You will not be forgiven for thinking the MERIDA Bahrain TEAM REACTO is just another bike. It is outstanding to look at, and sleek in design with interesting shapes, colours and lines, and then there is its pure speed capabilites.
Given the competitive line-up of high-end fast-looking new road bikes on the cycling scene nowadays, this ride is exceptionally NOT just another fancy option – it’s what I call a real ‘racing’ bike.
I have a conversation with the REACTO every morning – “I want to ride at the front, I want to look good, I want to win – so go fast”.
Sharp as a blade, like riding a spear, a TT bike with drops, an arrow, it’s a bullet-bike… these are words from people’s mouths trying to explain their experience of riding the TEAM E bike issued for Tour de France use that I’ve now had 3 months to play with. I can say without ambivalence that I’m keen to ride it a lot more and keep on honing my ability to channel the fierce speed-potential of this thing. If I was a typical Weekend Warrior STRAVA cups type rider, this bike would be the Holy Grail. I’m talking about hitting top speeds over the road speed limit here on Melbourne’s world class recreational bunch-cycling corridor, where the big bunches charge along Beach Rd, but doing it solo!
In becoming indulgent and really enjoying the speed of my new MERIDA REACTO team bike a few weekends ago, I was zooming in a tailwind from Black Rock down into Sandringham, when the cross-hairs narrowed in on a time-trial cyclist 300mtrs ahead.
Now you have to understand two things about time-trialing riders for this story to make sense.
One – as many readers will know, I personally have a strong history in time-trial cycling, having won the Australian Championship 40km ITT in 1991 and also representing at Olympic level a few times in time-trial events. My oldish pistons at 49 can both still chuck out 550 Watts of leg-snapping power (my own for that matter) for several minutes if I send the order through to the engine room.
Two – the classic emergence of fully dressed up, ‘world-class-looking’ time-trial beasts cruising up and down Beach Rd at 29kph was a laughable novelty to all club racing cyclists about 10 years ago. The funny side of it was that these guys would ride around on the best money could buy, top level TT funny bikes, complete with tear-drop helmet, double-discs, skin-suit, fully shaved down arms and legs, with hands locked onto the profile-bars (actually quite dangerously unable to pull up quickly if needed). Nowadays, a rider dressed as such and looking like a World Champion in ribbon colors to boot is much more likely to travel up over 45kph no problems, with better online training and more Facebook buddy riders to impress than ever. My point is that these days, since we hit the 2010’s, you really never know who you might come across charging down Beach Rd, and, nobody seems to know who youare either…
So there I am, scorching up behind this very neat looking ‘totally shaved‘ time-trialer on my very clean MERIDA TEAM Reacto, and he’s doing ~47kph. Without too much trouble and some tail-wind and gradient behind, I could ramp it up into the 50’s for a ‘fast passing effect’ – the idea being that if you’re going to pass, then make it notable, please.
Well, I guess he didn’t like being ‘swept’ by a straight road biker at 55, and I could hear the cracking gear-changes echoing through his full-face rear disc wheel (wow, the gear these guys will bring out for a cruise is phenomenal!?) and a kind of race was started. Now it gets interesting because up over 50kph the passing speeds are hard to impress, so as he inches past me I’m thinking “ok, we are going through to Port Melbourne in a 2-up duo at 45kph”. So the smart thing to do is breathe O2 deeply, rev your legs, and be happy sitting on. At this point I’m impressed to feel the effortless and silent operation of the Shimano Dura-Ace Di2 almost sensing its own way up through the gears as I sit stealthily behind my new lead-out man, but alas, the REACTO doesn’t like to be in the slipstream for too long.
It’s like there’s this slicing sensation on the TEAM E, as you knife into the breeze with ease and feel the actual slipstream bubble forming around you (now there’s a good motivation for going out solo to get some head-wind training done?!). What makes me laugh though, is that it’s got me pretty much itching almost always to get back around and into the wind again!? – a lot of my peer riders would say that nothing’s changed there, but it has for me, just a little.
He is trying to drop me off though, by surging gradually harder and harder while I’m sitting right there. This is slightly offensive – I’d respect him more if he got out of the seat and attacked me, like we were in the final straight of the world title to match his kit – but in fairness he doesn’t know who I am, of course. So I don’t just surge past him from the rear sit-on position. Rather, it is a carefully strategic, well prepared, high-speed manouevre, that is executed with the precision of many years of racing strategy and tactical guile needed to beat most of the smartest master-riders on the planet.
I did the proverbial ‘lay-off’, losing nearly two full bike lengths to his back wheel first, then a decisive out-of-saddle sprint effort designed to crank up the pedals and launch a serious 60kph full force attacking-speed explosion of blurring shoes and wheel stickers that drives you head-first into the vacuum pocket of still air behind his back wheel, not to be known by him until a split second later when with all of the same might used to accelerate, you now just as quickly get into sitting down position – and relaxing on the hoods – as if you’re riding on an 80kph tail-wind and suddenly just appear in his peripheral visual field on the passing side.
Well… he cries out in the astonished freaked-out voice of anyone giving their all to a ridiculous display of outlandish power and poise, all in one flashy shot and yells, “what the hell are YOU on, mate!?”
And with suave laughing tones I could turn my head back to his fast disappearing ghost-like expression of horror, and say, “it’s a Merida“.
by Rob Crowe O.A.M.
Olympian, Writer, Motivational Speaker, Road Cycling Safety Advisor for Ridewiser Pty Ltd