In 2018, Aqua Blue will become the first modern pro team to race a 1x drivetrain in the pro peloton. They’ll be aboard the new 3T Strada, which debuted this spring as a purpose built aero road bike with absolutely no accommodation for a front derailleur. The team has partnered with SRAM and will be racing their Force 1 road group, with the chainring paired to 3T sister brand THM’s ultralight carbon cranks.

aqua blue 3T Strada 1x road bike for the pro peloton
All photos c. 3T/Aqua Blue/Mark Gasch.

Remaining spec will be announced before they kick off the full season next year, but we suspect it’ll remain heavy on the 3T cockpit and wheel components shown here. Having SRAM on board as an official supplier means they won’t be racing 3T’s own wide-range 12-speed cassette…

aqua blue 3T Strada 1x road bike for the pro peloton

Instead, they’re spec’ing the largest SRAM WiFLi road cassette, clocking in at 11-36 with 11-speeds. According to SRAM’s 1x conversion guide, when paired with a 48-tooth chainring, it has 92% of the range of a 52/36 double paired with an 11-28 cassette. So, for most instances, they’ll have what they need, albeit with a bigger jump between some of the larger cogs. And they’ll likely swap in smaller cassettes or different chainring sizes based on each race’s (or stage’s) terrain.

aqua blue 3T Strada 1x road bike for the pro peloton

The Force 1 and Rival 1 road groups were introduced more than two years ago and were quickly adopted by cyclocross, then gravel. This could be the PR move that pushes them in the realm of consideration for pure roadies. And it’s easy enough to experiment with, just sub in a wider range cassette and get a 1x chainring for the front. We’re also thinking this is teeing up 12-speed for road, something 3T is ready for with their new cassettes based on the SRAM XD-R driver body, but we’ll need shifters.

aqua blue 3T Strada 1x road bike for the pro peloton

Quotes from the press release:

“With 3T launching the world’s first dedicated 1x road frame and Aqua Blue Sport choosing it as their team bike for 2018, we knew we wanted to be involved in this project. It fits with our product innovations, and both 3T and Aqua Blue Sport will be perfect partners to test our 1x drivetrain options to the extreme,” explains Jason Phillips, SRAM’s Sponsorship Director. “In only its first year at the top level, Aqua Blue Sport has already made a name for itself and SRAM is enthusiastic to be a part of their progress in 2018 and beyond.”

Rene Wiertz, CEO of 3T believes that the relationship with SRAM will see Aqua Blue Sport continue to achieve success in 2018: “SRAM has been our drivetrain of choice since we launched the STRADA earlier this year, and we are super excited to work with them in supplying bikes to Aqua Blue Sport. With all the developments in the works at 3T and SRAM, we’re sure we’ll be able to give the team a real advantage and fans something to look forward to for the coming years.”

Stephen Moore, Aqua Blue Sport’s General Manager said his team are delighted to get the chance to ride the 1x system on the roads during the 2018 season: “SRAM is the gold-standard in drivetrains, in particular for 1x. It is great they have recognised what Aqua Blue Sport has accomplished in its first year and we are honoured they have chosen us as a team they will support in 2018. It’s not often that a young team like ours obtains a drivetrain partnership like this.”

AquaBlueSport.com

50 COMMENTS

  1. They can still mount 11sp MTB cassettes if in need of a bigger range. With 10-42 or 11-46 cassettes available on the market the only question mark is how their riders would cope with the bigger jumps in the ratios.

    I’d like to see some studies about power and cadence. Some riders looks to have less issues with cadence variations than others. Is it something you can just get used to or do you lose some performance in the process ? I have no idea. I personnally own both an 1×10 cross setup and a 2×11 road setup. Although I feel the bigger gaps in my cross bike I can’t say I ride slower than with my road bike when using the same wheels and tires.

    But I have no power meter to compare.

    • MTB cassette into this road drive train? Can a Force RD take a 42t?; is it compatible?
      If not, you have to use MTB RD and are those compatible with Road shifters?

      • I run a SunRace CSMX80 11-50 11-speed cassette on my Raleigh RXC using SRAM Rival 1 long cage derailleur and Wolf Tooth RoadLink in conjunction with a 44T narrow-wide oval chainring and it works perfectly without issue. 42T is actually the maximum rated size per SRAM, for the long cage 1X road derailleurs (Apex 1, Rival 1 and Force 1/CX1), and they work with everything else that is also Exact Actuation, meaning 10-speed MTB shifters, 10-speed road shifters and 11-speed road shifters from SRAM.

        -Ed

      • Force derailleurs can take up to a 44t cog in the back in the long cage variant. I run an Apex1 derailleur with an E.13 9-44 cassette and 38t chainring on my cross bike.

