The road bike you never knew you needed
3T claims to have “re-invented the aero road bike” with their new Strada frame. And it’s hard to argue this claim. The Strada is a 1x (single chainring), disc brake road bike, aero-optimized for 28mm tires. You might be wondering “sure aerodynamic sounds good, but why in the world would I want a road bike with one chainring and wide tires?” Well, over the next 998 words, I intend to not only convince you that the Strada is the future of road bikes, but have you rushing out the door to get one for yourself.
The frame can be summed up in one word: stiff. There is very little flex laterally and vertically, a common trait with aero bikes. This gives you a frame that is very quick to accelerate and seems to jump with every pedal stroke.
The frame geometry is race oriented. My size medium comes with a stack (536mm), reach (381mm) and head tube angle (73 degrees), very comparable to a Specialized Tarmac.
In terms of aerodynamics, the Strada is wind tunnel tested and optimized for realistic speeds (32 – 48 km/h). I recently went for a ride on a gusty day and the bike felt great, slipping easily through a 30 km/h headwind. In the crosswinds, the bike also handled very well for an aero bike, thanks in part to the Enve 4.5 AR Disc wheels which have a wide cross-section to improve aerodynamics at larger yaw angles.
There are many small aero details on the Strada like multi-position bottle mounts on the downtube (If you only want one bottle, mount it low on the downtube for improved aero effect. If you want to carry a bottle on the seat tube as well, mount the downtube bottle cage on the upper posts).
What about comfort? Vertical compliance 3T says that by using wider tires at lower tire pressures, better vertical compliance can be achieved than with frame flex.
Wider = Faster + More comfortable. A win-win!
A lot of factors affect rolling resistance, tire pressures, tire width, sidewall construction, etc. A quick google search about wider tires will reveal several different studies that show, in real-world conditions, wider tires have lower rolling resistance. The physics of hysteretic losses in tires is outside the scope of this review, but I’d encourage you to do some research, and check out the GCN youtube channel before you buy your next pair of wheels. In my opinion, wider tires are probably the single biggest upgrade you can make to your road bike.
I’m running Enve 4.5 AR Disc wheels with Schwalbe Pro One 28mm tubeless tires. The rims are 49mm and 55mm deep, with an internal width of 25mm. Due to the wide rim, my Schwalbe tires are just 31.5 mm wide. As you can see from the picture, this doesn’t leave a lot of clearance!
For most rides, I will run my tires at 62-65 psi, which for me (61 kg) provides an efficient comfortable ride over most asphalt. If my planned ride has a lot of gravel or chip seal, I will drop the pressure by ~5 psi for a little extra comfort.
As previously mentioned, The Strada is a 1x specific bike. This increases the aerodynamics by eliminating the front derailleur and a chainring (the area around the bottom bracket has particularly turbulent airflow, so any reduction improves aerodynamics).
Next time you go out for a ride, look carefully at the gear combinations you really use. You might be surprised to discover the amount of overlap on your 2x bike! With a 1x drivetrain, you eliminate all of this overlap, reduce weight, improve aerodynamics and improve chainline.
I would recommend you use a website (like the Sheldon Brown gear calculator (https://www.sheldonbrown.com/gear-calc.html) to figure out what size chainring/cassette you’ll need. For me, I went with a 46 tooth chainring with an 11-32 cassette. This equals roughly 85% of the gear ratios of my old 34/50 with an 11-28 cassette, and is more than enough gearing for southern Ontario! If I’m headed somewhere steeper (like Mont-Tremblant Quebec, where it’s not uncommon to see 20% grades), I will swap out the 46 tooth for a 42 tooth chainring. Even with the 42 tooth chainring, I can still pedal at 52 km/h, fast enough for most group rides.
Right now, I’ve got SRAM eTap disc with a Force 1x crankset. The SRAM shifters are a great choice for 1x, as the shifter paddles shift in opposite directions. If you’re used to Shimano STI, don’t worry the switch to eTap is very intuitive.
A quick scan of the bike shop (and even the pro peloton) shows that road disc is here to stay. Discs offer better stopping power in all weather conditions and better modulation (i.e., better control). I am a big proponent of road disc (full disclosure: I started as a mountain biker, where disc brakes became standard decades ago). That said, my only complaint so far with this bike is the SRAM Red discs. The initial setup was a little complicated, with some serious tweaking required to prevent brake rub. On the road, the pad engagement and modulation simply weren’t befitting of a $10k superbike. I am considering a switch to Dura-ace Di2 to solve the braking situation.
I’m running an Enve aero road stem (120mm), Enve aero bar (42 cm centre to centre, in the drops), Garmin Vector 3 pedals, and a Specialized Toupe saddle. The Garmin Vector 3 pedals pair easily with a Garmin 1000, but require a little more work to pair with older models. There is a Garmin connect mobile app that works on the iPhone, but if you’re an Android user, the app doesn’t seem to work with the Vector 3’s (as of September 2018). The only other thing worth mentioning is with the Enve aero bar. Because of the flare on this bar, a 42cm bar is actually 37mm c-c at the hoods. Better for aero positioning but feels narrow at first.
Overall, I’m extremely happy with my new 3T Strada. At 16.5 LBS (with pedals and bottle cage), it’s light, fast, aero and comfortable. 1x, discs, wide tires, and aero are the way of the future. See you on the road!
-Anonymous former Bike Depot Employee