Wednesday 24 October 2018

3T Strada Pro Review - First Impressions

First Impressions Summary:
super bike looks, ride, speed, feel and handling at pro bike cost:
The 3T Strada Pro blue paintwork is stunning and prefer it to Red, Black and other blue available in higher spec frame.
The 3T Strada Pro begs for speed like a tri / TT bike, has the geometry to most likely handle extensions properly like a TT bike (I cannot stand the twitchy handling of road bike geo with extensions) but handles like a road bike when you need to do a group ride / road race; and as such can probably replace both my road and tri bike in one. 

Strada 3T pro first review Highs

  • Rolls, rides and handles like a superbike, with the geometry to handle extensions for TT (yet to be tested)
  • All carbon contact where you expect on a super bike (crank, bars, seta post) / more expensive bike, lacking in similar priced complete pro level bikes

  • Stunning paint, details and details, everywhere you look
  • Quarq power ready is nice, and again a super-bike detail
  • It seems to do both: it is definitely replacing my shiv, and may even replaced my tarmac, in a way the Venge, and even the Cervelo S series, etc has never managed to seem convincing. The Strada is not a compromise like all other aero-road bikes I have tested; its an evolution, and you get the feeling Gerard Vroomen has made here the bike he has always wanted to make. Now that, its a privilege in itself, and is a bike I want to ride and ride!

  • It begs you to give it (and have) Summer peak fitness in October, yet unlike a tri bike, you can sit back and enjoy when you are just not rested enough or (insert one of many reasons) you just can't wind it up to 11

  • Its perfectly poised and comfortable on all terrains and in both the wet and dry I have tested so far, though with a slightly different rebound rate, more if which in final thoughts below.
  • The stealth aerobat is very, very nice and worthy of a review in itself.
  • The seatpost comes with anchors for bottle cage, etc and is the hardest seat tube I have ever cut, though it has slipped down on a wet ride.
  • You know you are riding the future; everybody asks what’s it like, in the way that you know they want one!
  • Handling, again, was able to tail whip on harsh braking shows it likes to play, and can play, but was in no way worrying to me or other riders, like other disc brake bikes I have seen squirrel under hard braking. In short I hit every corner and downhill section at the speed I reserve for my best handling bikes, but on the first ride out.
    Stunning details everywhere you look. The seat stays are wire-thin, seat post has plenty of clearance but still noticeably "aero-close". A fine piece of Italian design it is.

Strada 3T pro first review Lows

  • The wheels are alloy rather than carbon, and initially thought I would be swapping them straight out, however so far I did not notice the extra weight on the (7% average) box hill climb at least, but will come back on this one. So far they sound and roll as good as anything I have ridden, I like the 35mm sweet spot (the most aero I have tried that I never needed to/wanted to ease off with on a windy section) am enjoying the extra stiffness

  • Saddle - overly long old school long thin wedgie special… swapped before first ride, and at this level I am usually picking more serious and hard to change things like swapping out crap allow handlebars that need a re-wrap and often even new cabling..
  • Seatpost slipped on first wet ride, fixed by actually adding the supplied carbon paste... yes I know I should know better... thank you...
  • Having to cut seatpost with this design, as with shiv, etc. But then if it does replace a TT bike (which requires even more fettling) then I will forgive that, there was something also very satisfying at how hard the carbon was to cut!
  • it came without bar tape installed… If I had known I would have ordered another tape I like, but no biggie, am going with what came for now and it has great grip in wet, which is handy from October on in UK!
  • Would like to have the option to go even wider, with 28c tyres on Enve 4.5ARs, Reynolds ATR maybe, but some have said they get rub at this side... will proceed with caution, but do not want to drop a fortune on wheels at mo
  • The brakes have a long, long amount of travel before they kick in, I can adjust to that in general, however it makes one finger braking difficult on rougher tarmac fast sections (despite what people in the world may think, that in Britain we have roads as smooth as a cucumber sandwich with the crusts cut off, the truth is that British road surfaces are truly woeful) as the lever starts cutting into the fingers that are holding the bar. This may have a fix and will investigate, and from first investigations is not a 3T /3T bar issue but a road disc brake issue....

Coming from a Specialized Shiv and Specialized tarmac as my go-to road bikes, and having since converted them both to 1X for their reliability and simplicity, having also made the transition from triple to double to 1X on the mountain bike, from triple to double to 1x on the road bike - when the 3T Strada came out I knew I wanted one: the question was what build... enter the Strada Pro making it all very easy
The Strada 3T Pro instantly feels at home on your usual routes, scoring Strava trophies even on gentle rides
I had also been fitting ever fatter tyres and wondering whether to go disc brake or not. I did not get my tarmac in 2016 in an s-works disc version, as I did not like the fact that rear hubs still seemed (and turned out to be) in flux and that the brakes were non series in the Shimano I looked at at the time at least - so you were getting all dura ace or Ultegra groupset, except the brakes, which were Shimano Rxxx or whatever they were. while both the Shiv and Tarmac now handle 25mm tyres on 21mm wide runs (making them a 28mm tyre) that is pushing it and the Strada should handle 28mm on wide rims, which I will be trying next.
With a bike that looks this good, prepared to hear a lot of "nice bike" comments - if you are shy, get the black frame option
I also still have to say, there is something cleaner, lighter and simpler about a top-end rim brake bike, at least from a purist point of view: I have gone to a lot of effort to select mostly blacked out and to my  spec parts for my bike, like scouring the internet for limited edition sram red black edition brakes, which are not only more powerful than the gawky red, silver ones, but are also dual pivot. The bike is, as some would say, sick. However the minute it rains, or you are on a hard downhill after a hard uphill, tired, etc. the is no question that disc brakes are better.
One of the finest top-caps in industry. Cable routing requires some trimming at some point when I dial in the stem / cut steerer, etc.

