We’re into our long distance off-road/gravel/ultracross/adventure riding on drop bar bikes here at Cycletechreview.com, with many of us veterans of the hour long hurt at the local CX league and venturing on longer distance racing and events like the Dirty Reiver. Paul will have his South Downs Way CX Century report up soon I am sure – how’s the wrists, Paul? Now we have news of the new 3T Exploro Aero Gravel Frame.
We introduced the world of the gravel bikes or ‘Adventure All-Road Bikes’ with a recent review of the steel Niner RLT 9 (Road Less Travelled). Pushing the concept of a gravel bike further and introducing aerodynamic engineering, 3T have recently launched the Exploro Aero Gravel Frame; an apparent first and a concept that is sure to divide opinion. Our North American friends will be very familiar with gravel racing, it’s big and getting bigger. Sponsorship is increasing, and slowly events in the UK and Europe are getting in on the act (see Tortour for a good example). Bikes like the 3T Exploro, the Open U.P and a plethora of other bikes which are just entering the market, are catching up with this demand.
3T are a company with a long history of innovation; founded in Torino in 1961, they began life producing polished-alloy racing handlebars, stems, and seatposts, they were renowned for their fit, light weight, and elegant looks. In 2007 3T became an independent marque and made major new investments in advanced design and engineering for the era of carbon-fiber. Currently under the stewardship of co-owners René Wiertz and Gerard Vroomen and with the introduction of the 3T Exploro, the brand is looking to the future.
3T say “The Exploro is the world’s first gravel frame to consider aerodynamics, something that may sound odd at first but actually has a solid basis in science. After a year of engineering and testing, including tests at the San Diego Low Speed Wind Tunnel, the Exploro is ready to explore the world beyond the paved roads.” It’s a thing of curiosity and at this time feels really niche but I’ve no doubt there’ll be great interest. Gravel racing is becoming a serious phenomenon, especially in the U.S., and individual racers are going to start looking for any possible advantage they can get; that is if the 3T claims about the aero-advantage of this frame are substantiated. Real world gravel racing is a world away from the wind tunnel I would suggest.
3T seem to be inventing their own language for this frame too. Offering SQAERO, REALFAST and GRAVELPLUS up to the lexicon. 3T explain the Exploro features:
“SQAERO GO SLOW FASTER.
The best gravel rides are long and gruelling, so saving a few Watts is very welcome. They often also feature a mix of surfaces including fast sections of gravel and asphalt. Enter our Sqaero shapes, squared-off aero shapes that are structurally efficient and fast. Sqaero shapes offer RealFast™ aerodynamics; they are faster not only under perfect conditions but also in the real world. Even when covered by mud and muck. That’s right: our Sqaero shapes are designed to be as fast dirty as they are clean. The Exploro uses Sqaero 50/25, with a 50mm wide downtube perfect to pick up the airflow coming off a wider cross or mtb front tire and lead it on to the water bottles. The seattube is 25mm wide to make it aerodynamically disappear in-between the bottles and the rear tire. The headtube, seatstays and custom seatpost also use Sqaero shapes.”
Our Realfast approach means we design for bikes in the real world, with bottles, covered in mud, and for realistic speeds. And then we test them that way too, not at the industry-standard 30mph (48kmh), but at 20mph (32kmh) for the Exploro. The Exploro saves 7 Watts over the equivalent round tube frame (same tube widths, same frame details, same components), or 24 Watts at 30 mph if your mind is still set to that 30mph speed. Put more succinctly, an Exploro covered in mud with 40mm knobby cross/gravel tires and 2 water bottles is faster than the equivalent clean round tube bike is with 28mm slick road tires and without bottles. So with the Exploro you are up-to-speed on-road, and leave everybody in the dust off-road.”
The Exploro is designed to fit road, cross and even mountain bike tires following the GravelPlus standard. The road and cross tires are 700c; the mountain bike tires use the 650b size, ensuring that all of these have virtually the same overall wheel diameter and therefore the same predictable handling. For 700c, we recommend our 3T Discus wheels, for 650b our 3T Discus Plus wheels.”
In addition these features include; ‘performance gravel geometry’, internal cabling to keep everything out of the muck and retain the aerodynamics as well as an internal seatpost clamp that keeps the frame looking visually clean, thru-axle and, by the looks of it, very generous mud clearance.
You’ll find some graphs and data science on the 3T website to complement these features if you’re into that sort of thing. The 3T Exploro is a unique offering and it would be easy to rush to judgement, so until we get a chance to have a play on one we will reserve judgement.
The Exploro range comes in a ‘TEAM’ or ‘LTD’ edition and I understand that small, medium, large and extra large framesets will be available from August. The RRP as you imagine is ‘high-end’:
TEAM: Carbon Monocoque; Frame, fork and seatpost kit – £2400
LTD: Carbon Monocoque; Frame, fork and seatpost kit – £3300
We look forward to finding out more and seeing one in the flesh.
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