3T Tech Comparison - Exploro Racemax Vs Exploro Ultra

3T Tech Comparison - Exploro Racemax Vs Exploro Ultra

Written by Isaac Boyden, on August 23, 2023

3T is one of the world's oldest bike brands, operating from the heart of Italy for the last 65 years. When it comes to models, at a quick glance you see two. The Strada and the Exploro. Today we are focusing on the Exploro, their gravel bike line. But don't be deceived, there’s more than one kind of Exploro. Yes, they are both gravel bikes, but there’s a lot more to them than that. 

 

Exploros: What’s the difference? 
The two 3T Exploros we’re looking at today are the Exploro Racemax, vs the Exploro Ultra. The Exploro Racemax to keep it brief, is more of a gravel race/performance bike, built around speed and efficiency. The Exploro Ultra however, is more of an adventure gravel bike, designed for comfort and capability. This is a very broad simplification of the two though, and there are many factors, small details and differences that make this true.Exploro Racemax
One of the key factors of the Racemax that makes it the speed eating machine that it is, is the aerodynamics. Yes, you heard right, aerodynamics. On an off-road based bike. There are a ton of factors that make up aerodynamics, but to really, really boil it down, where aero and drafting start to matter is over 13 mph. In gravel racing, what might sound like a relatively low speed matters more than you think. For reference, at the 2023 Unbound Gravel race Keegan Swenson’s average speed was above 20mph for nine hours! So yes, aero, even on dirt can help a great deal. The Racemax’s frame profile combines a D shaped seatpost, a rear wheel cutout, dropped seat stays and a narrower headtube than most bikes. An increased size on the downtube also creates an aero pocket around the water bottles. All of this aero adds up to a bike built for speed. 

The Racemax is also built for clearance, able to accommodate either 650b or 700c wheels to be the fastest on the dirt, no matter the conditions. The thing about all this engineered aero however, is that it's practically executed. The aerodynamics of the bike are centered around realistic riding speeds, with clearance for inevitable mud buildup. The frame’s aerodynamics are optimized to work best with a 700x42c tire, but still have the majority of the aero advantage both above and below that size specification. 

Other design details on the Racemax include longer fork cross sections for aero benefit, minimal frame gaps, fender mounts, and double dropped chain stays for added tire and chainring clearance.Exploro Ultra 
The Ultra is designed to adventure to your heart's content, having more of an emphasis on comfort than speed. It has huge tire clearance, with most of the stock models equipped with 650x2.1 tires and wheels. The Ultra also has an aerodynamic focus, but more to keep the bike from feeling sluggish on the road than to make it a race winning bike. 

The Ultra features a round seatpost rather than an aero-shaped post, making it dropper post compatible. Not just that, but some models even come stock with a dropper! 

While the Ultra has the ability to run 1x or 2x drivetrains, I would recommend you to run it 1x just for the extra tire clearance and simplicity. 

In addition to what’s listed above, there are also some geometry differences between the Exploro Ultra and Exploro Racemax, mainly with the Ulta having a longer wheelbase for some extra stability. The extra length is achieved by increasing the chainstays by 3-4mm per size across the range. 

Conclusion 
While both bikes are awesome, it boils down to what you want to accomplish on your ride. For the occasional  single track, large rocks, and gravel spirited adventures? Probably the Exploro Ultra. Looking for something that feels fast on pavement as well as dirt, crushes farm road KOMs and makes you feel fast? The Exploro Racemax.Both bikes are carried here at the shop, and you can also explore them on our website here!


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