First Rides: Bigger 3T Extrema Italia Adventure Gravel Bike is Best, Most Capable Exploro Yet!

First Rides: Bigger 3T Extrema Italia Adventure Gravel Bike is Best, Most Capable Exploro Yet!


Yes, this new 3T Extrema is the most capable Exploro gravel bike that 3T has ever made. It’s got huge 29er XC mountain bike tire clearance and wide tire aerodynamics for a faster, smoother ride over the roughest terrain. It more bikepacking-ready mounts to carry more gear further. It gets rid of any external cables, while keeping full cockpit adjustability. And it’s even got a good old round 27.2mm seatpost for rider comfort personalization or gravel dropper posts.

I’ve only been riding it for a short period of time, but I already think it’s my favorite 3T gravel bike since the Exploro’s debut!

3T Extrema Italia carbon gravel race bike with MTB clearance

3T Extrema Italia Integrale, all-new carbon fat tire 29er aero adventure gravel bike, made-in-Italy, winter wonderland
(Photos/Cory Benson)

Today 3T unveiled a new Extrema Italia Integrale adventure gravel bike that from the outside looks almost exactly like their next gen Exploro RaceMax and packs in a number of features of last year’s Ultra. At first glance, it looks like there’s not really much new. And in fact, almost everything about the new Extrema has been seen on a 3T gravel bike before.

But take a closer look (which I did in out launch story, here), and it’s clear this is the most refined and most technically advance 3T gravel bike yet!

And we thought the Exploro, RaceMax & Ultra were great off-road bikes…

3T Extrema Italia Integrale, all-new carbon fat tire 29er aero adventure gravel bike, made-in-Italy, winter forest riding

It’s a bigger & gnarlier gravel bike built to go faster & further racing the toughest off-road adventure bikepacking races.

Sure, every 3T gravel bike since that first Exploro 7.5 years ago was off-road ready. And I rode everyone in between. Even that first one was more capable than a 90s mountain bike with 27.5″ x 2.1″ tires. Yet this one takes a bigger jump to full size 29er wheels and clearance for up to 2.25″ tires, putting it more on par with a cross-country bike from say 2015.

But at the same time, it seems to not lose the fast feeling you get with a proper gravel race bike. It’s still quite lightweight. And with a wide range mullet drivetrain with an Eagle 10-52T cassette paired to a 40T 1x chainring, it has all the top & low-end gearing you could wish for.

First Rides Reviewing the new 3T Extrema Italia

3T Extrema Italia Integrale, all-new carbon fat tire 29er aero adventure gravel bike, made-in-Italy, winter snow bike slush

I’ve really only been riding this one for a couple of weeks. And yes, most of my rides have been in the snow.

And not on the bike’s stock Continental Race King 700x50mm tires. But with room to spare, I popped in a set of supple new Maxxis Severe 29 x 2.25″ mud tires for extra grip and extra float. The Severes have a WAM of 55.3mm (vs. the 49mm WAM of the stock Contis) and yet weigh just 90g more per tire more, with a much more aggressive tread to dig into soft snow & muck. With such large tire volume, I’m able to safely run CX-style pressures of around 22psi, delivering excellent snow grip.

It really just goes to show how versatile this Extrema bike can be. I’ll totally be happy with 45mm or 50mm gravel semi-slicks when hard & dry riding conditions return. That’s what I love about gravel bikes, when done right.

But is everything done right?

2023 3T Exploro Extrema Italia First Rides Review, new carbon 29er XC 29x2.25" MTB tire aero adventure bikepacking gravel bike, muddy BAAW

The bar fit and lever position out of the box from 3T was less than perfect, with the pointy aero back of the Aeroghiaia handle bar digging into my hand on the tops. And the levers so poorly positioned and upturned (see above, before the good snow came) that my long fingers couldn’t actually reach the brake levers from the drops with winter gloves on. Cue panic while going downhill on snowy singletrack!

But this is actually where the 3T Extrema IS perfect.

It’s fully integrated, sure. But I could still adjust the separate bar angle to suit my personally ideal fit. And then, unwrapping the bar to the brifters, I moved the levers down to the proper position with plenty of adjustment range still possible within the internal cable routing. I dread having the same issue on a 1-piece bar+stem combo cockpit, which I’m strongly opposed to for gravel bikes!

So, is it actually perfect?

2023 3T Exploro Extrema Italia First Rides Review, new carbon 29er XC 29x2.25" MTB tire aero adventure bikepacking gravel bike, fully internal routing

Well, probably not quite. So far there are a few nits to pick with the new 3T Extrema.

First off, I was literally thrilled when I first saw 3T finally ditch their horrible cable routing port directly behind the stem. It was a sore subject in my mind since Exploro day 1. I discussed with Gerard Vroomen a number of time over the years why he insisted on that routing (the big ugly cable bends do result in good mechanical shifting), but I never really agreed that it was the best solution.

I love to have a small toptube bag to carry snacks, spares, and maybe stash a mobile phone or camera. And that routing ALWAYS got in my way. Electronic-only Italia models finally swayed Gerard to go full internal routing.

Which means you get undisturbed direct mount toptube bag routing on the new 3T Extrema.

