The story of human ambition is laced with passion and the will for experimentation and pushing the limits. 3T is known for “firsts“ and have big plans for the future. Today, 3T have officially launched their first-ever bike that pushes the limits: Ever heard of Sqaero, GravelPlus and Realfast? Well then, read on to find out how the future might look like.
In the early days all road riding was gravel riding. The current trend, Gravel 2.0, brings back the essence of cycling but in a less competitive way. Gravel 2.0 is all about freedom and exploring your surroundings. Technology always helped the human race to go further and faster. 3T wants to offer a very special, maybe even the ultimate tool for exploring: Meet the 3T Exploro.
3T did extensive testing at the San Diego LSWT (Low Speed Wind Tunnel) to study potential aero benefits for gravel bikes. Their goal? Create the world’s fastest, most capable gravel bike. After testing a number of variations and taking real-world parameters like mud (represented by 3D printed mud) into consideration some surprising as well as impressive results surfaced.
Sqaero shapes are designed to be just as fast dirty as they are clean. The Exploro uses Sqaero 50/25 with a 50mm wide down tube perfect for picking up the airflow coming off a wider cross or mtb front tire and leading it on to the water bottles. The seat tube is 25mm wide to make it aerodynamically disappear between the bottles and the rear tire. The head tube, seat stays and custom seat post also use Sqaero shapes.
What’s the performance gain? The Exploro wasn’t tested at 30mph (48km/h), but at 20mph (32km/h). The Exploro saves 7 watts over the equivalent round tube frame (same tube widths, same frame details, same components), or 24 watts at 30 mph if your mind is still set to that speed. Put more succinctly, an Exploro with 40mm knobby cross/gravel tires and 2 water bottles (red line in the graph) is faster than the equivalent clean round tube bike with 28mm slick road tires and no bottles (grey line).
The Exploro is designed to fit road, cross and even mountain bike tires following the GravelPlus standard. The road and cross tires are 700c, the mountain bike tires use the 650b size, ensuring that all of them have virtually the same overall wheel diameter. For 700c, 3T has their new 3T Discus wheels on offer, for 650b the new 3T DiscusPlus wheels. The idea of GravelPlus is to offer maximum grip and traction simply because the biggest advantage on gravel is to keep riding while others have to stop when the terrain gets too rough or because they lose traction.
Fast rider position: An aero advantage is nice to have but ultimately the rider and his position on the bike is the most important thing. This is why the new Exploro offers an aggressively low yet comfortable rider geometry.
In terms of geometry, 3T is convinced that more agile steering results in less work for the rider although it doesn’t offer the same self-aligning effect as a slacker steering with longer trail. Riding over rough terrain the self-aligning effect makes the rider work harder because the forces introduced from the ground are higher than with a more nimble steering (as the leverage is bigger).
For better biomechanics 3T wanted to use road cranks with a narrow Q-factor. The challenge was to make them fit with the incredibly short chainstays (415 mm) and the big tire clearance that was needed to fit even mtb tires. The solution is the dropped chainstay that gives more space for the chainring in front.
Who is this bike made for?
If you’re used to ride road race bikes, you’ll love the direct and nimble feel of the bike. It’s still relatively fast on tarmac though – obviously it lacks some precision and high-speed stability due to big tires and the higher BB resulting from the higher volume tires. But still, you can cover a serious amount of miles on this bike! This bike wants a rider with an active and aggressive riding style. If you looking more for a super comfortable and upright endurance bike with added gravel capability, the Open U.P. will be the better choice. Pointing downhill the Exploro doesn’t offer the same feeling of stability, but it does retain it’s nimbleness. Going into the drops you’ll encounter how aggressive (and low) this bike is.
It’s hard to define the exact field of use for this bike. On our test ride in beautiful Tuscany it felt more like a race bike for gravel that still remains fairly fast on tarmac rather than a laid-back endurance bike with a super-high stack and short reach.
So do we need aero technology to go faster slow?
Probably not, but the 3T Exploro is a truly unique bike bringing a new way of thinking into the world of gravel bikes. You can be sure that the Exploro will inspire other brands to push innovation and technology. And that’s great – think outside the box and be unique. Oh, and yes – this is the most aggressive and fastest gravel bike we’ve ever ridden. You don’t need this bike, but you want it!
The 3T Exploro is available as a frameset only. There are 2 versions, the Team (1,150 g) and the incredibly light LTD (950 g). The large size is shipping now, sizes S,M, XL will be available by August. The price for the Team is €3,000 ($3,000 / £2400) and for the LTD €4,200 ($4,200 / £3,300)
More information: www.exploro.3tcycling.com
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Words: Robin Schmitt Photos: Marc Gasch – 3T, Robin Schmitt