Featured Bike: Rusty’s 3T Exploro Gravel Bike with Shimano Di2

Founded in 1961, 3T was first known as 3TTT – Tecnologia del Tubo Torino (Turin Tube Technology). The Milano based company has always pushed the envelope with its component designs. Remembered for its lightweight handlebars that were the cutting edge of lightweight in the 1970’s, all the way through the 1980’s when the focus shifted to aerodynamics. Riders such as Francesco Moser relied on the company’s aerodynamic bullhorn handlebar design to assist with capturing the world hour record, one that stood for many years.

3T still maintains an emphasis on aerodynamics, but not just for road and track bicycles. The company believes gravel bikes can benefit from a clean aerodynamic profile – “Go Slow Faster” – is the company’s slogan for gravel bike aerodynamics.

At the heart of the 3T Exploro is the company’s “Sqaero” technology”, best explained by 3T themselves:

“The key to the Exploro’s speed is the aero downtube that is wide enough to catch the airflow coming off the big front tire (a skinny downtube wouldn’t even touch the airflow). But at 50mm wide, we cannot use a full airfoil shape as the tube would be 150-200mm deep, causing too much surface drag.”

“So we square off the tail, keeping most of the aero performance with a 50x75mm cross section that is also close to perfect for strength and stiffness; our Sqaero shape. The wide downtube also effectively shields the water bottles.”

This example of the 3T Exploro belongs to Rusty of the Gravel Cyclist crew.

Rusty has chosen to set his Exploro apart from the crowd, with a build featuring pink highlights as a homage to his wife Pam, a breast cancer survivor. Rusty is also the promoter of the Big Scrub Gravel Buzz, an Ocala, Florida, area gravel ride / race, with proceeds from the event going to the Ocala chapter of Making Strides Against Breast Cancer.

Top Gear Bicycles of Ocala, Florida was instrumental in this build. The shop is co-owned by Ryan Woodall, a former 30+ Men’s National Cyclocross Champion, and very handy gravel rider. Be thankful he mostly sticks to local events close to Ocala and Gainesville, Florida :mrgreen:

Starting at the front end, Rusty has chosen an all 3T cockpit with handlebars suitably wrapped in pink/black.

Shimano’s electronic Di2 group is the shifting system of choice on Rusty’s Exploro. When bled appropriately, the ST-R785 brake / shift levers provide gobs of stopping power with modulation and control, in any weather.

Slung beneath the 3T Team ARX stem is the Shimano Di2 Junction-A box. Shimano has since released the EW-RS910 Junction A box, which installs into the handlebar end plug. The newer solution is certainly more elegant and discreet, but there is no denying the ease of accessibility to wiring when the junction box is within easy reach.

Above, 3T Ergonova Pro aluminium handlebar and ARX Team stem.

Rusty prefers his stem and handlebars to be as clutter free as possible, and chooses to mount his computer on the top tube. Additionally, the computer is well protected in the event of a crash.

The Exploro is versatile; 3T provide a fixing point for a “bento box” / top tube bag.

Above, the rear hydraulic brake housing and Di2 electronic cable are routed into the frame behind the headtube. Very reminiscent of a certain road bike brand…

The BB386 EVO compatible FSA SL-K crankset is paired to 46 / 36 chainrings. Shimano’s Ultegra Di2 11-speed front derailleur handles the shifting, while the company’s venerable XTR pedals put the power to the drivetrain.

Above, a view of the Exploro’s unique chainstay design. Optimized for 700c and 650B wheels, the Exploro can accept a wide range of rubber between its stays.

The photo above doesn’t really do the clearance justice, but there is plenty of room between the chainstays for the 700c x 35mm Kenda Flintridge tubeless tyres.

Above, the philosophy of GravelPlus. One bike, two wheel sizes, three tyres to do it all. Jack of all trades?

On the rear, Shimano’s superb Ultegra Di2 11-speed GS (mid-cage) rear derailleur.

Above, a very tight cassette by gravel cycling standards – a Shimano Ultegra 11-23 11-speed cassette. But have no fear, Rusty does swap to a more appropriately geared cassette for those times he rides in more hilly or mountainous terrain.

Above, pink Industry Nine Torch hubs form the basis of Rusty’s “training” wheelset on the Exploro. Rims are DT Swiss R460db’s. For racing, he relies on the American Classic Race 29’er wheelset.

It’s all about the details people. Pink valves add to the class factor. Naturally, Kenda’s Flintridge Pro tyres are configured tubeless.

Shimano 160mm brake rotors adorn the front and rear of Rusty’s Exploro – and pink aluminium rotor bolts complete the wheelset.

Note, the Exploro eschews the latest flat-mount brake standard for the tried and true post-mount. Shimano RS785 brake caliper pictured.

Above, the excellent 3T Luteus II fork. This fork has massive tyre clearance – we reviewed the Lynskey GR250 fitted with this fork – there was still plenty room to move, even with a 29’er by 2″ tyre like the Schwalbe Furious Fred fitted!

Not well portrayed in this photo is the post-mount for the Shimano RS785 front hydraulic brake caliper on the 3T Luteus II fork.

