For most of 2018 I have been on an N+1 campaign, adding time trial bike, a full suspension mountain bike and a new road bike to my line up. That was N+3, or N+4 if you count my girlfriend’s Focus Kao. But as the summer progressed, I started thinking about what my plans are for fall 2018. That is when I started contemplating a gravel bike or adventure bike. Someone at my LBS, Broad Street Cycles had purchased a 3T Exploro. Another had ordered an Open U.P. that sat in the shop for some time on display with its SRAM Force 1-by setup and otherwise fully dialed setup and 650b wheels and 2.0 tires.
On the opportunity to pickup a deal on a 3T Exploro LTD, the lighter version of the Exploro lineup, the Team being about 200g heavier and white, I pounced. I immediately decided to sell a little used Focus Paralane, a wonderful fendered road disc bike, and my beloved Focus Mares CX with Shimano Di2 and XT rear derailleur with 1x setup using a Wolf 40T and an 11-34T Shimano Cassette.
With those two bikes quickly sold, I was able to fund this new project. I had kept a set of 700C/Hope Evo wheels laced to Pacenti TL28 rims. I mounted a set of Panaracer Gravel King tires. Longer term, I’ll mount 32C Continental GP 4/Season tires on these wheels for road riding and commuting. But for the start of this bike, these will be its only wheels.
- Frameset: 3T Exploro LTD, Post-mount brakes, Size Large
- Bar and Stem: Shimano Pro Vibe Di2 compatible bar and stem, 10-degree 12cm length and 42cm wide bar.
- Saddle: Fizik Arione R1 carbon-railed
- Shifters: Shimano 8000 Di2 hydro.
- Chain ring: Wolf 40T (42T alternate on hand)
- Cassette: Shimano XT 11-42T
- Rear Derailleur: Shimano XT Di2
- Brakes: Shimano BR785 brakes with XT 160mm rotors
- Chain: XTR/Dura Ace 11s
Two wheelsets, the 650B set I just finished building last weekend:
- Hope Evo Pro2 40T hubset, 28h, blue, 3x/2x Sapim Race spokes, Pacenti TL28 tubeless rims. Panaracer Gravel King 38 x 700C tires. Stan’s tape and Sealant.
- Hope Evo Pro2 40T hubset, 32h, black, 3x Sapim CX-Ray spokes, alloy nipples, Light-Bicycle 650b hookless carbon rims, 320g ea. Schwalbe 2.1″ x 650b G-One Bites. Gorrila tape and Stan’s Sealant.
Later on, I have a third wheelset planned: Hope RS4 centerlock disc, 24h front and rear laced with CX-Rays to Light-Bicycle 36mm deep, bead-hooked rims. I’ll mount the Panaracer Gravel Kings to this wheelset and install 32C Continental GP 4/Season tires onto the TL28 wheelset.
My first ride was on the TL28/Panaracers set to 40PSI. It was a road ride with a group of riding buddies on their carbon aero road bikes. My road bike was in the shop so I rode the 3T. Despite riding a max 40 x 11T, I had very little difficulty keeping pace. Only on the steeper descents did I fall back somewhat. The group was impressed that despite these wide gravel tires I was able to hang and even contest a sprint or two.
The second ride, I joined up with my pal Ty to loop around town mostly on our beloved rails-to-trails Galloping Goose trail network and hookup into Thetis Lake for some fast, flowing singletrack before returning to The Goose. My first impression was just how stable and road-bike-like this rig is. I could easily see myself on the saddle for hours on end. Reaching no-handed to the jersey pockets is done with ease at it plants itself in the direction you point it. Then, a bit suprisingly, the bike sprung to life in the singletrack. The uncanny ability this slack-head-angled bike to carve into the corners with lazer precision is only possible by designer Vroomen’s perfect mix of head-angle and fork rake.
Ty, riding his Colnago CX struggled to meet my cornering and eventually erred in a turn and went into the bushes. Mind you, to follow a wheels is arguably harder than being in the lead, especially in single track rolling terrain. However, Ty lamented how quick I was compared to the last time I rode this same trail on my Focus Mares CX bike, a steed I sold to help fund this do-it-all whip.
My third ride was a quick burst out to the Great Trail, a section of the Trans-Canada trail network and renowned for its technically steep pathways. The newly built 650b carbon wheels and Schwalbe G-One Bites did not disappoint. The gearing was just what this trail asks for, and unlike scooting around on The Goose, I was working my way right through the cluster. The threat of darkness shortened this ride, but I got enough taste of what this 3T Exploro is all about.
I am looking forward to more gravel and offroad riding on this highly capable and surprisingly wonderful to ride bike.