    • It’s a combination of training and physiology, but in particular, avid trail/MTB riders are much more accustomed to a wider optimal cadence range than pure roadies. Even more so for people who frequently ride and/or train on single-speed or fixed-gear bicycles. I am perfectly fine with the gaps on my setup (SunRace CSMX80 11-50 cassette, 44T ring) on my race bike, and part of that comes from being a mountain biker.

      -Ed

      • I’m interested to see. I feel like some of the reason MTB and CX users are so ok with the huge jumps is that while riding off road, you get those jumps in effort level anyway. Lots of up and down, turn a corner and have to power up a hill.. those types of things kick some of my roadie friends’ butts 🙂

  2. “…92% of the range of a 52/36 double paired with an 11-28 cassette. So, for most instances, they’ll have what they need, albeit with a bigger jump between some of the larger cogs” What’s the upside of the 1x setup here? Aerodynamics? I’m genuinely curious, no snark intended.

    • Primarily aerodynamics according to Gerard himself in the Cycling tips article. He also cited chain retention and made a snippet about Froome’s dropped chains which in my mind destroyed any credibility this guy had left (everyone knows osymmetric chain rings are the worst chain rings in the world for that issue). Having actually raced 1x granted at the cat 3 level for half a season I’ll say having the bailout gear 100% available without having to jump to the little ring is nice (albeit you’re probably getting dropped if you use it) but the gaps were too large when it got sticky, you were in a long hard breakaway, or pulling back a break. I went back to a standard 53/39 and have appreciated it immensely. I think 1x has its place but in competitive road racing with varied terrain it is out of its depth. Gerard still didn’t answer my question. Why on earth wouldn’t you make a modular braze on mount that could be replaced with a flat cowling? It would give the rider a 2x option if wanted (eTap only that is) and still retain the aerodynamics of a 1x system if this bike is about pragmatic aerodynamics why lock a rider into 1 groupset option??

      • Because without it being 1x only, this bike would get zero press. It’s the only thing people are talking about, nobody cares about the bike. Nobody cares about the brand either.

        Marketing son… marketing.

        • Very strategic too, not a team that is going to win anything so when the failings of 1x road are shown no one will be there to see it but they’ll be in every breakaway. Further proof that the cycling industry is a massive joke; overpriced “Innovation” with more an eye on planned obsolescence over performance and usability the industry took the cake when they introduced the “innovation” of press fit bottom brackets.

      • So the trade is gaps and/or range in exchange for better aerodynamics. Interesting. I’m skeptical there is enough aero gain to make the gearing compromise worthwhile. Seems the right cassette/ring for the given parcours will require some consideration.

          • There is absolutely NO WAY an athlete can sustain this kind of gear ratio compared to other athlete. They will be there but no one will be leading an attack or dealing with a long sustain TT effort. The perfect test will of course come early during the spring but the changes in strength required to bridge, take off and sustain will simply be to violent for a 3-4 hour race.

    • @ threeringcircus No, Main advantage is not just aerodynamics nor was that the original intention.
      Huge benefit is that it simply simpler by Eliminating the entire front shifting system and thus hundreds of grams LIGHTER and quicker and simplet to use and yes since there is no need to mount the fd that opens up the floodgates of design for better aerodynamics etc. in that area!

      • Although for a pro team that is subject to UCI weight minimums, those advantages are essentially moot. “Lighter” makes little to no difference, as most of these guys have bikes weighing around the limit already. “Simpler” to use is of no benefit to anyone who is at or above the skilled amature level. My Granny might benefit from only having one shifter to think about, but I am confident that anyone at the pro level has shifting figured out. As for “quicker”, what does that even mean? If you mean quicker to shift, I think that if you were to actually time it, there are many changes in ratio that are faster when accomplished by going between small-big ring on front, rather than doing a triple or quadruple shift in back.

      • every bike reach the minimum and the most important earodynamic, by a factor of 100% is the breaking of the body through wind. The derailluer is just a tricket in that buzy mass that is pedales booties and ankles.

    • For those of us who prefer oval chainrings, 1X is a huge improvement over a double because double ovals shift like poop. I’ve converted every single one of my bikes to 1X for this reason.

      -Ed

    • It’s lighter, more robust, and easier on the maintenance. It has drawbacks but most of the people on here gripe in a way that sounds like they’ve never tried it. It’s a system that does a lot of consumers (read: you and I) a lot of good and now we get to see if it plays well at the pro tour level too.

      • I’ve used it; fine system for those who want a dead simple system and don’t mind the cadence limitations. Casual riders, Mixed surface riders all benefit from the aforementioned, new riders probably would be better off not fussing with a FD since most of them are still trying to ride at 43 RPM (thanks spin classes). For non-pan flat racing though the 1x is very limited especially if you go for a wide range cassette.

  3. threering – he advantage of 1x is 1. simplicity, you dont have to shift tge rear to compensate for shifting the front, 2. aero, removing FD and minorly the second ring reduce airflow disruption 3. cost. 4. weight (3 and especially 4 are less inportant but still advantages)

  4. Might work for pros in the peleton, as there is up to 40% less aero drag and you can run a gearing that doesn’t ideally match for a while.