Why get a Strada 3T, Pro or otherwise

So first off, the Strada 3T for me was  one of those biles that when it was launched I went “oh hello” someone has designed a bike just for me :) 
  1. I have been converting road bikes to 1x for years, frustrated by the fact that the only thing to go on long rides or play havoc with a race for me had ever been front chain drops due to front derailed issues or chain dirt issues that a front derailed is just not well equipped to handle.
  2. I love short chainstays
  3. I never could live with bar extensions on a pure road bike as the geometry makes them twitchy - that maybe fine in a closed road pro-race, but for amateurs that is downright dangerous, and I will never draft someone using this combo for that reason. This promises to change that, and if so will be replacing my tri specific bike in 2019
  4. I hate chain slap and 1X cures this
  5. The only thing I hate more than chainslap is chain drop, and on a 2x roadbike it is always into the frame, which is just awful and costs a lot of time in a race and requires you to man wrench the chain physically with the bike upside down... ugh. On 1x its always outwards, and can be reattached in seconds, without inverting the bike or touching the chain (tyre lever / stick).
  6. love wide clearance
  7. love aero
  8. I have to admit I had been looking at the Strada 3T for a while
Box Hill in the rain is not my first choice, but the bike handled it admirably, here you can see where I forgot to add carbon paste to seat post assembly and the post slipped in the wet... The bike comes with a pouch of it for a reason doh!
Make no mistake, this is a super bike. Whilst some may scoff and say that this has a cheaper carbon layup that it’s team level sibling, there is never a feeling that this has been paired down to encourage you to upgrade: it comes with carbon bars, carbon seatpost, and a killer paint job that is arguably better than it’s more expensive siblings. If I had to nitpick, which many will, it would be at the alloy wheels, coming in at a hefty 1700+ grams vs the 1500 of carbon equivalents, however I cannot really do that as they sound, accelerate, corner and perform impeccably to the point that everybody who has ridden it thinks they are carbon. They also come in at 20c internal width, which makes them more difficult to immediately change out, as I thought I would and the bike snob within us urges us to do.
You know you are dealing with a design icon, the minute you set eyes on the 3T Strada in the flesh
When you know you are riding a super bike is at key moments, like being able to go as fast as you would on your well known bike on descents and corners, where you would normally er with caution, until you work out a non super bikes quirks.
I had never stopped at this hill before, but after two weeks of longhaul travel, the Strada was asking me for speed I just could not keep delivering! Here with Quarq power ready dzero spider power meter added and the "Quarq ready" sticker removed :)
You also know you are riding a super bike when you get a bit of tail whip at 20-30 while hard braking on your first proper ride, it was wet, the tyres were not even bedded in, and you just carry on with a smile on your face thing “wow, this bike handles”

Immediate upgrades:

  • Saddle

3T Strada Pro upcoming upgrades:

  • Quarq power spider dzero to do the sram / quark (added already)
  • Overdrive / bailout casette (Arrived, waiting to install)
  • Qrings down to 44t to match bailout (in my stock cupboard, tho may go for 46T...)
  • XD-R drive (arrived)
  • barfly extension (blacked out) ready to install but cannot find a torque wrench that works with the reverse bolts of the excellent Arx stem
  • extensions for triathlon days / tri training

3T Strada Pro upgrade wishlist

  • a wheel set that is almost 30mm wide external, 21mm + internal to go 28mm with the tyres that plump up to 30 external but with a smooth transition between tyre and rim
  • torno crankset for the hills??? having done the Dzero upgrade this may not make sense, but the torno is nice!

A couple of final thoughts at this stage on the 3T Strada Pro:

I was initially having a what are they doing moment when I saw this bike came with a medium cage rather than long cage rear force 1 (medium will go up to 36t, long up to 42T rear cassette) but then saw that 3T has what maybe a better solution: a 9-32. This achieves a few things: 1) not having to listen to dinosaur roadies quip (look at that satellite dish / paella pan / other tired comment) when seeing a 42t cassette 2) it may, may, be easier to keep in tune, easier on drive train? the 42t rear on a road seems to be beyond some bike mechanics to get right, especially with q-rings, 3) its definitely lighter and possibly even a simpler solution, with both a 44T up front and only 9-32 out back, vs 50T and a 10-42T.

One thing I have also noticed as well is that the wire-thin seat stays combined with super rigid rest of frame create a slightly different rebound rate of the flex from what I am used to, and it can lead to going slightly wide on certain roads. Coming from mountain bikes I get that, but pure roadies may not realise this, specially if they are like a lot of my riding friends who go "yes I know there is overwhelming evidence that I need to run my 25c tyres at a lower pressure but I just cannot help myself and am at 100 PSI" lol. You know who you are. I cannot wait to try a wider tyre / rim combo that the bike was designed for and dial in the tyre pressure.