Bike Test: 3T Strada with SRAM Red eTap AXS

Some custom 3T flare

The 3T Strada remains a ride worth waiting for

Anyone who caught our previous May “Euro” magazine will recall that we featured an unbuilt 3T Strada project bike that we had intended to have ready for that issue. Unfortunately, a handful of issues arose, and we missed the final deadline by about a week. But, here we are a month later, and the bike finally got built and was ready to ride.

When the Strada was initially launched back in 2017, it made news for more than a few reasons. Yes, it was the first new road bike penned by famed designer Gerard Vroomen following his years leading Cervelo to fame and glory, along with his then-partner, Phil White. In his time spent between the two brands, Gerard had come to embrace 1x drivetrains for a number of reasons, chiefly their weight and aero benefits. 

In pushing the 1x concept, 3T went so far as to sponsor the Pro Continental Aqua Blue Sport team in 2018. Unfortunately, despite some limited success and race wins, the riders never found full favor with the limited gearing, and by mid-season a 2x frame option was developed. 

Although we were offered the 2x frame to test, we opted to once again rely on the 1x platform as a testbed for optional 1x drivetrain parts. Besides, we’re just suckers for the clean aesthetic of not having a front derailleur.

THE FRAME

Without a doubt, as ubiquitous as many aero frame designs are on the market, Vrooman’s 3T Strada cuts a pretty unique profile. “Shapely” is the first word that comes to mind in describing the array of sculpted tubes. Aside from the impressive downtube with its curved underside and flat top that’s home to two different bottle mounts, the seat tube/bottom bracket section is a sight to behold.

Just as Vroomen omitted the front derailleur for its perceived aero benefit, from tip to tail, so too was every other aspect of the frame’s design.

In addition to 1x drivetrains, in the time since was overseeing Cervelo, Gerard also came to believe in the performance virtues of bigger tires. Unlike the many contemporary road bikes that can be friendly to bigger tires (up to 28mm), the Strada frame and fork were optimized to run bigger tires from the start. 

THE PARTS

Given that the bike was originally intended to highlight last month’s Euro issue, we had planned to build it up with as many Euro-centric parts that we could. We were happy to oblige Gerard with added 3T spec, with an aluminum Apto stem and Superergo Pro handlebar. The dedicated seatpost gave us no spec option—although, as unfriendly as we find its adjustment, we wish there was an option. Atop the zero-offset post was a carbon-railed Selle Italia SLR Superflow saddle.

The 3T Torno carbon crank turned heads with a look just as unique as the bike itself. The chainring is courtesy of Minnesota-based Wolf Tooth Designs.

For our wheel selection we went with the Limitless 48 wheels from the British brand Hunt. Owing to their 22.5mm internal width, we weren’t sure what effect the hoops would have on the tires given the frame’s clearance constraints. And, as expected, after inflating the 28mm Pirelli P-Zero Velo tires, they ballooned up to 32mm, putting a crimp on available tire clearance but still with just a skosh of room to spare. We threw in some of the ultra-light (and expensive) German Tubolito inner tubes. 

With the Euro theme as our guide, we could’ve tried to make something work with a Campagnolo drivetrain but were compelled not to for two reasons: 

1. Although the word on the streets is that Campy has a 1x system coming down the pike, a curbside rumor wasn’t sufficient reason to put off the build. 

2. Owing to the bike’s sweet red finish and the need for 1x, how could we forgo using a SRAM AXS Red 1x drivetrain?! Pow! 

However, as happy as we are with all facets of the Red AXS drivetrain, we couldn’t help but run 3T’s own Torno crank in place of the SRAM unit. With its visible carbon weave acting as its calling card, the crank and integrated spider are hard parts to say no to. Interestingly, the solid chainring that makes the crankset complete is a machined-aluminum item that comes to 3T by way of Minnesota and the lads at Wolf Tooth Components.  

Call us slaves to fashion, but when it came to slowing the bike down, we eschewed the standard 160/140 rotor spec in favor of running a pair of 140mm rotors. SRAM winced, but we insisted. Not only does it improve the look of the bike, but it still provided all the stopping power we could ask for.

THE RIDE 

Despite the tight 99cm wheelbase, we came away surprised at how little toe overlap there was, which was very welcomed. Another result of the short wheelbase was that the Strada was a ripper through the twisties. Even more welcoming was the bike’s weight, which delighted us all by hitting the scale at just 15.72 pounds.

Our custom build of the Strada resulted in a noticeable change in ride quality and performance from our original Strada test over two years ago. Industry-wide advancements in 1x gearing and disc brake-focused wheel designs have made the Strada more feasible for modern road riding. 

“Our custom build of the Strada resulted in a noticeable change in ride quality and performance from our original Strada test over two years ago.” 

The biggest difference between the two builds is the Hunt wheelset equipped with 28mm Pirelli P Zero tire combo. This keeps a solid patch of rubber on the road that stays planted over cracks and bumps. We ran 60–65 psi and noticed increased tracking through corners while descending at speed. While this may be confused for the bike being sluggish or less responsive, our post-ride analysis revealed similar times when compared to all-out efforts from different bikes. The benefit of the Strada is how much more comfortable and predictable
the ride quality was during those same efforts.  

A Selle Italia Superflow saddle and 2.5mm Lizard Skins bar tape topped off the contact points.

Climbing and downhill speed are at odds when picking parts for a 1x drivetrain. Thanks to the SRAM AXS cassette range and the 42-tooth chainring, climbing grades under 12 percent felt the same on the Strada as a bike equipped with a semi-compact 52-36 chainring. When the roads got steeper, we did wish for at least a 36-tooth gear.  However, the ease of only having to shift through the rear gears allowed us to hold
our cadence in the 24-, 28- and 33-tooth gears. 

The usual top-end speeds that can usually be hit with a 2x drivetrain was a bit higher than what we could hit with our setup. We found ourselves spinning out around 34 mph. While it may not have enough gears to win a pro criterium sprint, the Strada is more than capable of making it to the finish line.   

Having been developed in a wind tunnel, Hunt’s wide, deep and 1711-gram Limitless wheels were the perfect match for the aero frame.

THE VERDICT

Without a doubt the 3T Strada is both unique and, at times, a perplexing bike. As big of fans of 1x drivetrains as we are, our ride plans were nonetheless complicated by the limited gear range. On climbing days, the 42t chainring forced us to suffer, and on the fast-paced and flat Montrose ride, we’d go through the gears quicker than we’d want. So, our advice for anyone considering the 1x, think first about what kind of riding you do.

For anyone who might be turned off by gearing complications, the good news is that you can get a Strada with a 2x drivetrain. Without a doubt we were probably most impressed that we could get this much bike underneath us that weighed so little.  

While the Strada was originally only available as a frameset, 3T now makes the three bikes available in complete form priced from $3199–$4699. If you’d prefer the fancy frame with a 2x drivetrain, there are also three
models available, ranging from $4995 to $7995.

PUNCH LINES

• Unique design

• 1x or 2x friendly versions

• Fast and quick handling

STATS

Price: $2699 (frameset)

Weight: 15.72 pounds

Sizes: XS, S, M (tested), L, XL

www.3t.bike

THE GEAR

Helmet: Kask Protone 

Jersey: Hedo Arizona Sunset          

Bib: Hedo Masterpiece                  

Shoes: Giro Empire       

Socks: Swiftwick          

Glasses: Oakley Jawbreaker 

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