3T Strada: Big tires & only 1 ring… It’s the future.
ecently we got our hands on the new 3T Strada for the first time and what a beast of a bike it is (https://www.3t.bike/en/3t-bikes/strada-1.html). It’s an aero road bike that’s specifically designed around disc brakes, x1 single chainring, much bigger 30mm measured tyre widths, and, it’s slipper in aerodynamic department. I must say, we were all blown away with it.
It was designed by ex-Cervelo designer/owner Gerald Vroomen as his vision of what bikes of the future should be (see the video above). The goal of this bike was to make something that is aerodynamic and fast but also comfortable. Very often aero road bikes massively compromise comfort because the long teardrop shaped tubes, whilst great at slipping through the air, can’t flex vertically. Additionally, the aerodynamics are designed around a narrower 23c or 25c and thus don’t work as well with bigger tyres.
Why the move to bigger tyres? It’s quite simple really; the tyre is the first thing that reacts to a bump or imperfection in the road. The lower the pressure the more comfortable the ride is going to be as the tyre can deform and absorb more energy. With smaller volume tyres, running lower pressures leaves you more vulnerable to pinch punctures. A greater air volume allows you to ride at a lower pressure as the greater volume stops the tyre bottoming out and pinching the tube with the rim. Cervelo did a great article detailing the components that add together to create good ride comfort (https://www.cervelo.com/en/Engineering-Field-Notes/Engineering-Fundamentals/Ride-Quality).
“But surely this leads to greater rolling resistance” I hear you cry. Well no actually. While the contact patch is wider it is also shorter so the tyre is in contact with ground for a shorter period. When this is combined with the fact that the tyre can deform to the imperfection rather than rebound off it, the tyre can roll over the tarmac without losing speed. This has been part of the reason why most of the professional peleton has moved to a 25c tyre as a minimum.
However, this does change the sensation of speed. A small volume tyre at a higher pressure transmits a lot more vibration through to the rider and often people use the frequency of this vibration to judge speed. As the vibrations increase, you feel you’re going faster. But with the bigger tyres, you don’t have as much vibration so people often report that the big tyres feel slow. However, in blind, back to back tests, while the riders felt the big tyres were slower, the stop watch told a different story. Cycling Tips did a great podcast about this phenomenon (https://cyclingtips.com/2016/08/cyclingtips-podcast-episode-9-rethinking-road-bike-tire-sizes-and-pressures/).
As one of the first road bikes to be specifically designed around a x1 groupset (there is no option to run a front derailleur), it has caused quite a stir and many internet debates. GCN recently did a video on this subject but as someone who has been riding a x1 groupset on the road for the past year and a bit, I thought I’d pass on my experience.
My bike is a big heavy steel adventure touring rig that I got to; a) commute on, and b) to be able to stick the kid seats on and go on family rides. But I’ve found that I’ve been enjoying it so much that I’m riding it all the time. The simplicity of the x1 groupset has a lot to do with my enjoyment of this bike. I don’t ever worry about trimming my front mech to avoid rub and I don’t worry about chucking my chain when changing from big to little ring. I just get on and ride. The simplicity is lovely.
Now, PRIMO Cycles is a shop in Cambridge, which isn’t exactly known for its hills. Riders in Cambridge make a big deal out of how hard Chapel Hill is but when was the last time you had to drop into 34tx32t to get up it? If 95% of your riding is in terrain that is relatively flat or rolling, the inner ring is virtually redundant. It sits there waiting for the odd holiday in the mountains before it finally gets used. Again, if you’re racing in crits, you spend the vast majority your time on the big ring anyway. It’s just adding weight and aero drag when not being used. Whatever the terrain, it’s just a question of having the right gearing and making sure that the ratios of gears you have cover the gradients that you are expecting to see. If you’re going to be riding on flat and rolling stuff at a decent pace? Run a 52t up front and an 11-36t out back. Going to be climbing some bigger hills? Change the ring up front to a 48 and the rear to a 10-42t would give you roughly the same gear going downhill as an 52tx11t and an easier gear than a compact 34tx28t for getting up the climbs. Yes, this requires a little bit of forward thinking, but why cart around a gear that you’re not going to be using for 95% of the year? Now on my bike I’ve been really lazy and left the gearing as it came with the bike (38t front with a 10-42t at the back). The only time that I’ve found myself genuinely spinning out was on a ride where Steve hit over 80kph (at which point it was just as fast to tuck up and get aero) and the only time I’ve used the easiest gear was climbing a double-digit percent assent with both of my kids on board so I could comfortably get away with a much tighter gear ratio. If you’re worried or struggling to find your perfect gear combination just come and see us and we can help you out.
