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Pro peloton's to get its first 1x11, disc only road bike… more to follow?

Irish Pro-Continental team Aqua Blue Sport has announced that it will be riding 3T’s revolutionary/opinion dividing/aargh! kill it now! (delete as applicable) Strada performance bike in the pro peloton next year.

Having the Strada in the pro peloton - something confidently predicted by Gerard Vroomen the bike’s designer when we spoke to him at its European launch earlier this year, is interesting on a number of levels. The most obvious being that it will be the first 1x bike to be raced on the road by the pros, the other being that this is a bike designed as a purely disc brake only machine plenty of disc braked race bikes have UCI approval, but the teams riding them also have a rim-braked option at their disposal too - that would appear not to be the case for Aqua Blue as 3T only make disc braked bikes.

17 of the hottest disc braked road bikes

So that’s either a tacit admission from the UCI that disc brakes are here to stay or that they don’t mind hanging a team out to dry should the powers that be in Aigle suddenly decide that they much prefer rim brakes thank you very much. Unlikely, but stranger things have happened and it will be interesting to see what noises the post-Cookson regime at the UCI make about the continued adoption of new technology in the pro peloton.

You can make your own mind up about the Strada by watching our First ride video and interview with Gerard Vroomen videos both below.

 

The Strada will be the first 1x road bike raced by the pros - 1x groupsets which have only one chainring at the front rather than two have become fairly stand fare on mountain bikes in the last few years and given the general trend for off-road technology to move on to the road it has been considered only a matter of time before 1x made it’s way on to road bikes  too. The limiting factors to adoption of 1x for performance road bike to date are that only SRAM make a road a 1x groupset - a situation that Shimano are expected to rectify soon (although ‘soon’ in Shimano time doesn’t necessarily mean imminently… mind you, it usually means more imminently than Campagnolo - though maybe the Italians will surprise us); and the fact that no pro teams have so far adopted the set up. Well, until now.

The benefits of 1x

It’s lighter - only one ring at the front

It’s simpler - only one ring at the front

Less for your left hand to do (this is a marginal gain)

The downsides of 1x

Only one ring at the front means it has to be the right ring for the terrain you’re riding over

Ditto for the cassette at the back

Road 1x systems currently limited to 11-spd which means gaps in your gears at the back, ideal scenario would be a 12 or even 13-spd rear cassette

One of 1x’s benefits - the drop in weight - is of course negated by the UCI minimum 6.8Kg weight limit which pretty much all top end bikes have no trouble reaching these days - even with disc brakes.  However, as Vroomen would no doubt point out the Strada isn’t about being super light weight - though it is light - it’s about being very aero, hence the integrated disc brake mount design of the front fork, super tight frame clearances, and those fat 28mm tyres, and removing the front mech and a chainring undoubtedly also aids aero optimisation. 

According to one industry insider - who works a lot with pro teams - the big hurdle that 1x set ups need to overcome is are the jumps between gears on the cassette - pros, quite understandably are very careful about their knees. And while an 11-spd SRAM 1x 11-25 or 11-28 cassette gives the same run of gears with no jumps at the low end of the sprocket as the Shimano equivalent the Shimano cassettes are usually combined with a 52-36 chainset which helps smooth out the jumps between bigger cogs - obviously that option isn’t there on a 1x where you’ve got 3 tooth jumps from 19-22-25-28 on the SRAM 11-28 and once you get in to the realms of WiFLi cassettes there are more jumps and some of them are bigger. Plus one a 1x you may want to go higher than an 11t on the flat or descents.

3T have sought to address this issue with their - not yet available - Bailout and Overdrive cassettes which give you 9-32 two different 9-32 setups. Sprockets on the Bailout increase one tooth at a time at the business end with a big jump from 26 to 32 when you hit that horribly steep hill. The Overdrive meanwhile gives you evenly spaced jumps through the middle of the cassette with the 9t so you can keep the hammer down on descents. 

That all sounds promising but clearly the idea solution would be to add more sprockets, something that is surely in the pipeline given that SRAM already do a 1x12 for mountain bikes and an extra one, or even two cogs could be accommodated in the 135mm rear spacing. Watch this space as it were.

Aqua Blue Sport are clearly satisfied that they aren’t going to be dumped out of the back at the first significant change in terrain having tested the Strada “to the limit’ before deciding to go with the bikes for next season. Stage wins at the Vuelta, and Tour de Suisse and the overall at the Tour of Austria suggest they are not an outfit who are there just to make up the numbers and if team owner, Rick Delaney’s comments are anything to go by they certainly believe in the 1x performance road bike concept. 

“We at Aqua Blue Sport are very much attracted to innovation and people who are moving cycling forward. What Gerard Vroomen and 3T have designed is truly a step forward bicycle design. We are delighted to bring this bike to the professional ranks and ride it in the world’s biggest events.”

