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Bikes of the Tour de France: Vincenzo Nibali's custom Merida Reacto

Joe Robinson
17 Jul 2019

Glitter paint job, a shark sticker, grip tape on the bottle cages and his name in gold

Vincenzo Nibali is one of the very few riders good enough to warrant a custom edition bike thanks to victories at all three Grand Tours and two Monument wins.

In a long and memorable career, that's still in full swing, the 34-year-old has won the Tour de France, Vuelta a Espana and two editions of the Giro d'Italia, while also winning Il Lombardia and Milan-San Remo to morph into the most rounded rider of his generation.

The Bahrain-Merida rider is currently at the Tour hunting stage wins and the polka dot climber's jersey, a change of pace to his usual General Classification quest, but he is still one of the biggest names on the start list.

Big enough to lead the Cyclist team to the Bahrain-Merida team hotel before the Tour's Grand Depart in Brussels and take a sneak peek at the bike of this famed champion. 

Now, this is not the first time that we have seen the Italian's jazzy Merida Reacto but it is worth revisiting for its sheer beauty, aggressive set-up and interesting quirks.

The first place to start has to be the design, paintwork and decals that adorn this stunning piece of carbon art.

As a tip of the hat to Nibali's record of winning the Tour, Giro and Vuelta, the bike's down tube is given a paint job that fades from red to pink to yellow in commemoration of each race's leader's jersey.

The four-time Grand Tour winner was born in the port city of Messina on the southern island of Sicily which quickly saw him christened 'Lo Squalo di Messina', the Shark of Messina.

Merida has marked that by lining the bike's top tube with shark dorsal fin decals and even a shark sticker on the bike's rear stays with pectoral fins in the colours of the Grand Tour jerseys.  

This is paired with a glittered Merida logo that sits on the bike's carbon-look black paint job. Finally, as a show of his real class, Nibali's name is placed on the bike's seatstay cluster in gold letters with an Italian flag to mark his nationality.

As for tech, there is also plenty to talk about. The first thing Cyclist noticed when hassling Bahrain-Merida mechanics for the bike was the 34-year-old's choice of saddle.

While the team is sponsored by Prologo, Nibali was clearly riding an unmarked Fizik Antares. This is likely down to rider preference and the fact that Nibali is a big enough name to go rogue from the team's sponsor commitments.

Riding the aero Reacto frameset in the opening days of the Tour, a bike he guided to Milan-San Remo victory in 2017, Nibali also goes slightly off-piste with his wheels.

Riding a matching set of Fulcrum Speed tubular wheels, Nibali opted for 55mm rear and a shallower a 40mm front presumably for added stability and control, especially when descending. Nibali's tyres of choice are Contintental's Competition Pro LTD tubulars in 25mm.

The fast opening stages of this year's Tour saw some opt for larger chainrings although Nibali was not among this crowd. He, instead, stuck with standard Shimano Dura-Ace 53/39 chainrings while also using an SRM Origin power meter.

The full groupset is Dura-Ace Di2, for that matter, with little deviations except for the inclusion of satellite shifters on the handlebar drops for shifting while sprinting and the fact Nibali likes to run a 30t on his cassette.

The Italian runs a 125mm FSA Os-99 stem and FSA K-Force Light handlebars wrapped in Prologo tape. Another point of note is the grip tape slotted into the rider's Elite bottle cages as a measure to prevent bottle jumping from the bike on bumpy road surfaces.

This bike is not going to win the Tour this year, much to the sadness of myself and Italy, but it is in with a shot of snatching some stages in a mammoth third week in the Alps that visits 2,000m peaks on multiple occasions.

So, keep your eyes peeled as this beautiful bike may be disappearing up a French Alp in the not so distant future.

Photography by Peter Stuart