29 sep. 2022

REACTO vs. SCULTURA: aero road bike versus lightweight road bike - what are the differences and which is best for you?

When it comes to choosing a high-performance road bike that’s proven at World Tour level, both the MERIDA REACTO and MERIDA SCULTURA have award and race-winning credentials, but how exactly do these two bikes differ and in which areas does each excel? This guide will explain the differences so you can choose the best one for your needs.

The essential difference is fairly simple. The SCULTURA is designed to be a classic all-around road race bike, delivering lightweight for climbing performance, excellent comfort to boost endurance and a well-rounded ride character. It can handle everything from bunch sprints to big days in the mountains; a truly versatile all-rounder.

The REACTO is what is called an ‘aero’ road bike, where we have focussed on reducing aerodynamic drag as much as possible to ensure that it slips through the air with minimal effort. While it is still impressively lightweight and comfortable, this aerodynamic performance comes at a cost, namely an increase in weight.

This is because the REACTO’s frame uses a very different kind of tube profile, called a truncated NACA. NACA stands for National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics, and it describes an aerodynamically optimised profile – basically a very slippery teardrop shape. 

Compared to a conventional round tube, it cuts through the air much more cleanly, but this shape takes more material to create. By a quirk of aerodynamics, slicing the end off – or truncating – the teardrop profile doesn’t impact performance but does allow you to save material and weight, which is why this shape is used for most of the REACTO’s frame.

If you look at the REACTO and SCULTURA side by side, the REACTO’s tubing also has a much deeper section, while other small but key details such as the aerodynamically shaped seatpost and flatter top tube angle also help reduce drag.

This attention to aerodynamic detail continues throughout the equipment of the REACTO range. For example, we generally fit rims that are deeper in section. This makes them cut through the air really well, but once again, there is a weight penalty for this extra performance. The REACTO also uses fully integrated cockpit cabling to hide all the cables from view, something that again reduces drag, but maintains easy maintenance thanks to our WIRE PORT headset.

As well as weight, there is also a penalty to be paid for all this aerodynamic performance when it comes to comfort, as the deeper tubing is also stiffer and transmits more road noise to the rider. However, we fit our innovative S-FLEX seat post, which has a special cut-out to increase vertical compliance to add comfort over bumpy roads.

On the other hand, the SCULTURA has been designed to deliver superb comfort, with a more sloping top tube that allows a greater length of seat post to be exposed. This boosts comfort enhancing vertical flex from the saddle to the pedals, especially when used in conjunction with the S-FLEX post, which has a conventional round profile on this bike. While flex is often seen as a negative, studies have shown that vibration-induced fatigue seriously impacts rider performance, so when carefully managed, this flex allows you to ride harder, for longer. 

While the SCULTURA is not a dedicated aero bike, we have put many of the lessons learned from our development of the REACTO into its design, hugely improving its aerodynamic performance while also maintaining the low weight needed for such a versatile race bike. We’ve used less extreme versions of the tube profiles and lower seat stay attachment seen on the REACTO to deliver very significant reductions in drag, while some key features such as the hidden seat clamp, fully internal cable routing and integrated bar and stem design are also present.

Of course, both bikes have several other features in common, the most important of which is their race. Sharing their geometry makes it easy for our team riders to switch between both bikes as the situation demands, but even if you don’t have the luxury of choosing between these two on a daily basis, both bikes have been widely praised in the cycling press for their excellent handling.

They also both have clearance for wider 30 mm tyres, which boost comfort without a drag penalty. Of course, no modern road bike does without secure through axle hubs fitted with powerful disc brakes, and both bikes feature these. One side issue of disc brakes is the large amount of heat that they generate; an excess of which can cause poor stopping performance. This is why our carbon fibre frames feature our DISC COOLER technology, which draws heat from the calliper to help disperse it.

You should consider a REACTO if:

  • You ride less mountainous terrain at higher speeds and need all the aerodynamic help you can get
  • Comfort and weight are not as important as outright speed
  • You want a fast and singlemindedly focused road race bike

You should consider a SCULTURA if:

  • You ride mountainous terrain and need a lightweight bike that climbs well
  • Comfort, weight and speed are all equally important to you
  • You want a superb all-round road race bike

Of course, both bikes can be used to great effect in either situation, as proved by Sonny Colbrelli’s incredible Paris-Roubaix win aboard the REACTO on the brutally rough cobbles and Matej Mohorič’s dramatic Milan-San Remo victory on the SCULTURA. Whichever bike you choose, you’ll be getting a winning machine backed up by 50 years of MERIDA’s bike-building expertise and lifetime guarantee.

To find out more about the REACTO range, follow the link here.

You can find some press reviews and awards below:

To find out more about the SCULTURA range, follow the link here.

You can find some press reviews and awards below:

To find out more about pricing and availability in your region, find your national distributor here.