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3T Strada Review

5 Sep 2018
Verdict:

It's been this season's most controversial bike, but for us the 3T Strada is revolutionary

Cyclist Rating: 
Price: 
£3,600 frameset only
For 
A super fast bike balanced by the comfort on offer by wide tyres. Innovative, efficient and exciting
Against 
Wider tyres as lower pressure can cause a lag in acceleration

I am not a violent person, but I swear if one more person tells me a 48-tooth chainring is too small, I might well remove said chainring and beat them with it.When I first rode the Strada in a group, I found myself constantly being drawn into the same conversation. It would start with someone saying, ‘Ooh, is that the new 3T?’I would respond in the affirmative, and then they would say, ‘Wow, it looks really cool.’ I would agree that, yes, it does look cool. And then, without fail, would come the comment, ‘Not sure about the 1x drivetrain, though.’The main objection seemed to be that the single chainring wouldn’t be ‘fast enough’. I’m not even sure what this means. After all, the number of teeth on a chainring in no way dictates the speed of a bike, and unless you’re André Greipel I would say you’re unlikely to spin out a 48x11t gear. Trust me, it’s fast enough. But more than that, the continual naysaying of the 1x system is frustrating because there’s so much more to the Strada’s story than just its drivetrain. 

Get out clause 

For starters, there’s the aero story. The 3T Strada certainly looks very aerodynamic, and I’m inclined to believe that it is, given that the man behind its design is Gerard Vroomen. He’s the guy who co-founded Cervélo and has been responsible for some of the bike industry’s most significant wind- cheating designs over the past couple of decades. Vroomen is only just back on the road scene – a non-compete clause prevented him from developing a road bike for a period of two years after leaving Cervélo – but happily he’s already forging new trends as, for my money, the Strada is one of the most exciting bikes I’ve tested in ages. One of Vroomen’s starting points was to ensure the frame had clearance for up to 30mm tyres. That had nothing to do with making the bike suitable for off-road excursions (although I did take the Strada on the occasional gravel path, and it coped just fine). Instead the wider tyres are to offer reduced rolling resistance and improved comfort, and Vroomen had to ensure those tyres were suitably shrouded to improve aerodynamics. And this is where disc brakes and 1x shifting play a vital role. Firstly, with discs the fork crown no longer needs to act as a mounting point for a brake calliper, hence a good chunk of material can be removed to shed weight and drop the front end height such that the front tyre can tuck closer under the down tube, something Vroomen says is key to reducing drag. Ditching the need for a front derailleur means the tube shaping in this area can be made more aerodynamic. Plus, not having a mech means less weight and potentially cleaner airflow. Those are the theories. But do they deliver? 

Tyres that never tire 

Given the chunky nature of the frame, I was expecting a bumpy ride when I first set out on the Strada, but secretly hoped it would be fast enough that I wouldn’t care. And fast it was. So much so that I got over-excited and completely over-paced my usual century ride and blew up like a stick of dynamite. I couldn’t help myself – I was having that much fun. When people asked me what I thought of the Strada I found myself using words like ‘rocketship’ and ‘beast’. It’s undoubtedly the quickest 28mm tyre bike I’ve tested, and those Pirelli P Zero Velo 4S tyres measured closer to 30mm on the super- wide Enve 5.6 SES rims. 

While I’m on the subject of the tyres, they had a crucial part to play in the enjoyment of the bike. Such voluminous cushions of air dealt superbly with road vibrations, and the Strada was a lot more comfortable as a result. It’s not as comfy as, say, a Cannondale Synapse or Trek Domane, but it is noticably more agreeable than rival aero bikes such as Cervélo’s S5 or Specialized’s Venge ViAS. Not only did the tyres roll well, they offered plenty of bite in the turns, aided by the Strada’s stability, which was another of its standout attributes. I could glance over a shoulder or take a hand off the bars while descending at speed with no sign of the bike being unsettled.The only downside to running such wide tyres at 70psi was during big accelerations, which would initially feel a little subdued by a slight squirming of the rubber, but that hesitancy lasted only a few seconds. 