If you look carefully at the left chainstay above, you may notice a very slight bulge. Rusty’s 3T Exploro has been expertly repaired by the Frame Doctor of Sanford, Florida.

During Rusty’s fourth ride on the Exploro, part of his route took him through a tricky section of sand. On the injury comeback, Rusty didn’t have his usual power on tap, ground to a halt, and fell over on his left side into the sand. Thankfully, it was a soft landing! The negative? The chainstay cracked, under what many would consider a very light impact, especially when cushioned by sand.

Before the repair work was performed.

The crack is on the inside of the chainstay, which is unusual considering Rusty’s fall was to the outside of the tube. Unfortunately, the problem wasn’t warrantied by 3T, but Rusty chose to have the frame repaired. On the positive, the repair is far stronger than when the frame was new. The moral of the story here – if you crash a frame, particularly one of carbon fiber construction, be diligent and give it a thorough inspection before riding it again.

Above, Rusty at speed on his reinvigorated 3T Exploro! After a very rough 2016 and 2017 involving two bicycle/vehicle altercations, the Gravel Cyclist crew is stoked to see Rusty back and enjoying cycling again!

Arundle’s Mandible bottle cages with pink accents complete the look of Rusty’s Exploro.

The 3T aero seatpost features a simple clamp mechanism that holds tight and secure. Ordinarily, the Shimano Di2 internal battery would be located inside the seatpost. Because there is no physical room inside the post, the battery is positioned inside the downtube, above the bottom bracket.

The Fizik Arione saddle is a favorite among the Gravel Cyclist crew.

Even though the 3T Exploro is marketed as a gravel bike, it screams speed just sitting still. It is no wonder the frame is the choice of the Panaracer Gravel Team.

Rusty’s 3T Exploro Gravel Bike:

  • Frame: 3T Exploro.
  • Fork: 3T Luteus II, 15mm thru-axle.
  • Headset: 3T tapered.
  • Stem: 3T Team ARX.
  • Handlebar: 3T Ergonova Pro aluminium.
  • Bar Tape: Lizard Skin.
  • Brakes: Shimano RS785.
  • Brake Rotors: Shimano 160mm.
  • Brake / Shift Levers: Shimano ST-R785.
  • Front Derailleur: Shimano Ultegra 6800 Di2.
  • Rear Derailleur: Shimano Ultegra 6800 Di2 GS (mid-cage).
  • Cassette: Shimano Ultegra 6800 11-speed 11-23 or 11-32.
  • Chain: KMC X11 11-speed.
  • Crankset: FSA SL-K crankset with 46 / 36 chainrings.
  • Bottom Bracket: 3T BB386 EVO.
  • Pedals: Shimano XTR PD-M980.
  • Wheelset: Custom DT Swiss R460db wheels with Industry Nine Torch hubs, tubeless.
  • Tires: Kenda Flintridge Pro, 700c x 35mm.
  • Saddle: Fizik Arione.
  • Seatpost: 3T Aero carbon.
  • Bottle Cages: Arundel Mandible.

3T Cycling

If you own a unique gravel bike you’d like to see featured on Gravel Cyclist, please contact us.

10 comments on “Featured Bike: Rusty’s 3T Exploro Gravel Bike with Shimano Di2

  1. Wow, such attention to detail! After smashing one Garmin mounted on the stem, I will be moving the mount to the TT. Great write up!

          1. The LAGG has been told that if glasses didn’t exist, he’d be classed as “legally blind!!”……that’s why I sold that Garmin I won in a competition, I kept on getting chin rash whiles trying to read the damn thing…..

            Nice bike, too.

  2. I thought carbon fiber was stronger than steel?. I’m sure real steel wouldn’t crack in half just tipping over in soft sugar sand.
    Sure sounds like a warrantee issue to me!
    Weird.
    K-Dogg

    1. Every manufacturers warranty covers a defect in their product. Crashing is not a defect or the manufacturers fault. Nowhere does 3t say this frame is designed to withstand the impact of crashing. This bike is designed to be lightweight, cheat the wind and go fast which is exactly what you get. It sucks when things like this happen but at least carbon is repairable for a couple hundred dollars.

      1. Can’t speak to anyone else’s experiences but I have had much worse crashes than what was described, with no broken frames…carbon or other material. In some cases multiple crashes to the same frame. I’ve also had a frame replaced at reduced cost “crash replacement warranty” when I and the manufacturer both explicitly acknowledged it wasn’t a defect, but an accident. It was good business and made me a repeat buyer, and advocate for that brand.
        So, I think this is good information to potential buyers of 3T. They may be more prone to breaking from very minor crashes and it seems unlikely that 3T is interested in helping out with your accident. Instead, you might want to buy from manufacturers who are willing to help out and keep you as a customer. Giant, and Litespeed, in my experience. I’m sure there are others.

  3. Lovely build 😎
    Disappointing to read that 3T declined to help with the warranty issue though. I had some 3T handlebars that cracked during fitting (evenly torqued to less than max torque) and they weren’t interested. Very poor backup, never buying 3T again.

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