The Exploro LTD from 3T is shown here with 700x40c tires.

The Exploro LTD from 3T is shown here with 700x40c tires.​

3T is an Italian brand that has been building lightweight racing components since 1961. They started out by specializing in aerospace grade alloys and of course, nowadays most of their top of the line products are all carbon fiber/composite. We had the chance to get a close-up look at their all new Exploro carbon gravel bike which is available with two distinct build options. This bike can be built up for 700c gravel tires but it can also fit 27.5x2.1" mountain bike tires.

Watch this video for a quick view of some of the feature highlights of the all new Exploro from 3T Cycling:

3T Exploro

3T uses a technology they call "Sqaero" which refers to the squared-off aero shapes of the frames tubes, primarily the downtube which is 50mm wide and is designed to pick up the air flow coming off a wider cross or mountain bike tire and lead the air 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.

It might seem odd to make an aerodynamic gravel bike, but 3T set out to make the "world's fastest, most capable gravel bike". One of the names behind the Exploro might sound familiar too. Gerard Vroomen helped design many aspects of the Exploro and if his name sounds familiar, it should. He is one of the original founders of Cervélo and is now a co-owner of 3T. Vroomen explains, "If we were just about stiffness we would go with a square down tube (stiff, strong, light) but not aero at all. On the flip side, full aero designs are fast, but the stiffness, strength and weight are not as good. We found that if you run a big wide knobby tire in front, it makes the air flow very messy and so you need a pretty wide down tube to counter that by making creating an air foil with the downtube."

The square shape of the downtube is evident in this photo.

The square shape of the downtube is evident in this photo.​

Vroomen continues, "We use what we call our Sqaero technology - the front half is aero shaped, then we square off the tail (which has been done before), but when combined with the 50mm wide downtube (needed because the tires are so wide), we then have a really nice shape for the air flow. So the result is that we have about 90% of the aerodynamic performance because you trick the air flow into following the shape even though the tail is missing."

When it comes to aerodynamics, factors can be measured in a wind tunnel to test all of the modeling. The testing done on computers can be difficult because of the rotating knobby tire.

Yes, those are mountain bike tires on a road bike.

Yes, those are mountain bike tires on a road bike.​

Vroomen says, "We tested the Exploro against a test mule with the same size tube but with a round shape. Same geometry and same parts, even the same monostay. The only difference was the tube shapes. We didn't test with a mannequin which gives you more accurate results (maybe 10 to 20 percent more) but we knew that most of what we were testing was happening between the front wheel and the downtube so the rider doesn't have a big influence on that area of the bike. It also speeds up the whole testing process by not using the mannequin. And obviously, knobby tires are not as aero as a road tire. The difference is about 7 watts at 20 miles per hour."

3T tested at 20 mph instead of the more standard 30mph because average speeds for most gravel riders and racers are lower than compared to pure road riders and racers. How thorough was 3T with their wind tunnel testing? Vroomen describes the process, "Even for testing, we did 3-D printed fake mud to emulate real mud (because scientists will frown when you try and bring real mud into their sterile testing centers). This allows us to keep the same mud pattern for multiple tests or tests done at later times. What did we find? Mud has very little to no difference as far as aerodynamics is concerned. And of course, we tested with and without water bottles."

The Exploro LTD frame weighs in at 950 grams which is light for a disc brake frame. It's lighter still when you consider that it is an aero disc brake frame and lighter again when you consider that it is a disc brake aero frame that can fit a mountain bike tire. The geometry provides the rider with a good endurance oriented riding position and the chainstays of the Exploro are uber short at 415mm, while still providing plenty of tire clearance.

The Exploro from 3T is available in two versions. The Exploro Team has a frame weight of 950 grams (claimed) and has an MSRP of $3000 for the frameset. The Exploro LTD (featured here) has a frame weight of 1150 grams (claimed) and an MSRP of $4200. Large frames are available now and SM, MD and XL will be available next month (August).

Continue to page 2 for more of 3T's Discus and Discus Plus wheels and the 3T acquisition of German brand THM.

3T Discus C60 LTD clincher, hi-modulus full carbon wheels with offset double angle drilling.

3T Discus C60 LTD clincher, hi-modulus full carbon wheels with offset double angle drilling.​

3T Wheels - Discus and Discus Plus

Key to the development of the Exploro were the wheels. To fit the 27.5" mountain bike tires, a 650b rim was built up. Vroomen explains, "When tires get wider and taller, the geometry changes the whole handling of the bike gets screwed up. You sit higher, the trail changes...So we decided to make the Discus Plus wheel for road/gravel/mixed-surface specific wheel in 650b."

The Discus comes in a 700c size and can fit tires up to 40c in width. Both the Discus and Discus Plus use a new alloy extrusion that is quite wide with a 24mm internal width and a 28mm external width. 3T also makes a carbon rim that is 28mm internal, 32mm external width. These wheels are built around 3T's standard hub, so parts are interchangeable (except spokes, of course). The wheels come with 12 or 15mm front axle compatibility and use a 12mm axle in the rear. Of course, you could put end caps on it and still run quick-releases if you wanted. All the wheels use 3T's own rims and hubs and most builds use Sapim spokes.

There are two levels of wheels and the alloy version is road specific and weight in at 1640 grams (a set) with a retail price of $900. The carbon rim is not a ton lighter because it is wider, which works well with the 2.1" mountain tires. The carbon set runs 1600 grams with a retail price of $1900.

3T - THM Clavicula SE and Fibula

Also at the Bike Press Camp event, we learned that 3T has recently bought German brand THM which produces lightweight, carbon cranks, forks and brakes. Everything THM makes from first concept to final production takes place at its own facility in Alt Duvenstedt, Germany. We got an early look at the new Clavicula SE carbon crankset and the Fibula lightweight carbon brakes.

The THM Fibula is one of the lightest caliper brakes on the market with a weight of only 120 grams.

The THM Fibula is one of the lightest caliper brakes on the market with a weight of only 120 grams.​

For more information on the Exploro line, visit