I had a great time riding the 3T Exploro LTD and I was totally in awe not only of its ability on the rough stuff but also of how good it was on road
This epic bike convinced me that aero does matter when going off-road and it was a joy to ride on Cycling Weekly’s first epic adventure earlier this year, so I had to include in the Editor’s Choice awards. Not only that, it is a bike that equally works well on road, feeling fast and lightweight. Ideal for anything wanted to ride multiple terrains week in week out.
I have to admit, I was one of the first to sneer at 3T’s big claims of how good the new 3T Exploro aero adventure bike is. I was sceptical of the idea that an adventure bike can also be an aero bike and doubted a bike this pricey could do any more than a cheaper, more accessible one. How wrong was I?
Testing for me was in two parts, the first being the big Welsh epic adventure during the summer and then secondly further testing back home on normal day-to-day rides. What surprised me was the Exploro’s ability to do it all, and to do it all very well.
The 3T Exploro burst onto the scene a few years ago as 3T’s first attempt at a bike. The brand has been pushing innovation for well over 50 years now, and its launch meant the Italian brand could own and control the complete bike system.
3T uses a unidirectional carbon for the frame and fork and has finely tuned it along with the geometry to offer great handling off and on road. While its lightweight construction, around 1,500g for the frame and fork, helps the Exploro feel lively and fast and not heavy or unwilling, it doesn’t mean it is fragile either.
What did 3T do to make the Exploro faster when going slower? Well, it tested it in the wind tunnel at realistic speeds. Instead of the 30mph that companies use normally, 3T dropped it to 20mph.
The great Welsh adventure. As you can see, they made me carry most of the tent!
With that 3T has given the down tube a good width to catch the airflow coming off the fat tyres at the front. This measures 50mm and instead of making the tube profile teardrop-shaped and deep to minimise drag, 3T’s engineers cleverly squared off the down tube at 75mm limiting surface drag and maintaining an aero advantage. The brand calls this Sqaero and also uses it on the head tube, seat tube, seatstays and seatpost for stiffness and strength purposes in addition.
It’s claimed that this bike is actually more aero with water bottles attached and on 40mm knobbly tyres than a standard round-tube bike with 28mm tyres! Big claims, but no data has been supplied to support that.
I have no doubt that the claims are true. The bike feels rapid. But once I added all my bike bags and kit, no matter how aero the bike was before it certainly wasn’t after I had finished with it. Where else was I going to put my Coco Pops? So the speedy feel isn’t all down to aero…
You can choose between 700c or 650b wheels and that means you can go as wide as 54mm with the tyres, which is mountain biker territory!
My build comes with the new gravel wheels from Enve called G23 and they weigh around 1,300g. Absolutely epic for what they are intended for, Enve calls this “mountain strong and road fast.” They are tubeless ready using hookless rims like those found on mountain bike wheels that should make it easier to mount tyres compared to hook-style rims.
A whopping 23mm internal rim width with a 25mm depth takes anything between 35 to 45mm tyres.
Enve bar and stem finish off the job, and along with Shimano Di2 and XT rear mech makes this one special and expensive build. I’m using a 44 ring and 42 cassette in of course a one-by set-up – you can go two-by with the smallest inner ring being 36t and the max outer being 50t.
This build costs £7,000 plus, which is insane, but I like it and if you want to have a few bikes in one, why not make it this one?
Out of all the bikes I’ve ridden in this setting, I enjoyed this the most and that isn’t just because of my expensive taste either. It was hammered, while being fully laden with kit for sleeping and general travel. It smashed down mtb chutes and glided along flat gravel roads with ease and not once did the bike or any of the components let me down, not even with a puncture, and that is because it was set up tubeless, which sealed up once.
Some of those bikes include adventure and cross bikes alike. This just feels like it has the march on all of those.
The bike fully stacked weighed over 12kg but the 3T Exploro took it all in its stride. Even out on the road it felt happy to pull along. Thankfully I got some time on the road without the baggage and it nips around beautifully. The wide off-road tyres just wanting you to be playful and silly, riding up things on the side of the road just for the heck of it.
That is the beauty of the 3T Exploro: even if it never touched the rough stuff it would make an excellent road bike. Whip the off-road tyres off of course. It is lightweight, nippy and very predictable without being slow.
The off-road ability of the bike was only limited to what my wrists could take and that is down to the fact that this bike doesn’t have suspension. I was surprised the three of us made it down some mountain bike chutes (I couldn’t really see anything thanks to the rattling) but even hitting big rocks and even getting some air (I’m talking centimetres here) the wheels and the frame just kept on trucking.
I used the 3T Exploro with 700c wheels and a 42mm tyre front and rear. I didn’t feel I needed to go wider with a 650b but I’m keen to try it. I think for the more technical stuff you will want to go wide and a little softer with the tyres so maybe decide on the wheelset when you know what type of terrain you are most likely going to ride.
If your adventures are a little more tame, 700c with 42mm gravel tyres will be ideal.
I found on the rough stuff, especially on the trip across Wales, that the 44-tooth chainring was a little too big. I could have done with at least a 42 or even smaller! I found that when travelling, especially fully laden, that you are either in the biggest gear going fast downhill or the smallest gear trying to lug yourself up a climb.
I know this is a decent amount of money, but if you are serious about adventure riding then this bike will not let you down. Change the tyres and you have an awesome roadgoing bike as well – 3T has got this bike right and if you wanted one bike to suit all adventures here it is.
The 3T Exploro surprised me and as an expensive bit of kit it did everything I needed and more for a thrilling and capable ride. I can't award it a 10 because of the price but if your riding needs to take on every adventure then this can carry everything you need, ride down everything you want and then ride like a very good road bike on the road.