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by Dave Rome
July 4, 2018
Photography by 3T
When Team Aqua Blue announced it would be starting the 2018 season on the disc-equipped and 1x-specific 3T Strada aero road bike, debates ensued. Was the pro cycling world ready for 1x gearing? Were the gaps between each rear shift going to be too great to be efficient in a rolling peloton? What about the gear range for stages that included significant climbs but ended in a fast sprint finish?
It was a big enough deal to overshadow the dedicated use of disc brakes, despite discs still being in a trial phase at the time.
Mentions of mechanical and logistical issues in racing 1x gearing at the sport’s top level since surfaced. First it was a discussion with Team Aqua Blue mechanic, Sam Elenes, who revealed the need for specific length chains to go with specific cassettes, something that the team was having to swap on nearly every bike, on every stage of a major race. And more recently, the team’s owner, Rick Delaney, tweeted his sheer disappointment in the number of mechanicals his team was suffering.
Discussion with Sam Elenes of Team Aqua Blue about 1x drivetrains. Starts at 36:29.
Amongst the public dissatisfaction, we’d heard rumours that 3T was going to add a front derailleur mount to its Strada road bike. And confirming such rumours, 3T announced the news to its email subscriber list just hours ago.
3T have officially revealed the new Strada DUE, a 2x-equipped version of the Strada. The new Strada DUE, much like the new Specialized S-Works Venge, is compatible with electronic shifting only. With the exception of offering a front derailleur mount, a port for an electric wire and likely a slight carbon layup tweak to handle the front shift forces, the frame is otherwise the same as the regular Strada. The new Strada DUE will sit in the 3T line-up next to the original Strada, offered in a Team-level frameset.
When 3T first released the Strada, it did so with plenty of noise about the benefits of 1x-shifting (once the rest of the bike was aerodynamically optimised). The claim was it saved “8 Watts in drag and 300g in weight (shifter, derailleur, cables, chainring, frame construction)”. However, in the release, 3T reiterates that the Strada’s original big story was not the 1x shifting, but rather its design that was most aerodynamic when used with wider tyres (up to 30c).
The email newsletter from 3T explains the company’s position.
“It [the Strada DUE] will also be used by Team Aqua Blue in select races. As you may know, we started working with Aqua Blue at the start of this season to see how far we could take 1x. It’s fair to say it’s gone further than most people expected, even winning a few King of the Mountain competitions including last month at the Tour de Suisse. In other races, the riders would have preferred an extra gear.
“Just like 2x isn’t always perfect (ask the guys who lost Tirreno-Adriatico and Abu Dhabi due to 2x drivetrain issues), neither is 1x as we know. As we said from the start, sometimes 1x will be better than 2x, sometimes it won’t matter, and sometimes 2x will be better.
“Of course pro riders find themselves in a very specific situation, often going up mountains in a peloton surrounded by 100 riders with no choice but to ride the exact pace of those around them, not their own pace. In such a situation, where they can’t go their own pace, having that extra gear can be an advantage. It’s interesting to hear a pro say ‘when I retire, I’ll only ride 1x but right now, there are some races I would still like 2x for’.”
So what does the future hold for 1x shifting in the pro peloton? 3T suggests the Strada was designed to be five years ahead of the present norm, but will we see front derailleurs become obsolete, like they have in mountain bikes, in that time? Will SRAM be able to overcome the big jumps between gears by adding an extra cog? Or will 1x shifting slowly fade back out of the peloton and be left for the booming gravel market?