At road.cc every product is thoroughly tested for as long as it takes to get a proper insight into how well it works. Our reviewers are experienced cyclists that we trust to be objective. While we strive to ensure that opinions expressed are backed up by facts, reviews are by their nature an informed opinion, not a definitive verdict. We don't intentionally try to break anything (except locks) but we do try to look for weak points in any design. The overall score is not just an average of the other scores: it reflects both a product's function and value – with value determined by how a product compares with items of similar spec, quality, and price.What the road.cc scores mean
Good scores are more common than bad, because fortunately good products are more common than bad.
If you were wanting to get a bit more comfort over rockier terrain, then you have plenty of space to work with.The 3T Exploro Racemax Ekar 1x13 is a great gravel bike option for those who are looking to go fast on untechnical terrain. The handling is great for high-speed stability, there is plenty of comfort, and the generous tyre clearances make it suitable for rougher terrain too.
Taking the RaceMax out for the first time, it was easy to see this as a strong option for keen gravel racers and those who like to ride long on untechnical, faster gravel. Get this thing going on a long, straight and decently surfaced stretch of gravel and you're going to be rewarded with speed and stability.
Flying along the wide and open tracks around Salisbury Plain highlighted everything that is good about this bike. The geometry allowed me to get into a position that is very close to my road race bike, and seeing as most aero drag is caused by your body, it's crucial to be able to adopt an aero riding position if you're looking to go fast.
A few rides around the Plain's perimeter path left me with no doubt where this bike belongs. It is incredibly happy to sit at a good cruising speed for mile after mile, and the faster you go the better the bike gets.
If you were wanting to get a bit more comfort over rockier terrain, then you have plenty of space to work with.
Turning the bike onto some of the more technical trails around me and it wasn't as at home. The handling is just a bit on the slow side for it to really be able to whip through tight corners, but that is the trade-off for the excellent planted feel at higher speeds.
I felt as though the front wheel was way out in front of me, which is a marked difference to the way the Specialized Crux that I tested back in March felt on technical trails.
But while the bike isn't as capable in tight corners as something like the Crux, it is a dream to point into a high-speed corner. The bike tracks really well and the composure of the ride means you can simply sail through bends without getting rattled around.
So in terms of where the handling excels, this is definitely one for faster, more open gravel roads rather than tight trails.
I really like the look of Campagnolo's Ekar and for gravel riding it works well, but not perfectly. The braking is brilliant, with a progressive feel and plenty of control, but I didn't get on with the thumb shifter.
Let's start with some of the good stuff. The shifting, on the road and gravel, is very crisp and accurate across the wide-range cassette.
As it's a 1x groupset (just one chainring), the 9-tooth smallest sprocket means that, when it's paired with the 38T chainring, you get plenty of gear to push against on road and faster gravel sections.
At the other end of the cassette, the 42T was easily low enough to get me up the steeper gravel climbs in my area, and the jumps between all the sprockets never left me feeling like I was in between gears.
The one annoying feature of the groupset comes thanks to Campagnolo's insistence on sticking with a thumb shifter to actuate changes to a harder gear. For me, the shape of the Ekar thumb paddle is completely wrong. Okay, so it does give you slightly better access with your hands in the drops than the road models, but it looks ugly to my mind and sits awkwardly when you've got your hands on the hoods.
While the groupset is, in general, very good, if it was a choice between this and Shimano GRX, I'd pick Shimano's offering just because of that annoying Ekar thumb paddle.
At the front end, you've got a carbon 3T bar offering a lovely position in the drops that really inspires confidence when descending on technical trails.
It's also quite a comfortable front end, which is always nice, and that is despite the fact that this test bike came with relatively narrow 35mm tyres, though there's clearance for much wider.
I had to swap out the stock stem and replace it with a 120mm unit I had in the parts box to get my fit. That was the only change I made.
I really like the Fizik Argo fitted to our test bike. It's actually the first Fizik saddle I've been able to use, so it's nice to not have to swap one out for once.
While we're around the front end and finishing kit, I do want to address the routing of the brake hoses.
These loop up beside the stem and are then routed through the top of the top tube, which I don't think is the most elegant way of doing things. It is something 3T has done for a while and I really wish it would pack it in.
This bike is rolling on a set of Campagnolo Levante hoops, though the stock model comes with a 700c Fulcrum Rapid Red 900 wheelset.
Jamie Williams is presently testing a set of Levante wheels, so I won't say too much, but I think these are some of the best gravel wheels on the market.
On those wheels are 700x35mm Vittoria Terreno Dry tubeless tyres. They are ideal for the fast straights where the 3T excels, thanks to their slick central tread.
I'd have liked something a touch wider, however, just for a bit more comfort and while they do well over dry roots and rocks, they're not the best when the rain starts to fall. If you're mixing your gravel riding with lots of road miles, then these are a great option.
It's a great bike to ride, and it does pretty well on value compared with rivals.
The closest stock build to our test bike that I can see comes in at £4,999, featuring Fulcrum wheels rather than the Campagnolo Levante hoops you see here.
If you're dead set on an aero gravel bike, the Ridley Kanzo Fast is £4,909. We're still trying to get one in for testing, but it is proving tricky. But if you're going by the spec sheet, it looks to score slightly worse in terms of value as you get the lower-spec Fulcrum Rapid Red 500 wheels rather than the Exploro's 900.