All the gear 

Now, back to the gearing. I accept that a 1x road drivetrain won’t be everyone’s cup of tea. There are those who will be frightened off by the thought of having only one chainring, but let me allay your fears. I tested with a Dura-Ace Di2 mech (so no clutch, and no, I never dropped a chain) using an 11-30t cassette. I switched between a 46t and a 48t chainring depending on the terrain, but found that the 48t was fine for all but the steepest inclines. And here’s the point: you don’t need your gearing to be perfect in every conceivable situation. That might sound like an odd thing to say when we’re about to enter the age of 24-gear road bikes, but the chances are you won’t be looking to go elbow-to-elbow with Greipel in a sprint, or fighting to stay on Nairo Quintana’s wheel up the Angliru. You just need a wide enough range of gears for the situations you’ll be riding in, and for that I can confidently say there are enough options available in a 1x drivetrain. In truth, a 1x set-up is probably not quite right for the pros, but it’s almost certainly suited to the vast majority of everyday riders. Plus, it’s only going to get better once 3T finally releases its promised 9-33t and 9-32t cassette options. It feels like Vroomen has only been back in the road industry for five minutes and he’s already at it again, creating what I predict to be a game-changing concept with the Strada. His decision to blend an aero road frame with a 1x drivetrain and wide tyres is daring us to think differently about how we ride. And I, for one, am sold. 1536140587282

3T Strada First Look Review

The road bike market is heavily bound by tradition. People are wary of change, and innovation develops at a glacial pace, so it’s refreshing when a bike appears that flouts the accepted norm of how a road bike should look. One such bike is the new 3T Strada.Created by Gerard Vroomen, the co-founder of Cervélo, the Strada is sleek and aggressively aerodynamic, yet it comes with elements more usually seen on ‘all-road’ bikes: wide 28mm tyres, disc brakes and a 1x drivetrain.It’s a peculiar combination, and Vroomen knows it. ‘I’ll admit the Strada has garnered a mixed reception,’ he says. ‘Although if I wanted a normal reception I’d have made a boring bike.’

The project was conceived when Vroomen realised he didn’t want to choose between aerodynamics or comfort in a bike.‘The tyres have the biggest influence on comfort, so we settled on 28mm tyres and built the bike up from there, since 28mm tyres offer the best balance of volume without impacting frontal area or weight too much,’ he says.Vroomen clearly knows a thing or two about aerodynamics, yet that didn’t stop him making use of both theoretical analysis and wind-tunnel testing on the tube shapes.Despite not providing any numerical comparisons, Vroomen says the Strada compares very well against its rivals, which he attributes to its focus.‘When brands offer rim and disc-brake versions of frames, they need an interchangeable design. That introduces a number of compromises, for example a less than perfect fork crown height,’ he says.‘The fork crown is one of the worst areas aerodynamically, so if you don’t have to provide for a rim brake the crown can be sucked up towards the bottom of the head tube.’The decision to opt for a 1x drivetrain was driven by a similar motivation. ‘Another terrible area for aerodynamics is around the bottom bracket, with the frame, crank, chainrings, front derailleur, water bottles and a rider’s legs leaving little room for the air to pass through.‘A single-ring drivetrain eliminates the front derailleur and one chainring, reducing frontal area and creating space for unobstructed airflow. Plus it frees up the design of the seat tube to shield the rear wheel even better.’