Now, I know what people will automatically say “Oh but the jumps between the gears will be BRUTAL!”. Is a 2 tooth jump really that big? It’s not long ago that gear jumps like this and more would have been considered normal on an 8 or 9 speed 11-23t cassette. In my opinion a lot of people would actually benefit from developing a more versatile rev range (how many times have I heard someone say that they are “spinning out on 50×11”). If you’re riding on flat and rolling roads, an 11-32t or 11-36t paired up with a 50t or 52t ring would be perfect. Think that the jumps on an 11-32t are unridable? Both Tony Martin (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7tVihsWlpFU) and BBAR record breaker Adam Duggleby are choosing to ride 11-32t cassettes. Next year, professional cycling team Aqua Blue will be racing the Strada with the SRAM x1 groupset in all types of terrain through the professional calendar from flat classics to high mountain stage races.
Still wanting to cling to your 1 tooth jumps? In January 3T will have you covered with a pair of 9-32t cassettes. The Overdrive cassette has a bigger step at either end of the cassette (9-11-12-13-15-17-19-22-25-28-32) while the Bailout cassette gives 5 single tooth jumps at the bottom of the cassette with bigger jumps when you’re climbing (9-10-11-12-13-15-17-19-22-26-32). Pair this with a 42t chainring and you have an overall range similar to a 52-36t chainset with an 11-28t cassette. It is more than likely that SRAM will transfer their Eagle 12 speed mountain bike technology across to the road which will give an extra ratio in there. There are also rumours that they may go one further still to a 13 speed cassette. Does it mean that you’re stuck with SRAM? No, the demo bike that Steve rode was set up with Shimano Dura Ace Di2 shifter and a XTR Di2 mech with the shifters reprogramed in a paddle shift format like eTap.
Would I choose x1 if I was needing a bike to make regular trips to the mountains? I’d maybe stick with a front mech, but that said I also wouldn’t choose an aero frameset either as aerodynamics don’t matter as much in the mountains. I expect that a 3T Strada customer will also have something super light in their bike stable as well (the Strada is an n+1 bike). Are Aqua Blue riding it out of choice? No, they’re a professional cycling team which is code for “a moving billboard to test and display product” and they are being paid to prove that it works. Will they struggle? On the flat and rolling races they’re not going to notice the difference. In the high mountain stages, the main problem they may have is getting a neutral service wheel with the correct spread of gears (how often do riders actually take wheels from neutral service rather than team cars?) but apart from that, they’ll probably not even notice as their mechanics will make sure they’ve got the correct gear ratios for the stage.
If you’re wanting to build the perfect Cambridge chaingang weapon, I’d go x1 every single time. It’s more aero, it’s lighter and when paired with a sensible cassette, the simplicity of the system is very hard to beat. Our bikes had a 50t chainring and an 11-36t cassette which was great on the flat. We then cruised up Chapel Hill in 50x36t while still being able to hold a conversation.
As you can probably tell, I really like this bike. When I rode it, I was blown away with how well it carried speed. It accelerates quickly and then once up to speed it rolls over everything and keeps going. No more need to dodge around man holes and cracks, no more wincing at every hole and wondering if you’re going to be able to father children after every pot hole. Just stay on the power and keep blasting on. It’s so comfortable that you’d not think twice about riding it for multiple 100-mile days. It sliced through the headwind out of town and the handling felt nice and racy. The gears worked so well that they were an afterthought. It’s tough working at PRIMO, I’m surrounded by temptation all the time and with this bike, I’m eying up all my belongings and one of my kidneys to figure out what I can sell to get my hands on one. I think that it could go down as a landmark bike that pushed the boundaries of convention and you’ll see other bike manufacturers imitating in the future.
If you’re interested in the 3T Strada being your next n+1 bike, we include a full STT 3DMA bike fit in the cost of bike. The frame, fork and seatpost module is £3600 for the red bike while the limited edition black frame is £4000. We can then walk you through the options on groupsets and wheels to make your dream bike. Want to see the bike in person? We have one on display in the store. Call us on 01223 500502 or email firstname.lastname@example.org if you’ve got any questions or want to book in for a fitting.
Big tyres, one ring, aerodynamic yet comfortable… it’s the future.