The most exciting/radical/groundbreaking/divisive/controversial new bike launched this year is the 3T Strada, a disc-equipped aero road bike built around wide tyres and a 1x drivetrain. You’ll no doubt have seen our first look and first ride video from the launch earlier this year, but we now have an actual bike to test. Here’s a first look before we hit the road.
What the 3T Strada does is bring together a lot of the technology that has pervaded the road bike industry (most of it from the mountain bike side) in the past few years, and bring its all together in one cohesive package. We're talking disc brakes, wide tyres, an aero frame and 1x11 drivetrain. Some people are talking about this being the future of road bikes, which it well may be, but rather more conservatively, it at least offers another choice if you're into your cutting-edge tech.
3T is now being handled in the UK by Saddleback, who also look after Enve, Silca, Chris King, Rotor and other high-end brands, and they’ve just built this bike up for us to test. It’s actually one of the very first bikes they’ve built and when they asked if we’d like to be one of the first to ride it, we leapt at the chance. I was down to their HQ like a shot.
It’s a suitably high-end build, as you’d expect on a frameset that costs £3,600. There are the latest Shimano Dura-Ace R91070 Di2 brake levers combined with an XT Di2 rear mech - not a typical combination but I’ve ridden a few adventure bikes with this sort of build, but this is the first time I’ve seen it on a road bike.
Enve 5.6 wheels are shod with Continental GrandPrix 4000 28mm tyres, an aero Enve handlebar, 3T stem and seatpost and Fizik Aliante saddle complete the build. This size medium bike weighs 7.7kg (16.97 lb).
It’s likely that most people interested in the Strada will spec their own dream build, but Saddleback will also be supplying a 3T build kit costing £3,850 (on top of the price of the frameset) that comprises an SRAM Force CX1 groupset with the Quarq Prime crankset, 3T Discus C60 Team wheels and 3T parts.
But there's only one chainring?
The Strada is designed specifically for a 1x groupset, there is no way of fitting a front mech. That is, without doubt, the most divisive design element of the new bike, and it’s borne of a desire to improve the aerodynamics around the bottom bracket area.
But what does it mean for the gearing choice? This bike has an 11-40t cassette and a 48t chainring, a Wolf Components ring with narrow/wide teeth intended to increase chain retention and stop it bouncing off on bumpy roads. Let’s put some numbers down to help get our hands around the difference between this and a conventional drivetrain, using a handy gear inch calculator.
The 48t to 11-40t combination on this bike provides a high and low gear of 116.38 and 32.03in respectively. For comparison, a typical 52/36 and 11-28t setup provides a high and low gear of 126.26 and 34.43inches. So you can see you’re not missing on the smallest gears, but loosing out a little at the top-end.
That could be resolved by swapping to a bigger 50t chainring if you’re a speed merchant, and that’s an option I may take up during the review process. There’s also more scope with adjusting the gear range by changing cassettes.
3T has developed its own 9-32 cassettes in two versions, called Bailout and Overdrive, that have been developed to address some of the gaps between sprockets that can occur on such wide range cassettes.
The Bailout has 9-10-11-12-13-15-17-19-22-26-32 tooth sprockets. You’ll notice that the sprockets increase in size just one tooth at a time at the business end of the cassette with an “oh shit this is a steep hill” bailout sprocket at the other end. The Overdrive has a 9-11-12-13-15-17-19-22-25-28-32 configuration aimed at providing evenly spaced gears across the middle of the cassette with that 9-tooth sprocket for keeping the power on during big descents.
The new cassettes won’t be available until December but I’ll definitely be interested in trying them out.
Wide tyres, minimal clearance and disc brakes
That’s a lot of words already on the lack of a conventional drivetrain. The other big design decision is the frame and fork being designed around wide tyres. There’s space for 25 to 30mm tyres, but these 28mm Contis actually measure 31mm.
Yes, clearance is tight, but that’s fully intentional; this is a bike designed to maximise aerodynamics in every way, it’s not designed to be a practical bike for plugging around muddy British lanes in the winter. You can’t fit mudguards. Think of it more as a time trial bike with drop handlebars. It's all about performance, about going as fast as possible. Check out any other aero road bike or time trial bike and you'll notice they have similarly small clearances as well.
I know a lot of people are looking at the disc brakes and wide tyres and automatically assuming that means it's got versatility written all over it. It hasn't. This isn't an endurance bike. It's a race bike. and it will be raced in the professional peloton next year. Lots of eyes will be on Aqua Sport Blue when the first rollout on their new bikes.
The aero approach to the frame and fork is all about offsetting the higher drag of the bigger tyres. The downtube profile, called ArcFoil, is intended to reduce drag in a wide range of real-world wind conditions and it’s wider towards the bottom bracket to better shield the water bottle from the airflow, with two mounting positions available - the lowest is the most aerodynamic if you want to use just a single bottle.
There are disc brakes because, well they are better, and they free up the fork crown to be as low as possible to decrease the frontal surface area, while the rear stays are extremely thin to maximise seated comfort.
The disc brakes use the flat mount standard, and this bike has a 160mm front rotor and 140mm rear rotor, and there are 12mm thru-axles at both ends. All cables and hoses are internally routed, and the seat clamp is also internal, tucked away inside the top tube.
So that ladies and gentleman, is a first look at the latest test bike to arrive in the office. Stay tuned for a full review very soon - this is one bike test you won't want to miss.
And if you've not watched it already, watch Dave and Tony riding the bike up and down some mountains at the launch earlier this year in this video below:
David has worked on the road.cc tech team since July 2012. Previously he was editor of Bikemagic.com and before that staff writer at RCUK. He's a seasoned cyclist of all disciplines, from road to mountain biking, touring to cyclo-cross, he only wishes he had time to ride them all. He's mildly competitive, though he'll never admit it, and is a frequent road racer but is too lazy to do really well. He currently resides in the Cotswolds.