One-ring wonder

A single chainring may improve aerodynamics but it inevitably limits gear selection. Irish ProContinental team Aqua Blue will be racing the Strada next year, and opinion is divided over whether or not the team will be at a disadvantage.‘What people fail to understand is that there is no bike in the peloton that is the perfect choice 365 days a year,’ says Vroomen.‘For some races a 2x drivetrain may be advantageous, but for others a 1x system is definitely better.‘No one questions riders at Paris-Roubaix throwing away all those watts to drag from a front derailleur and inner ring that they didn’t use all day, because that’s how we’re used to bikes looking.‘It’s just because this change is so visible that people are questioning it.’The issue is the cassette. With only one front ring the cassette can either have balanced gaps between each gear ratio but a poor overall range, or a good range with big jumps between gears.It’s an issue 3T has gone some way to addressing with its new Bailout and Overdrive cassettes, which both contain a range of sprockets from 9-32t but in different configurations.‘The Bailout is for the majority of riders,’ says Vroomen. ‘It has balanced gaps from 9-26, then jumps to 32. If you’re in trouble you can “bail out” to the 32.‘If you’re OK then you’d be in the 26 sprocket or bigger anyway. The Overdrive is for racers – it can be paired with a bigger chainring because pros don’t need a gear for when they blow up but still need to get home, as they can just get in the team car.

‘Their concern is fine-tuning their climbing gears, so they have a 28-tooth sprocket because that’s a likely gear to use for 10km up an 8% climb.‘We’ve kept the spacing smaller on that side of the range with a big jump at the top end, from 11 to 9 teeth.’The system may be controversial and as yet unproven, but the logic is sound. We look forward to putting it into practise with a review in a future issue.1518016034242

First look: 3T Strada

Matthew Page, 7 February 2017Italian company 3T has produced well-regarded finishing kit since 1961, but has only recently stepped into the world of framesets, first with the Exploro adventure bike and now the Strada aero road bike.The frame is designed only for single chainsets – a dramatic step that many riders will question, though 3T claims it offers aero benefits.Our test bike came with a high-end build, with a mostly Dura-Ace 9150 Di2 groupset.

The Shimano XT Di2 rear mech is from the MTB parts catalogue, chosen for its clutch mechanism, which prevents the chain failing off on bumpy ground, as well as allowing larger cassettes to be fitted. It proved flawless during testing with quick, smooth shifts.The Enve SES 5.6 disc wheels with renowned Chris King hubs are superb, feeling stiff, light and surprisingly stable even in gusty winds.Pirelli is a new brand to the cycling world, but the 4S brings much of its expertise from motor racing and we were suitably impressed by their feel and grip.Despite seeking out some of the muckiest roads around, the extremely tight frame clearance wasn’t a problem either.The 3T Aerotundo bars have a unique shape that may not suit everyone, although we grew to like them through the test.The amount of flex was quite noticeable and while they add to the comfort, this may be disconcerting to some riders.Comfort and aero are not words that go together often, but we were pleasantly surprised with the Strada on even long rides, helped by the generously sized tyres.Handling is superb, tackling steep, twisty descents with confidence. Out-of-the-saddle efforts show a frame that is laterally stiff and makes climbing a joy, while on the flat, the Strada is seriously quick, with aggressive geometry that is definitely aimed at racing.The 1x drivetrain will be a compromise for many people, especially given that this is intended as a race bike, but the promise of 12-speed groupsets should make the Strada more suitable for a wider range of riders.

Ratings

Frame 9/10; Components 9/10; Wheels 9/10; The ride 9/10Price: £3,600 frameset only, est. £10,000 as testedVerdict: 3T has jumped into the road bike market with a machine that breaks all the moulds, with the 1x drivetrain grabbing the headlines. It is unquestionably a very fast and incredibly fun bike to ride, but one that is perhaps ahead of its time, with component manufacturers still one step behind.Score: 4.5 / 5


Spec

Frame Strada Full Carbon, Fundi Full Carbon fork
Groupset Shimano Dura-Ace 9150 Di2
Brakes Shimano Dura-Ace 9150 hydraulic
Chainset Shimano Ultegra R8000 with Wolf Tooth Drop stop 48t
Cassette Shimano Ultegra 8000, 11-32
Bars 3T Aerotundo Team
Stem 3T ARX II Pro
Seatpost 3T Charlie Sqaero Strada
Saddle Fizik Antares VSX
Wheels Enve SES 5.6 Disc with Chris King R45 CL hubs, Pirelli PZero Velo 4S 28c tyres
Weight 7.5kg (size M)
Contact 3t.bike


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