As part of the deal between the two companies Aquabluesport.com will become an official 3T online partner selling 3T bikes and components the bikes and kit aren’t on the portal yet, but no doubt they soon will be.

 

Plucked from the obscurity of his London commute back in the mid-Nineties to live in Bath and edit bike mags our man made the jump to the interweb back in 2006 as launch editor of a large cycling website somewhat confusingly named after a piece of navigational equipment. He came up with the idea for road.cc mainly to avoid being told what to do… Oh dear, issues there then. Tony tries to ride his bike every day and if he doesn't he gets grumpy, he likes carbon, but owns steel, and wants titanium. When not on his bike or eating cake Tony spends his time looking for new ways to annoy the road.cc team. He's remarkably good at it.

22 comments

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darrenleroy [253 posts] 5 months ago
3 likes

This is flipping brilliant. A pro team riding on a Sram 1x set up. In your face, Shimano!

I'm hoping we'll see the rear cassette go to 12 cogs and an eTap version.

Fingers crossed. 

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martynshort [7 posts] 5 months ago
0 likes

Didn't Tony Martin use a 1x on his time trial bike at the TdF?

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BehindTheBikesheds [1329 posts] 5 months ago
2 likes

FUGLY

Also, only 28mm tyre, really? Given that teams like FDj have used 32mm tyres with shimano long drop caliper brakes at places like paris-Roubaix, using disc brakes to fit a 'wider' tyre which actually isn't compared to previous caliper brake frames make most of the point of discs pointless and going by this actually retrograde. You certainly cant get a 32mm tyre into that frame, no fucking way!

If you're strong enough and the terrain dictates 1x can be okay, so maybe a crit with a 50/49/48 for instance and 11-25 (48x11 is 36mph at 105rpm) , maybe even a flat stage with a 52, anything else is going to make you less efficient in finding that sweet spot for your cadence not to mention running out of gears. Not everyone is comfortable  with higher or much lower revs so i can't see this being popular except for very specific courses and very specific riders.

Also the wider the spread the more difficult transitioning between the gears becomes, especially in competitive racing, not just going down to the lower gears but also the jumps at the high end, sure you'll preserve the 11/12/13 but if you require a 34 because you've only one chainring what are you going to do inbetween that?

Okay, flat stage, as I said, not so much of a problem, however introduce some inclines and can you big ring it on a 53/28  on a 7/10/12/15% incline for say a few km? You could end up needing a very odd cassette like 11/12/13/15/17/19/21/23/27/30/34, sure 12 or 13 speed will negate the jumps a bit more and offer a more feasible/useful range for going up and down the steep stuff but then by the time you get to 14 speed you're in Rohloff territory. Might as well go back to hub gears  3

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2x Clavicle Smasher [4 posts] 5 months ago
1 like

More ‘re-invent the wheel’ tosh.

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Kadinkski [743 posts] 5 months ago
0 likes

This is an awesome development - can't wait! Innovate or die.

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jhsmith87 [43 posts] 5 months ago
0 likes

If the frameset wasn’t so expensive I would buy one...

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check12 [190 posts] 5 months ago
3 likes

Must be desperate for exposure / sponsorship to hamstring your team. 

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cyclesteffer [297 posts] 5 months ago
2 likes

I bet they come last

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rix [207 posts] 5 months ago
1 like
cyclesteffer wrote:

I bet they come last

I feel bad for the Aqua Blue riders. They are going to hate those bikes... and Gerard  no

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dgmtc [30 posts] 5 months ago
4 likes

“We at Aqua Blue Sport are very much attracted to innovation and people who are moving cycling forward​ dependent on sponsorship money from bike manufacturers. What Gerard Vroomen and 3T have designed is truly a step forward bicycle designdone is forced us to ride this bike that tries to solve a problem that doesn't exist . We are delighted to bring this bike to the professional ranks and ride it in the world’s biggest events​ be able to keep our jobs within the team and if that means we have to ride a bike not adapted to the job, we'll do it as it beats being unemployed.”
smiley

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RobD [580 posts] 5 months ago
0 likes

While I get the idea of a bike like this on certain terrain, particularly something with a few hills but no major mountains, but I don't see how something like this can be competitive at a race like milan san remo where you need to be able to get over mountains comfortably/conserve energy, and then bury it on the downhill and sprint at the end.

If they think they can do it (or are testing 12/13 speed sram setups next season) then fair enough. for a lot of races in the UK or belgium this could work, but I'm not so sure about stage races in europe which seems to be what they're pushing to be involved in.

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Jimmy Ray Will [852 posts] 5 months ago
0 likes

Ballsy step by both parties. 

Knowing racing cyclists there will be some moaning going on behind closed doors. I wouldn't be surprised if a 2x 11 set up is in place by May.

