Strada 3T Aero Road Bike Review
Like most cyclists I am intrigued by new technology and advancements. However, I also consider myself fairly pragmatic and a purist when it comes to cycling. Heck, I still keep a steel frame, mechanical road bike in the stable even though I love my carbon frames with electronic shifting. So when a friend asked me to try his brand new 3T Strada I was very conflicted before the first ride. Not only does the bike push the envelope on aero design but when you combine disc brakes, through axels, 28mm tires and a 1x drivetrain, if I am being completely honest, I almost wanted to dislike the bike. Who runs 1x on a road bike? However, knowing the success Gerard Vroomen had in establishing Cervelo and combining that with the decades long stellar reputation of Italy’s 3T, my interest was truly peaked and I kept an open mind.
Could you really make a stiff aero bike fast but at the same time compliant only by running wider tires? While disc brakes are better, are they really that noticeable on the road, especially when you live in Arizona where it rarely rains? And a 1x drivetrain for the road….seriously?!
Well, from the moment I clipped in and accelerated down my street I was afraid this test ride was going to cost me money. The bike was all that was advertised and more. I grew up on 19-23mm tires and figured 25mm was all that was needed in the road world. Well, I was wrong. The 28mm tires on the Strada were extremely grippy in corners, absorbed road vibration better than much of the dampening technology in the other manufacturers frames and didn’t seem to impact speed or aero effects. While we all know that disc brakes are better, living in AZ without much rain very few sustained technical downhills, I wasn’t enticed enough to convert. But I can tell you that this bike braked better than any road bike I have ridden. You could modulate brakes and scrub speed later entering into a turn than I ever could with a rim brake. It was fun setting up a corner by flying into it full speed and seeing how late you could brake and still hit the apex correctly. As for the frame it lived up to Mr. Vroomen’s storied reputation. The tube shapes were aero, the seat stays compliant, the clearance for tires was clean and tight, acceleration was responsive and the ride was stellar. Heck, they even have 2 variations for bottle placement with the aero one called “team leader”. With the Strada you have a truly stiff and sprinter worthy frame under you and at the same time can corner on rails and not feel like you were beat up after a couple hours. While I don’t have any technical data and didn’t ride the bike in a group setting due to some fit challenges on my test bike, it felt just as fast as the best aero bikes I have ridden and owned but a lot more comfortable.
Now for the elephant in the room, the 1x drivetrain. As I mentioned, I wanted to dislike it. However, I knew the benefits of it on the mountain bike. In fact, it is now preferred by most when trail riding. But for the road, how can you get enough gears? How would the gear spacing and shifting work? Well, I can tell you I am now sold that in the future we may never need a front derailleur again. An 11 speed, 2x drivetrain effectively gives you 14 gears so dropping down to 11 and soon to be 12 isn’t as much as you would think. In fact, when 3T comes out with their 9x32 cassette if you combine it with a 44 tooth front ring you get essentially the same gearing as a 53x39 combined with an 11x28 cassette. Sure there are a couple jumps that slightly change your cadence but 3T has covered that with 2 different cassettes. One to keep tighter gaps on the low end and one with tighter gaps on the high end depending on where you are riding. Not to mention you could swap out the front ring if you really wanted to get creative. My test bike had an eTap rear derailleur and it worked perfectly. I never felt like a gearing change was a problem and after about 15 minutes I stopped thinking about gearing and if my cadence changed and instead just enjoyed the ride and never gave the rear cassette a second thought. In fact, it was nice not worrying about a front ring and in a race just think about the benefits of never dropping a chain or worrying about cross chaining again?!
I think Mr. Vroomen is not only on to something but truly has come out with the first bike of where road cycling technology is heading in the future. I only got to spend a week with the bike, but I loved it. Sure nothing is perfect and I had some things on the bike that did not excite me. First off the bike is a little heavy. My large test bike weighed 16 pounds 12 ounces with pedals and cage. The through axels are stiff and solid but I would be concerned with wheel changes in a race. I also am reserving judgement for the 9x32 cassette. It sounds enticing but will the 9 tooth be durable? What about chain wear? And in today’s world of ceramic bearings and oversized pulley wheels will the 9 tooth add friction and counteract all the “marginal gains” cyclists are searching for today? Time will tell. Otherwise, the only issues I had were personal preferences and could easily be resolved by building the bike with different components (ie: bars, saddle and blip sprint shifter). All in all I have nothing but positive things to say about the 3T Strada. While I am not ready to give up my race bike and 2x drivetrains I really think there is a place for this bike and it has a lot of potential for the future. In fact, as I write this I am already putting together the specs for my build. I told you I was afraid the test ride was going to cost me. Yes, my own Strada will be the newest bike in the stable very soon…and I can’t wait! Now, if only Campy would come out with a 1x drivetrain my purist heart will be satisfied.
Test Rider - David Genovese