One frame, two concepts: the 3T Exploro Race EKAR 1×13 is based on the Exploro RaceMax frame, which can be built up either as an ultimate adventure bike or a full-on gravel racing machine. Is this the recipe for the best all-round bike on test?

A quick overview of this group test: The best gravel bike 2021

3T Exploro Race EKAR 1X13 | 8.38 kg (size 56) | € 5.399 | Manufacturer’s website

3T have long made a name for themselves among competitive gravel racers with their aerodynamically optimised gravel frame. With the new RaceMax, they now promise even more versatility – and how versatile it is! With clearances of 650 x 61B, the Exploro has room for some really big tires. Looking at the aggressive shape of the carbon frame with its slender head tube, the cut out seat tube closely hugging the rear wheel and the down tube widening towards the centre to create a slipstream for the water bottle, it’s clear that the design is all about maximum all-road and gravel race performance. However, even in its second evolutionary stage, we haven’t warmed to the cable routing at the front of the Exploro. With bosses for up to four bottle cages, the frame is ready for any adventure. 3T also plan to present an in-house solution for fenders and specially developed bags in the near future. The Campagnolo Ekar 1×13 groupset fitted on our test bike (read review) is a great fit for the sporty concept with its small steps in the higher gears. However, with its limited range, you’ll need very strong legs in alpine terrain, despite the 38 t chainring.

The water bottles are positioned in the slipstream of the downtube.3T promise that the special shape of the downtube saves a few watts.
As with the first generation of the Exploro, we couldn’t warm to the looks of the cable routing on the new 3T. Nevertheless, by placing the port on the top tube, the head tube area can be made skinnier despite the 1.5″ steerer tube. This is beneficial for the aero and handling performance of the bike.
For a perfect fit between the frame and tires, the designers didn’t rely on claimed specs. Instead, they measured them hundreds of times themselves instead. As a result, they came up with impressively simple new reference points: WAM (width as measured) and RAM (radius as measured).

3T Exploro Race EKAR 1X13

€ 5,399


Seatpost 3T Charlie Sqaero Team 0 mm
Brakes Campagnolo Ekar 160/160 mm
Drivetrain Campagnolo Ekar 38 (9–42)
Stem 3T Apto Stealth 100 mm
Handlebar 3T Aeroflux LTD* 420 mm
Wheelset 3T Discus C45 LTD*
Tires Schwalbe G-One Allround 35C

Technical Data

Size XXS 51 54 56 58 61
Weight 8.38 kg
Wheelsize 700C

Specific Features

As MAX-version with 650B-tires and tireclearance up to 650 x 61B
Tubes with areodynamic shape
Bolting points on topside of the top- and downside of the downtube
Bolting mounts for mudguards

Our testers give the Campagnolo brakes top marks for their braking power and modulation! We also liked the frameset’s direct mount brake configuration at the front and rear!
As we found in our previous review, the Campagnolo Ekar groupset didn’t deliver a convincing performance in this test either. Shifting down into an easier gear feels undefined and vague. The limited gear range can also be problematic, depending on the terrain.
Size XXS 51 54 56 58 61
Seat tube 436 mm 463 mm 490 mm 518 mm 545 mm 572 mm
Top tube 506 mm 526 mm 546 mm 566 mm 586 mm 606 mm
Head tube 125 mm 147 mm 161 mm 180 mm 201 mm 232 mm
Head angle 69.0° 69.5° 71.0° 72.0° 72.0° 72.0°
Seat angle 74.5° 74.0° 73.5° 73.0° 72.5° 72.5°
Chainstays 415 mm 415 mm 415 mm 415 mm 415 mm 415 mm
BB Drop 79 mm 79 mm 77 mm 77 mm 75 mm 75 mm
Wheelbase 998 mm 1,008 mm 1,008 mm 1,014 mm 1,024 mm 1,044 mm
Reach 355 mm 366 mm 377 mm 385 mm 393 mm 404 mm
Stack 520 mm 542 mm 564 mm 584 mm 604 mm 632 mm

Built up this way, the 3T is a super-fast bike that demands really fit legs when going uphill! The Max version is a great alternative for explorers and connoisseurs.

