The road.cc Bike of the Year for 2017-2018, the 3T Strada, made headlines for its aero optimisation for 28mm tyres and of course its single ring transmission: there was no option to fit a double chainring. You’ll notice that’s the past tense there, because today 3T have announced the 3T Strada Due, which gives the option of fitting an electronic groupset with a double chainring.
It’s not a month since Rick Delaney, owner of the Aqua Blue Sport Team, was in the news claiming that “This lab rat thing thing was costing [the team] results”, and the smart money was on his main issue being with the 3T Strada’s single ring transmission, athough he didn't go out of his way to clarify. Mark Christian’s mechanical at the Tour de Suisse was the trigger for the outburst, and although it seems that the chain was shipped at the cassette rather than the chainring – suggesting a derailleur adjustment problem – there are other issues with 1x for racing. The smaller gear range of a single ring system means more chainring and cassette changes; if you fit a cassette with a similar range to a standard double you get bigger gaps between the gears which is an issue for finely-tuned pro riders. So the double chainring will be coming back to the team bikes.
Perhaps not surprisingly, 3T are framing the new bike release as a positive addition to the range rather than an attempt to overcome a perceived shortcoming. "When people talk to us about the Strada, it is usually the 1x drivetrain that gets the most attention,” Rene Wiertz, CEO of 3T, elaborates. "It’s very visible and a bit controversial, so that makes sense. But as we’ve said from the start, the most important feature of the Strada is actually that it is the first aero road bike optimized for wider tyres, up to 30mm. It’s pointless to have an aero road bike that tests fast with 21mm tyres when you run it with 25’s. Or even worse, when the 28’s or 30’s you want to run don’t even fit. The Strada solves that by starting out with wider tyres and then designing the aerodynamics around it."
So ground up, the design was about aerodynamics for wider tyres. But the single chainring was also an aero advantage, doing away with the front mech and allowing 3T to clean up the airflow around the bottom bracket and saving a claimed 8W and 300g of weight in the process. So is the new bike a retrograde step in that regard?
Maybe a bit. "When 3T launched the Strada, we also said it was our concept bike for what an aero road bike would look like in 5 years,” adds Gerard Vroomen, Head of Design at 3T. "Why did we say 5 years and not today? Because we know that some technologies and people need a bit of time. So 1x already works great for certain people and certain groupsets (mostly SRAM and some Shimano). Yet in other situations, 2x is still preferred (especially with electronic groupsets; Shimano Di2, SRAM eTap or Campagnolo EPS)."
So partly this is a choice thing, according to Vroomen and 3T, but partly it’s a technology thing. I’m writing this from the Eurobike Media Days event in the Austrian Tirol, which was where we got to ride the bike for the first time last year. And speaking to Vroomen at that event it was fairly clear that when he designed the Strada he was thinking of cassettes with more than 11 sprockets. SRAM Eagle was already 12-speed at that point, and Campagnolo Record and Shimano XTR have followed suit; it’s fair to conjecture that a 13-speed drivetrain probably isn’t far away. Once there are 13 sprockets the range can be increased without recourse to bigger gaps, making a single ring much more attractive for racing. Will this happen in Vroomen’s 5-year ‘future of aero road bikes’ window? Probably. The Strada Due is at this year's event, so you'll see more of it soon.
“As you may know, we started working with Aqua Blue at the start of this season to see how far we could take 1x”, says 3T of the Strada. “It’s fair to say it’s gone further than most people expected, even winning a few King of the Mountain competitions including last month at the Tour de Suisse WorldTour race. In other races, some riders would have preferred an extra gear.
“Just like 2x isn’t always perfect (ask the riders who lost Tirreno-Adriatico and Abu Dhabi due to 2x drivetrain issues), neither is 1x as we know it. As we said from the start, sometimes 1x will be better than 2x, sometimes it won't matter, and sometimes 2x will be better.
“Of course, pro riders find themselves in a very specific situation, often going up mountains in a peloton surrounded by 100 riders with no choice but to ride the exact pace of those around them, not their own pace. In such a situation, where they can’t go their own pace, having that extra gear can be an advantage. It’s interesting to hear a pro say 'when I retire, I’ll only ride 1x but right now, there are some races I would still like 2x for'."
The Strada Due will make its professional debut at the Tour of Austria with team Aqua Blue Sport. Considering that’s a tour that always includes the horrific Kitzbuheler Horn as a summit finish (7km at an average of 13%), the pros will probably be happy for as many extra gears as their mechanics can shoehorn in, however many chainrings they have.
More information is available at 3t.bike/stradadue
Dave is a founding father of road.cc, having previously worked on Cycling Plus and What Mountain Bike magazines back in the day. He also writes about e-bikes for our sister publication ebiketips. He's won three mountain bike bog snorkelling World Championships, and races at the back of the third cats.