Except…

2023 3T Exploro Extrema Italia First Rides Review, new carbon 29er XC 29x2.25" MTB tire aero adventure bikepacking gravel bike, top tube bag mount

The bolts are in the wrong place. #facepalm. Look closely at that Tailfin bag that is mounted a nice few millimeters behind the stem. And you’ll see that the top tube bolt placement is off by about 32mm. The forward-most bolt on the bike perfectly splits the standard 64mm mount spacing on this Tailfin bag. My other favorite Apidura Racing top tube bag (which 3T says they based their design on) has 2 bolt positions. But even then the 3T Extrema ends up with more than 2cm of wasted space between the front of the bag and back of the stem.

So close, but no cigar. Thankfully the strap-on Tailfin is super secure, so I’m sticking with that. Maybe I’ll toss those bolts and save a few grams. 😉

You might also notice that rubber-banded-on GPS mount. That’s because the proprietary reverse faceplate bolts mean there are not direct out-front cycling computer mounts for this bike yet. 3T says they are working on one (there’s a cutout in the faceplate to attach a future mount), but didn’t have a timeline to share with me yet.

The separate 3T More Integrale stem and Aeroghiaia bar do leave almost (but not quite) 1cm of round 31.8mm clamping area on either side of the stem. But the first 2 stock Garmin & Wahoo mounts I tried didn’t fit, so I defaulted back to rubber bands.

Plenty of tire clearance, though!

2023 3T Exploro Extrema Italia First Rides Review, new carbon 29er XC 29x2.25" MTB tire clearance

But with knobby 29er by 2.25″ mountain bike tires and plenty of clearance for mud, snow, leaves & pine needles, I’m giving the 3T Extrema cockpit a pass for now. I feel like what makes this bike great is rider comfort and control.

And a lot of that comes down to being able to pick whatever tires suit the conditions.

I’ve generally been a fan of 40-45mm tires and limited knobs for gravel riding. Because bigger tires felt slow. But after sustaining a wrist strain injury from what I can only suspect was riding gnarly terrain on a too-stiff gravel bike, I welcome a bike that feels fast even with 2.25″ mountain bike tires.

The 27.5 x 2.1″ Peyotes on the Ultra felt slow. But the 29 x 2.25″ Severes on the Extrema feel fast.

Remember angle of attack and rollover? Or do you remember how wider tire volumes on proper lightweight casings mean lower air pressure, and lower rolling resistance? Remember why all XC racers are on 29ers these days. And why even old school stalwart Nino Schurter is winning World Cups on 2.4″ tires these days when he used to race 50mm tubulars!

Yeah, big lightweight 29er XC tires are pretty great.

How much does it actually weigh?

2023 3T Exploro Extrema Italia First Rides Review, new carbon aero adventure bikepacking gravel bike, made in Italy, 10.09kg actual weight

So out of the box I did make a few changes to the 54cm mid-spec 3T Extrema Italia Integrale build with SRAM Rival+GX Eagle AXS groupset and Zipp 303s wheels. And my complete ready to ride gravel adventure bike weighed in at 10.09kg / 22.2lb with pedals.

+180g for bigger Maxxis mud tires vs. the stock Contis. +340 g for my Crankbrothers Candy 3 pedals. +14g for the Garmin mount with rubber o-rings. +150g for Juice Lubes Tyre Juice tubeless sealant. -456g for the 2 butyl tubes I removed. +50g for the two carbon bottle cages that were on the bike when it arrived.

Without any of that, my stock 54cm bike without pedals would weigh 9.8kg. That’s just about 1kg more than the 2x mechanical RaceMax I tested three years ago or the 1x AXS Ultra I tested last year. (Both of which were within 40g of each other.) So far, I’m happy to carry around that extra weight for the extra off-road and bikepacking capability. We’ll see if I change my tune after riding this bike for half a year or so.

3T Extrema Early Riding Takeaways:

3T Extrema Italia Integrale, all-new carbon fat tire 29er aero adventure gravel bike, made-in-Italy, angled

I’ve only really started to break this bike in over the past week or two. And I plan to ride it through the winter and into the spring before I give the final verdict.

2023 3T Exploro Extrema Italia First Rides Review, new carbon 29er XC 29x2.25" MTB tire aero adventure bikepacking gravel bike, winter road riding

But so far, I’ve mixed in a good range of wet winter tarmac (thank you Ass Savers Win Wing!), slush-covered roads, snowy gravel roads, and forest singletrack either covered with a deep layer of leaves or fresh fallen snow. And it’s all been a blast… once I finally bedded the brand-new brakes in!

No overnight, loaded-down adventures yet. But give it time.

2023 3T Exploro Extrema Italia First Rides Review, new carbon 29er XC 29x2.25" MTB tire aero adventure bikepacking gravel bike, snow riding

And up ’til now, this one is my favorite.

Made in Italy. Tire clearance to fit anything you could imagine. More progressive geometry. Massive Eagle gearing range, and gear ratios that actually work for average riders riding proper hills. Clean cable routing and adaptable wireless AXS group. And that WITH an fully adjustable cockpit. A proper round 27.2 seatpost. And finally, anything cage mounts on the fork for riders looking for bigger adventures.

Let the unlimited gravel and assorted off-road adventures get extreme.

3T.bike



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