Sonny Colbrelli's Merida Reacto: the most 'normal' bike ever to have won Paris-Roubaix?

The aero bike that propelled the Italian to victory in the 'Hell of the North' had an all-standard spec except for the bars

Sonny Colbrelli's Paris-Roubaix bike
(Image credit: Bernard Papon - Pool/Getty Images)

This is the Merida Reacto Team that Sonny Colbrelli (Bahrain Victorious) rode to victory at Paris-Roubaix with surprising style and judgement yesterday.

But as he raised it high above his head and we got a closer look, it became clear the bike itself was decidedly unsurprising by comparison.

Sonny Colbrelli's Paris-Roubaix bike

(Image credit: Bernard Papon - Pool/Getty Images)

Not so long ago, carbon-fibre wheels weren't trusted to perform in the harsh conditions of the Hell of the North, so teams raided the service course for old handbuilt wheels with tied and soldered spokes and Ambrosio Nemesis aluminium rims.

Tyres had to be tubulars - preferably handmade by FMB with green sidewalls.

It would have been sheer madness to attempt to ride disc brakes. Even Peter Sagan, when he won in 2018, rode a special pro-only rim-brake edition of the Specialized Roubaix.

Winners such as Fabian Cancellara would swap back to mechanical gears for Paris-Roubaix, and Sagan did exactly that for this year's race.

And an aero bike would never ever be considered suitable for the vibrations and impacts of the cobbled sectors.

Sonny Colbrelli's Merida Reacto

(Image credit: Copyright: Merida Europe)

But Colbrelli rode a Merida Reacto Team aero bike with a Shimano Dura-Ace Di2 electronic groupset, Vision Metron 60 SL wheels and Continental tubeless tyres that's hardly any different from the one you could buy from any Merida dealer if you had a spare £8,300 - incidentally not expensive compared to most WorldTour bikes.

He was riding the new hookless-compatible Continental Grand Prix 5000 S TR tubeless tyres (though the Vision wheels are not hookless) and although we couldn't make out the width for the mud on the sidewall, they were reportedly 32mm - the widest in the new range - although 30mm is the maximum the Reacto frame can accommodate according to Merida's spec.

Possibly the only deviation from the standard spec was with the bars: instead of the Vision Metron 5D ACR integrated cockpit that comes as standard, Colbrelli was using a standard round-section bar with a separate stem that looked very much like FSA ACR components that route cables internally.

Sonny Colbrelli

(Image credit: Getty)

A round-section bar gives a little more comfort and also supplies a more secure handhold than an aero wing section when navigating the cobbles.

Maybe, like everyone else, he had fitted a slightly bigger inner chainring for closer ratios in what is essentially a flat race - not by any means a radical modification.

Previously the most 'normal' bike to have won Paris-Roubaix might have been Mat Hayman's Scott Foil in 2016 - but Hayman was running pro team-only Continental Competition Pro LTD tubulars, so we'd suggest Colbrelli's setup with Conti's new tubeless tyres, which are available to all, is more normal still.

In conclusion, have we finally reached a point where modern road bikes and their associated components are so tough, so reliable yet so comfortable that they can be ridden on either the smoothest tarmac or the most jagged cobbles in almost identical setups?

After more tech? Check out Lizzie Deignan's race winning bike from the women's Paris Roubaix.

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