Helmet KASK PROTONE | Glasses Rapha Explore Glasses
Jacket Brave Soul Reflective Overhead Jacket | Shorts La Passione Classic Bib Shorts Blue
Socks Giro HRC Team | Shoes Giro Republic LX Reflective

The 3T Discus C45 LTD wheelset isn’t specced on the production build, but with the rims’ generous internal width, they provide excellent support for the 700 x 35C Schwalbe G-One Allround rubber. The tires might look a little lost in the frameset, but their performance suits the overall concept of the € 5,399 bike. The size 56 gravel bike weighs 8.38 kg in this configuration, which is a whole 300 g below the average weight of the test field.

“High speed? Bring it on!” The Exploro motivates you to keep pushing, rewarding you with maximum efficiency. While some bikes on test, like the Specialized, OPEN or Trek, are more light-footed when pulling away and climbing, the acceleration of the Exploro is nice and responsive. The gravel bike offers good all-round handling characteristics that are as intuitive for beginners as they are for those with racing ambitions.

The handling responds directly and accurately to steering input. We never felt the need to correct at any speed and we enjoyed the bike’s predictable cornering. Overall, the character of the Exploro is clearly more on the composed, less playful side of the spectrum. Thanks to the centred and comparatively compact riding position, the rider’s weight is evenly distributed between the front and rear wheel. Despite the relatively narrow 37 mm tires, the 3T feels extremely planted, even when things get rough. This is primarily thanks to the excellent vibration dampening of the frameset. Nevertheless, this is not to say the bike feels vague – its compliance generates a lot of comfort from minimal travel, resulting in pleasantly muted yet defined feedback from the ground that instils you with confidence no matter how fast you ride. The Campagnolo brakes offer tons of stopping power while being easy to modulate, serving to underline that feeling.

Tuning tip: the concept is consistent with its racing intentions. For better all-round capabilities, we recommend a groupset with a wider range and an easier climbing gear.

Riding Characteristics



  1. cumbersome
  2. playful


  1. nervous
  2. confident


  1. demanding
  2. balanced

Fun factor

  1. boring
  2. lively


  1. firm
  2. comfortable

Value for money

  1. terrible
  2. very good

Technical Data

Exploro Race EKAR 1X13

Size: XXS 51 54 56 58 61
Weight: 8.38 kg
Price: € 5,399

Indended Use

Smooth tarmac 1
Allroad/Gravel 2
Everyday/Commuting 3


The concept of the 3T Exploro Race EKAR 1×13 is consistent and coherent. While the handling is suitable for all skill levels, the Ekar groupset is primarily aimed at ambitious gravel racers on routes with minimal climbing due to the small gear steps in the higher gears and the lack of overall range. Connoisseurs and adventurers will be better served with the Max models and its more off-road oriented spec. In this configuration, the 3T Exploro is specced a bit too aggressively to take the overall victory in this group test.


  • maximum efficiency
  • very predictable handling
  • frameset offers excellent vibration damping
  • coherent overall package


  • vague downshifts
  • the looks of the front cable routing are questionable
  • gear range not wide enough for steep climbs

Not sure which gravel bike you should buy? This guide will help you for sure: gravel bike buyers guide.
You wonder what tires to put on your gravel machine? We recently tested the best gravel tires against each other in our gravel tire group test.

Get more information here:

The testfield:

A quick overview of this group test: The best gravel bike 2021

All bikes on review: 3T Exploro Race EKAR 1X13 | ARC8 Eero (Click for review) | BMC URS 01 ONE (Click for review) | Cannondale Topstone Carbon Lefty 3 (Click for review) | Canyon Grail CF SLX 8 eTap (Click for review) | Fustle Causeway GRX600 (Click for review) | OPEN WI.DE. (Click for review) | Ridley Kanzo Fast (Click for review) | Ritte Satyr (Click for review) | ROSE BACKROAD FORCE ETAP AXS LIMITED (Click for review) | ROSE BACKROAD AL GRX RX600 1X11 (Click for review) | Specialized S-Works Diverge (Click for review) | Trek Checkpoint (Click for review)

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Words: Photos: Valentin Rühl