1x11 works for off-road because the gaps between gears are barely different to what MTBers have ever been used to... 9x 11-32 cassettes really aren't very different to 11x 10-42. what you do is add range either end at the cost of literally 3 teeth across the block. That extra range negates the need for extra chainrings.

Also, due to the nature of MTB sport you are never really pedalling any one gear, or travelling at any one speed for any real length of time. Therefore, if you are a little over-geared or under, it won't be very long until the situation changes and you are back in range... i.e. it doesn't matter.

Its a similar situation in cross racing; you don't spend any time at any given speed so its OK not to have the range. Also, Cross involves a lot of accelerating, and sometimes that is easier if you can get up the range of gears quicker. Finally, because cross laps are short, you don't tend to ride any long steep hills or descents, so you don't require a huge range of gears... therefore even more than MTB the 1x11 set up is the right one. 

On the road its different. You spend extended periods racing in excess of 30mph, and rather than it being an extreme speed, you need to be able to accelerate, be conservative with effort etc etc... you need gears down there. What this means is that you can't drop the size of the chainring below the 53/54t commonly used. 

Ok you could use 10 and 9t sprockets, however these are very inefficient gears (as is 11 to be honest), so come at a cost. 

So chain rings will be staying at 53/54t.

Which means you have a problem on the hills which can only be addressed by upping the cogs at the other end of the cassette. This will make riders moan as unlike us mortals, racers are very sensitive to riding at the wrong cadence for periods of time.

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PRSboy [143 posts] 5 months ago
0 likes

Can't read the article because of the damn autoplay ads!  Can only read the bottom of the comments or the top of the article.  Any fixes?

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jollygoodvelo [1691 posts] 5 months ago
0 likes
Jimmy Ray Will wrote:

Ballsy step by both parties. 

Knowing racing cyclists there will be some moaning going on behind closed doors. I wouldn't be surprised if a 2x 11 set up is in place by May.

How exactly?   Where are you going to mount a front mech on this bike?

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stephen.spence86 [2 posts] 5 months ago
0 likes
PRSboy wrote:

Can't read the article because of the damn autoplay ads!  Can only read the bottom of the comments or the top of the article.  Any fixes?

 

You can report ads which impact your experience here: http://road.cc/content/page/227406-reporting-annoying-or-intrusive-adver...

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pruaga [171 posts] 5 months ago
0 likes
PRSboy wrote:

Can't read the article because of the damn autoplay ads!  Can only read the bottom of the comments or the top of the article.  Any fixes?

 

Report it here http://road.cc/content/page/227406-reporting-annoying-or-intrusive-adver...

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daccordimark [64 posts] 5 months ago
0 likes

"The benefits of 1x

It’s lighter - only one ring at the front"

By the time you factor in the huge sprockets (and possibly more of them to close the gaps) at the back end exactly how much weight do you save with 1x?

Mark.

 

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Jimmy Ray Will [852 posts] 5 months ago
0 likes
daccordimark wrote:

"The benefits of 1x

It’s lighter - only one ring at the front"

By the time you factor in the huge sprockets (and possibly more of them to close the gaps) at the back end exactly how much weight do you save with 1x?

Mark.

 

Bigger cogs can be made in alloy, so are no heavier than chainrings, and generally lighter. So, in consideration of ligher chainset spider, lack of front mech, cable, and lack of mechanical gubbings in the front shifter you are probably looking at 100grams. 

So a fairly small amount. 

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Jimmy Ray Will [852 posts] 5 months ago
0 likes
jollygoodvelo wrote:
Jimmy Ray Will wrote:

Ballsy step by both parties. 

Knowing racing cyclists there will be some moaning going on behind closed doors. I wouldn't be surprised if a 2x 11 set up is in place by May.

How exactly?   Where are you going to mount a front mech on this bike?

They will develop a new frame / use an alternative frame branded as 3t, one that fits dual rings. It won't be all races, but there is no way you can race up the likes of the walls seen in the Vuelta and down the other side on a single ringed bike. 

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fenix [941 posts] 5 months ago
0 likes

I'm a bit confused. So less weight (marginally) but then there is an UCI minimum weight anyway so what benefit there ?

More aero - ok I see that but in the real world - that's not going to be measurable.

Such tight clearance on the wheels - that's going to be a problem on any muddy rides. And didn't the GB Olympic bikes have HUGE clearances on the wheels ? So which way is right ? Bigger clearances are more practical.

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fenix [941 posts] 5 months ago
0 likes
martynshort wrote:

Didn't Tony Martin use a 1x on his time trial bike at the TdF?

TT bikes are very different. If it's a flat route then there is no need for two rings.

Time trials in the UK have used this tech for ages and even fixed wheel too.

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Skylark [200 posts] 5 months ago
0 likes

The whole thing is a punt. Every rider knows this as well as the team.
This isn't really about competition. More like $$ and fat chancers.