internal routing, nicely hid and efficient rear brake along with its opening/closing lever found in front of the stem, and carefully integrated seat clamp.

Reacto Evo Team’s specifications

Like last year, Merida uses Shimano components for its top-end road bikes. The actual bikes used by the riders of Lampre-Merida will be equipped with the Shimano Dura-Ace Di2 9070 groupset, but the highest available for purchase model will feature the mechanical version of it. In both cases further assessments are simply futile, as the features that made the Japanese manufacturer famous sit in every component of this set. Expecting nothing but the best from Shimano’s Dura-Ace is a wise choice because you won’t receive anything less.

Being an aero road bike, Reacto Evo’s front brake is integrated in the head tube-fork system, and mounted using 3 separate bolts. I don’t know about the amount of drag reduced, but they sure work like clockwork. Also featuring on the team edition bike are Shimano’s sprint shifters, a couple of really neat buttons found just a bit lower that the actual brake/shift levers, in the drops of the handlebar.

Also on the team bike I could find a pair of Fulcrum Racing Speed XLR 35 wheels, a set that makes looking for its flaws a blasphemy. Rolling fast, cutting wind with no remorse, and fitted with a pair of tubulars, they count as one of the wheelsets you have to ride during this lifetime.

Last, but not least, I encountered the S-Flex seat post, carefully carved to be as aerodynamic as the rest of the bicycle, but also playing the role of the confort saviour. The polymer insertions ensure part of the deflection that was suppose to be provided by the frame, but as the rear triangle’s structure is stiff, it’s up to the seat post to save the day. Given the decent general level of confort, I suppose it’s up to the task.

Conclusion

Reacto Evo Team continues the series of very respectable road bikes manufactured by Merida. Responsive, stiff, and aerodynamic, but confortable enough to be used by anyone who has ridden a decent number of kilometers, Merida’s aero road bike offers the experience only a top notch, true racing bike can provide. Even if the team issue won’t be up for sale this year, the Reacto CF Team is the next best thing, being different through the mechanical Dura-Ace set and the Fulcrum Red Wind wheels. Still, I hardly believe that this configuration can alter the awesome experience provided by this top tier frame, and bike.

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