I'd also throw the Specialized Crux into the ring because I found the ride addictive when I tested the £11,700 S-Works Crux earlier in the year. But even the Specialized Crux Expert with SRAM Rival eTap AXS costs a stonking £6,300.
This is a very good bike, though whether it's the best choice for you will depend largely on the sort of gravel that you ride. If you have endless stretches of open and well-graded gravel locally, or that's what you tend to head for, you're looking at the ideal bike. For tighter, twistier stuff there are better options out there.
Fast on the open stuff and very stable at speed – this is a great gravel race bike
If you're thinking of buying this product using a cashback deal why not use the road.cc Top Cashback page and get some top cashback while helping to support your favourite independent cycling website
road.cc test report
Make and model: 3T Exploro Racemax Ekar 1x13
Size tested: M
About the bike
List the components used to build up the bike.
Frame: Exploro RaceMax
Material: Unidirectional pre-preg carbon, High-modulus/high-strength performance blend layup
Fork: Fango RaceMax w/compact crown
Headset: 3T MinMax IS42/28.6 + IS 47/38
Bar: 3T Superergo LTD carbon
Stem: 3T Apto Stealth (XXS: 70mm - 51: 80mm - 54: 90mm - 56: 100mm - 58: 110mm - 61: 120mm)
Groupset: Campagnolo EKAR 1x13 | 38T chainring | 9-42T cassette
Brakes: Campagnolo EKAR hydraulic disc w/160mm Campagnolo rotor
Wheels: Non-standard Campagnolo Levante - You get Fulcrum Rapid Red 900, 700c
Seatpost: New 3T Charlie Sqaero Team w/ Ritchey WCS Clamp
Saddle: Non-standard Fizik Argo - You get Selle Italia Model X Superflow
Tell us what the bike is for and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about the bike?
This is a full-on gravel race bike, though with the tyre clearance you could easily point this at some rougher terrain.
Here's what 3T says:
"Whether riding road or gravel, we love speed. So everything on the RaceMax frame is engineered for that. The end result is the first gravel bike that:
Looks like a road bike
Rides like a road bike
Rips through gravel
Best of all, the very same RaceMax frame can be built up with a focus on pure speed with 35-42mm WAM tires in 700c can also be turned into an unstoppable machine with very wide tires up to 61mm WAM. Handy for that epic ride or trip abroad. And with two wheelsets, you can switch between the two setups easily. That's RaceMax."
Where does this model sit in the range? Tell us briefly about the cheaper options and the more expensive options
This is actually one of the base models in the UK, though you can do your own build with a frameset at £3,399. The range then tops out at £10,499.
Frame and fork
Tell us about the build quality and finish of the frame and fork?
Seems good, but I do hate the cable routing at the top tube. It is just ugly.
Tell us about the materials used in the frame and fork?
Carbon. 3T doesn't say anything more.
Tell us about the geometry of the frame and fork?
Long and low, with a long wheel base. The seat tube angle is 73.5 degrees, you get a 1,012mm wheelbase on the medium, and the BB drop is 77mm. That all just means this bike is very planted at speed, but not the best in tight turns.
Riding the bike
Was the bike comfortable to ride? Tell us how you felt about the ride quality.
Quite comfortable, but you could boost the tyre width.
Did the bike feel stiff in the right places? Did any part of the bike feel too stiff or too flexible?
Yes. But I wouldn't want it any stiffer.
How did the bike transfer power? Did it feel efficient?
Was there any toe-clip overlap with the front wheel? If so was it a problem?
How would you describe the steering? Was it lively neutral or unresponsive? On the unresponsive side of neutral.
Tell us some more about the handling. How did the bike feel overall? Did it do particular things well or badly?
It handles best on faster descents.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's comfort? would you recommend any changes?
I really liked the comfort in the drops, so the bar is doing good stuff.
Tell us some more about the drivetrain. Anything you particularly did or didn't like? Any components which didn't work well together?
I really don't like the thumb shifter, but the rest is great.
Wheels and tyres
Tell us some more about the wheels.Did they work well in the conditions you encountered? Would you change the wheels? If so what for?
You can't have them as standard, but these are lovely.
Tell us some more about the tyres. Did they work well in the conditions you encountered? Would you change the tyres? If so what for?
Go wider for more comfort. But these are fast.
Did you enjoy riding the bike? Yes
Would you consider buying the bike? I'd prefer something that is better for twisty trails.
Would you recommend the bike to a friend? Yes
How does the price compare to that of similar bikes in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?
You can get cheaper bikes with electronic groupsets, which I'd imagine will be quite tempting for the average person. But there are still bikes out there that will cost you a lot more, like the Specialized Crux.
Use this box to explain your overall score
It is a great bike for long, fast gravel roads. If you don't have those in your area, this probably won't be the bike for you as the handling is a little less fun on twisty trails.
The groupset is brilliant, apart from the thumb shifter, the wheels are really good – but you can't buy the bike with them – and the finishing kit is lovely.
About the tester
I usually ride: Specialized S-Works Tarmac SL7 My best bike is:
I've been riding for: Under 5 years I ride: Most days I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: road racing, time trialling, cyclo cross, commuting, club rides, general fitness riding, I specialise in the Cafe Ride!