Beautiful Bicycle - A 3T Exploro Racemax Inspired By the Land of 10,000 Lakes

Written by Alvin Holbrook, on March 09, 2022

Minnesota is a state with an ecological diversity that would make most other parts of the U.S. blush. There are the prairie lands to the south and the lush grasses farther into the north, but the state’s hallmarks come to two things: pine forests and lakes. And when those two things are distilled into bike form, you get this 3T Exploro Racemax

3T Exploro Racemax Custom Paint Bike - Contender Bicycles - side profile

Make sure to see our 3T Exploro Racemax review if you haven’t. We break down everything you need to know about that bike, link HERE.

The 3T Exploro Racemax is a bit of a unicorn of a bike. There are gravel bikes, and then there are aero bikes. Few of those gravel bikes fit a 27.5 x 2.3” tire, and few gravel bikes have the more aggressive, road bike-like geometry that manages to work well off-road without feeling stiff or wooden. The Racemax does all of that. It is basically a marketing dream: a bike that checks every box and looks good while doing it. We wouldn’t call this marketing fluff, however; we think the Exploro Racemax is legitimately good, even if you don’t need all of the things the Racemax does.

3T Exploro Racemax Custom Paint Bike - Contender Bicycles - fork

One of the things the Exploro Racemax does better than almost any other gravel bike is feel truly engaging on the road and off it. With road tires the bike could moonlight as a primary road bike with short chainstays and handling that errs toward stability. With wider gravel tires the bike becomes even more stable. And with 650b or 27.5” wheels the Racemax becomes an agile, fun, and anything but placid on singletrack. To us, that makes this bike great for the logging roads and forest exploration of Minnesota. In places like this, where the dirt roads are plentiful and speed is the name of the game without sacrificing comfort, the Exploro Racemax is almost unmatched.

On to the paint scheme. The painter was given one directive: paint a bike inspired by the Minnesota license plate. That meant matching the line of grass and trees, matching typeface to the license plate, and getting the colors dialed. 

The Minnesota theme needs little explanation, but the little details make the bike really fun.  We are love the hand-drawn how the forest greens taper to flowing grasslands with a soft blue and white accent. It is a generally simple scheme, just with a fair bit of skill not usually seen on a bike, much less a custom-painted bike.

3T Exploro Racemax Custom Paint Bike - Contender Bicycles - drivetrain collage

The rest of the build comes courtesy of SRAM and Zipp. SRAM Force and its Wide gearing option complements the Exploro Racemax really nicely, with higher gearing for the flats that doesn’t compromise the lower gears for when the hills don’t stop coming. We are particularly partial to the SRAM SL70 XPLR gravel handlebars; it features a gentle flare that doesn’t cant shift levers out too far, and the ovalized flat part is a welcome addition too. Another strong mark for the Panaracer Gravelking SS tires as well, which we feel takes the decent cornering grip of the Gravelking SK tire and makes it about as fast as their slick on the straights. 

Maybe an homage to the land of 10,000 lakes (but really more like 12,000) isn’t to everyone’s taste. That’s okay! Rather, that is the beauty of custom paint: you get to make your bike truly yours. That’s what has happened here; thanks for the opportunity, Tim!

3T Exploro Racemax Custom Paint Bike - Contender Bicycles - side profile

Here are this bike's build specs:

Frameset 3T Exploro Racemax - Ready to Paint
Headset Cane Creek 40 (custom bearing set for 3T Exploro Racemax)
Groupset SRAM Force eTap AXS - Force AXS Wide RD, Force AXS FD)
Crankset SRAM Force w/ Quarq Power Meter, Wheels Manufacturing Thread-Together - 386EVO - DUB
Gearing 170mm crank, Force 46/33T chainrings, Force WIDE 10-36t cassette
Wheelset Zipp 303 Firecrest - 700c
Tires Panaracer Gravelking SS+ - 700 x 38c (700c x 40mm)
Handlebar
Zipp SL70 XLPR - 42cm - Matte Black
Stem Zipp Service Course SL - 6 deg, 90mm - Matte Black
Seatpost 3T Exploro Aero Seatpost with Ritchey Clamp
Saddle Most Lynx Air - 145mm
Accessories K-Edge Road Braze-On Chain Catcher, SRAM Centerline X 160mm rotors - Centerlock

Have any questions or want to have us build your next bicycle? Send us an email to info@contenderbicycles.com to get started.

3T Exploro Racemax Custom Paint Bike - Contender Bicycles - paint details3T Exploro Racemax Custom Paint Bike - Contender Bicycles - fork detail 23T Exploro Racemax Custom Paint Bike - Contender Bicycles - tree details3T Exploro Racemax Custom Paint Bike - Contender Bicycles - seatstay detail3T Exploro Racemax Custom Paint Bike - Contender Bicycles - minnesota toptube paint details

 Words by Alvin Holbrook. Images by Cody Wignall.


3 comments

  • I saw this bike last summer while on a run. I’d been considering a gravel bike but had never seen a 3T before. It was so impressive I stopped to talk with the owner about 3T and the custom paint. He was very helpful and couldn’t say enough about Contender. I tested several gravel bikes and ultimately ended up choosing 3T! Joseph at Contender was awesome to work with, but it was this very bike that grabbed my attention.

    Rich on

  • Thanks for checking out our custom-painted 3T Exploro Racemax. You can totally get one! We would have to figure out exactly what bike you want to paint, as we have a few options. Then we need to figure out what kind of build fits your needs, your overall fit, and then we’d take a 25% deposit to get started.

    I’ll send you an email, but you can also send me a message directly to alvin@contenderbicycles.com

    Alvin - Contender Bicycles on

  • I am in Minnesota. That bike is sweet. How much and can I get one.

    Rich Hahn on

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