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.

Monday, 24 September 2018

1X triathlon bike for age groupers, amateur triathlete, etc

Does 1x road setup work for a triathlon or 70.3

Does 1X work in the real world for Joe Blogs on the street trying to get through a Triathlon, Ironman or a time trial?
Ready for just one shifter in your next event? You should be - read on to see why I feel so from my experience
First of all, getting a Tri bike fitted is not just like any other bike - you need a fit, and that fit takes into account many things, all of them static in a room, not out there in a field, in an amateur's case with many people who have never raced in a group before, or have too much testosterone ... and that all adds up to having to just worry about one hand focussed on shifting being a good thing, especially if you are mechanical shifting! 

But that is all subjective, what about in a race as the results, well it just so happened I went 1X on my first middle distance event to throw myself in the deep end and find out :)

If you can manage a smile on a 19% hill too many; you know 1X was the right choice!
Well the short answer is yes, it does, and the data I use as proof of that is that using a 1x set-up I not only:

  1.  Managed one of the steepest 70.3 courses on a 48t 11-36 set-up, with 19% and 1400m of ascent, many propose the gearing either has to be too tall or too short which is Weymouth 70.30 bike course, but 
  2. Also managed the same top speed, over 76km/h, as my colleague who did the whole event two hours quicker than my and qualified for the 70.3 World Champs, so again, enough gearing to keep up on the downs.
  3. It was also one of the bumpiest courses I have ever been on, with some sections seeing competitors dropping chains, and hearing the awful sound of steel chain smacking against carbon chainstays all around me, but not my chain or chainstasy, and that is even without a clutch derailleur.
17% gradient 61.9km into the bike leg of an IM 70.3 and 76km/h max show that 1X has the range even for an amateur
So headline facts of why I consider the experiment a success dealt with, let's get on with the more subjective stuff of feel, and confidence going into my first 70.3 distance event with a 1x I had only tested in Richmond park beforehand... as well as the other benefits, especially for a triathlon bike set-up, and two other key factors of why I am never going back to 2X...
Sram XX 11-36t Cassette and a 48T got me up 19% gradients and a 76.8km/h top speed - who says 1x lacks range!
I normally ride a 50t or a 52t with a wider 11-42t cassette range, and yes, the extra top-end flexibility is nice, but if you look at the stats you can easily extract out of a di2 groupset - you will see you only ever use your top gear in anger for very short period of time, and if you cannot get the RPM, I suggest getting a singlespeed and working on your range, there really is nothing easier to maintain in winter either (other than couping yourself up on a turbo / rollers...).
Having only tested in Richmond park did not prepare me for the long, rough IM 70.3 Weymouth Course
One problem I did have was not finding the time to take the bike to anywhere like the hills I would face in Weymouth. It turns out however, no matter how bad you may think some of the surrey roads are / can be, it was nothing compared to the Weymouth IM 70.3 course, where in one part I even heard someone in a Yorkshire accent say "should have brought me gravel bike"... Now for those of you not familiar with UK regional nuances; if a "true grit" Yorkshireman says a road is rough... its probably quite rough :). 

Other reasons I choose 1x for triathlons: no dropped chains

Anecdotes aside, even gravel bike rough roads did not unsettle the chain, which in races costs you time, can seriously damage your frame, usually damages it cosmetically (costing you resale money / potential warranty issues) and can be downright dangerous. For me, aside from the bullets above
the XX 11-36t was a game changer when it came out, and is still a superlight, superbike-worthy piece of kit

Other reasons I chose 1x Tri / TT setup: simplicity, safety and weight

So let's get to the meat. I bought a reduced low-end Shiv and seriously upgraded the wheels and crank; two areas of rotating weight, and for me two key contact areas; one with the road, the other with yourself!

Let's be clear, while fast on the flat, and surprisingly so also a good handler when pointing down, anything other than top-end Shivs come with a very heavy alloy cock-pit and fairly basic shifting. While the Sram Rival rear to me is not a problem, the non indexed front at probably even a lower level in the Sram range was a serious "you have to be joking me" moment the first time I rode it. This is not a Sram or Specialized choice of kit issue, this is a Tri / TT issue that means you have fiddle around changing front gears while not having access (in a UK set-up at least) to your all important rear brake. This is a major safety issue, not just the time and physical hand coordination, but also concentration: only having to think about gears with one hand makes one less thing to worry about.

Then their is the weight, while going 1X I also swapped the alloy bar for a Zipp 40mm drop (more on that another time) and used some deda extensions that are the only comfortable extensions I have ever used and really meant for putting on the front of a road bike, again something I find really unsafe when matched with roadbike geometry, but on the TT geometry I can ride all day. In short, dropping the front der. cables, dreadful basic heavy cassette, and extra front ring, I dropped about half a kilo, take the 1kg plus from bars and we are talking night and day in the way the Shiv now climbs... All I need to do now is the same to my waist line (work in progress).
1X Specialized Shiv making light work of Box Hill with the extra weight shed converting to 1X
Other points to think about are the aero gains which I first got to thinking about when looking at the Strada 3T website. I honestly cannot say I can feel that difference, but then I think anybody who says they can, well, I am sceptical of...

One final added safety point is the issue of chainrings in an accident: I was once unlucky enough to see a bad case of what they call "chainring kiss". Do yourself a favour and do not look it up on google images, as it is rare but when it happens it can be nasty, and only really happens with the sharper profile of chainrings made for shifting, and usually only when in the smaller gear, however I have seen chains come off in accidents on geared bikes... This is not a deciding factor at all but an added bonus that makes me happy of my decision. 
Final thoughts: I was more worried about my choice of wheels if it had rained that riding 1X in my first Im 70.3
Would I ride 1X again in a 70.3: absolutely. My only concern going into the race was really the fact that rain had been forecast and carbon wheels with rim brakes in a race are like torture; not only for you not knowing how your brakes will perform, but also seeing so many inexperienced riders hit the floor and the sound of grit destroying carbon...

What next? I may try Di2, which again would make the right hand gear changes safer / easier still, and no I would not go back to 2X, but would plump for an XT/ XTR rear and get a 42T or bigger on the rear so as to put a 50 or 52t on the front. I may also add a Sram Force 1X to the rear as I have done with the road bike, however the Wolftooth Roadlink is doing better with this 11-36 set-up than it did with the sram red 11-40 set-up I had on my road bike.

From there its going to probably be a disc specific 1x aero bike, but for now, the Shiv is still a formidable aero bike, and with the Omega X front brake has quite a lot of stopping power