Going Nowhere Fast
Words by Tom Owen
Traditional bike manufacturers have always kept their aerodynamic innovations to their road bikes. Until now, that is.
3T produce some of the world’s lightest and fastest performance bike components across multiple disciplines and now they have finally stepped into the frameset market with the 3T Exploro. Not only is the Exploro 3T’s first bike ever, it is also a first of its kind in the industry.
Classified as an “aero gravel bike”, it was designed in response to testing in the San Diego Low Speed Wind Tunnel, and it claims to save the rider 7 watts over a standard gravel bike when ridden at 20mph. It has been created to help you explore the paths you wouldn’t normally dream of taking on a road bike, but without sacrificing all of your speed.
To prove the value of their new baby, 3T took it to some of the gravelliest, most beautiful places on earth, including the Westfjords of Iceland.
The greatest innovation on this frame is the Sqaero tubing which is designed to reduce aerodynamic drag while maintaining the strength, stiffness and resilience required of a gravel bike. The down tube is a surprising 50mm wide. A skinny, round down tube would apparently not have any effect on the airflow. While the frame’s aero features inevitably come into their own when you’re flying along a tarmac road or hard-packed gravel at high speeds, aerodynamics also come into play when you’re crawling along bridleways.
The greatest innovation on this frame is the Sqaero tubing which is designed to reduce aerodynamic drag while maintaining the strength, stiffness and resilience required of a gravel bike. The down tube is a surprising 50mm wide, enough to catch the airflow coming off the front tire and guide it round the water bottles. A skinny, round down tube would apparently not have any effect on the airflow. While the frame’s aero features inevitably come into their own when you’re flying along a tarmac road or hard-packed gravel at high speeds, aerodynamics also come into play when you’re crawling along bridleways, particularly in wind, enabling you to ‘go slow’ off-road at a faster rate.
The Exploro’s short chain stays and agile steering offer phenomenal acceleration and grip whatever the terrain. Meanwhile, all the cables are internally-routed and the seat clamp is neatly hidden away for a more aero (and lets be honest, better-looking) aesthetic. As for wheels, the frame accommodates road, cross and even mountain bike tyres with buckets of clearance, following the GravelPlus standard. It looks like a really fun bike to ride – and here’s another video as if to prove just that. This time the crew is in Tuscany – it really must be a tough life.
This aero gravel bike has an admirable pedigree for racing on the road and off. The man behind the 3T Exploro is Gerard Vroomen, the company’s co-owner and head of design, whose career oozes cycling and innovation. With a mechanical engineering degree under his belt, he co-founded Cervélo, a bike brand which became known for the faultless design and production of cutting-edge racing bikes. Among Cervélo’s palmarès are multiple championship-winning triathlon and time trial bikes, alarmingly lightweight road bikes (the first frame under 700g), industry-defining aero bikes, and multiple wins at the Spring Classics and stage races. Vroomen also designed the world’s first sub-900g mountain bike frame with OPEN and introduced the GravelPlus category.
The 3T Exploro is a bike which pushes the boundaries of bicycle design with lively steering and versatility to push your riding to new extremes. Think of it as a road bike which is hungry for gravel. It certainly performs well on tarmac, albeit with slightly squidgy tyres. As opposed to the more spongy response associated with off-road bikes, it is more than capable of rapid acceleration when sprinting or climbing thanks to its bulky bottom bracket. This gravel bike is going places, fast.