On a mission to test out some of what I thought was the best bikepacking rigs and technology at the Interbike Outdoor Demo, the 3T Exploro really got my attention. After riding the OPEN UP, the next logical step was clearly to just go up in wheel size. The front triangle was large and open, there was plenty of clearance between the seat and rear wheel for a large saddle bag, and the tire clearance was huge! The top tube had bottle cage mounts on top of the tube and the rest of the frame looked like 3T’s standard aero road frame. My first impressions were that it was somewhat absurd to have an aero frame with some knobby Racing Ralphs but I really had to try it.3t-exploro-3 The day was early, I was fresh, and the bike was fast. The bike that I rode had a featherweight build featuring Shwalbe Racing Ralphs, a 1×11 drivetrain, light 605b wheels, and a THM Clavicula SE crank. (The crank is not standard, I was riding the owner’s bike) The bike felt so light underneath me and the larger volume tires, relative to the 40c tires I was just on, were confidence inspiring. The geometry was that of an aggressive road bike, but I still felt fine bombing down the G-outs on the XC course at the Outdoor Demo. I still had to pick a line for comfort purposes and not wanting my hands to rattle off the bars, but I wasn’t worried about possible rim strikes. I was comfortable enough to let it ride though the smoother flowing sections and even pop off of little bumps and boost off the tops of rollers. I was able to get back behind the saddle for steep descents, but I still took the cyclocross option of some of the steep drops. A better rider could definitely have been more aggressive with it, but again, I ride like I really don’t want to crash. Just like the UP, the bike was incredibly responsive to body language and the tires would follow exactly where you looked. The steering did feel slightly slower and less twitchy than the UP, but I can attribute most of that to the longer 130mm stem. Different bike fits can make a world of difference so it’s difficult to judge the frame specifically for various handling scenarios. The Exploro ripped up climbs. The frame and wheelset were very stiff. I didn’t feel like my 170lb weight combined with wrenching on the pedals while racing e-bikes up the little hills, flexed the frame at all. From an engineering standpoint, I know it did, at least a little, but it didn’t feel like it and that’s what matters when you’re riding. The large tires did make for a fairly pleasant climb up through the kitty litter road up to the saddle of Bootleg Canyon. The tires still sunk into the looser sand and gravel but it was better than a 40c tire. The climb felt fast on the light bike, weaving across the road, looking for the most firm dirt to ride on. Taking the 3T Exploro down the “all mountain” trail was definitely more fun than on the CX bike because I could ride a little faster, hit things a little harder, and roll over more. It really was a drop bar, rigid, mountain bike. I still wasn’t as fast as those on full suspension bikes, but I was having fun picking my lines and hitting things I normally wouldn’t on a cyclocross bike. 3t-exploro-24 I spent most of the time with my hands on the hood while on singletrack due to the aggressive geometry but once on the road, I dropped down and it was fast. I’m not sure how much the aero frame really plays into it, or how much the cross country tires play into it, but I do know that riding in the drops will make you more aero than our fat tires will hold you back. The benefits of the racy frame with a large saddle to bar drop, outweigh the aero disadvantages of the larger fork, and knobby tires. The aero seatpost, and seat clamp could be difficult to replace if it were to break and could potentially be tricky to securely mount saddlebags on. Bottom line, this bike left me stoked, wishing I could just ride it all day. I’d throw some bags on and do a big mixed terrain, emphasis on the dirt part of that, ride. The bike is a great do-everything, speedy, adventure bike. You can run 650b wheels and tires, or 700c wheels and CX or road tires, whatever floats your boat that day. I don’t know if I’d have a dedicated CX wheelset for the bike though. I’d probably just have a road and 650b wheelset, unless, of course, I for some reason was racing UCI CX races… too slow for that nonsense. I’d file this bike under the “Quiver Slayer” folder but by no means does it replace a full squish mountain bike.

6 Comments

  1. What size tire was that? You said it’s bigger than 40mm but I didn’t see any mention of the actual size.

    • The size wasn’t marked on the tire but I believe they were the Schwalbe Racing Ralph 2.1″ inch tires. I’ll have to contact 3T to be sure. There’s enough room in the front for a larger tire, but I wouldn’t go any larger on the rear.

  2. midnight grizzly

    John Tomac saw the future back in ’91.

  3. Will, how would you say the 3T Explore compares to the Open U.P. as far as ride? Which one is more comfortable? Which one would you prefer to put road tires on for a Saturday morning group road ride? Thanks.

  4. Yup, those were the 2.1″ tires on that set up. Glad you enjoyed it. I’m at ~1900mi and counting on that rig and have done everything from crits to XC MTB and everything in between.

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