    But riding alone with these gaps with a steady cadence would be impossible for me personally – the gearing would make me slower, as I would have to pick the smaller gearing instead of the non existing right one.

  5. Ive got a gravel bike with a poorly specced cluster that has a 3 tooth jump in the middle of the block (11-29). Absolutely hate it. 11-36 jumps will be worse. And having to change out the chainring because you are headed to the flats or big hills? Ridiculous.

    • Bold move, let’s see how it plays out for them. Biggest drawback to 1x on road right now is the ratio jump between cogs, especially lower down on the cassette. Not a big deal riding unpaved roads/trails where 1x is most popular but could be problematic on the road depending on the rider. 12 speeds might help but only a little.

      I can see the benefit of 1x road for a criterium but I would think that in a long road race the aero benefit and saved shifting time is beyond the realm of “marginal gains”.

  6. I like it! For flat areas it’s going to be excellent, but the jury is definitely still out for mountainous riding. The shift jumps will be significant, for sure. We’ve made our XDR freehubs at Alto to be compatible with our road wheels and are just waiting for SRAM to launch a 12 speed road setup. Maybe that will help in the mountains?

  7. What becomes difficult about this is measuring success or failure. Aqua Blue isn’t Movistar or Quickstep. If they don’t win a bunch of races is it just because the team isn’t as successful generally, or because of the equipment change? A mediocre outcome can leverage both explanations. I would say wait until next year and see what happens when rider experience comes into play.

    • That plays well into the marketing… if they don’t win much, it will be no different than 2017. If they do win a bit, people will not credit the bike but it should make the criticism of a 1x not working in the WT go away. Either way, it is a win-win for both the team and the bike maker. How many thousands of dollars of free publicity has this bike generated for the team. I would wager 90% of people couldn’t name Aqua Blue’s previous bike sponsor (myself included). Now I would say 90% of bike fans are well aware of what bike they are riding.

  8. So the Strada for most races and the Exploro for the cobbles? That would be cool. Let them be the guinea pigs – the mechanics will be busy swapping out cassettes and chainrings.

  9. Makes sense for some races where climbing gearing isn’t needed. But let’s be careful about what type of gearing a pro can use and push in a peloton or break-away as well as their ability to swap chainrings and cassettes as needed. This versus the average roadies lower power output and use of their one bike on a large variety of terrain.

    • The problem is at the World Tour level everyone has a massive FTP, bike handling skills, etc. I’m sure the worst neopro could win a cat 4/5 by miles with a 1x CX bike on knobblies. However when the competition is equal at the highest level sub-optimal cadence will make it very hard to win.

      • You’re grossly underestimating the ability of the human body to adapt. The biggest jump in a SRAM 1170 11-36t cassette is about 15.4% between the 13t and 15t cogs. Shifting to a 15.4% smaller cog would take you from a cadence of 110 to about 93.

        A 15.4% jump is totally manageable. The same 1170 cassette in an 11-28 version has a 13.6% jump between the 22 and the 25. The 11-36 cassette’s biggest jump is a whopping 1.8% more that the biggest jump on an 11-28. At 100 RPM, that’s less than 2 RPM. If your body is so temperamental that 2 RPM is the difference between winning and losing, you are a delicate flower indeed

        Sub-optimal cadence doesn’t make it “very hard to win,” as you put it. You know what does? When the competition is on EPO. If riders were so exquisitely sensitive to cadence, the pros would all ride 3x drivetrains: the advantage would be enormous. Most pros raced as juniors (with junior gearing) and they can spin at 120 RPM just as well as they can mash along at 80 RPM.

        Plenty of Cat IVs think they “need” a 53×11 for sprints. If that need were real, they wouldn’t be amateurs for long. People have irrational ideas about gearing and how important it is. Lots of it is simply a reflexive fear of change.

      • I think you misread my comment. On the right course, a pro athlete can run a vary tight cassette with a single chainring and be fine, whereas I will need two chainrings on that same course because of my weakness.

        When the terrain requires the pros to run wide range cassettes for the gear range on 1x, I think you’ll see issues in certain circumstances. Will it cause a pro to crack…it could but it may be hard to tell given all the other variables.

  10. If you poke around various online articles about this bike, you’ll see ‘SuperDave’ from 3T flatly state that there is an upcoming SRAM 1x 12 speed road group still under ’embargo’ that will be used on this bike.

  11. It’ll take 14-15 speeds before the jumps can match current doubles while maintaining the range. Since the weight savings are approximately nil, I would need to see some really dramatic drag numbers associated with a front derailleur before seeing any reason to try this. TT bikes, maybe. Oh, and having the frame dedicated instead of it being a build option… No thanks.

  12. Apparently Vroomen was pretty straightforward with the team. When they asked how they were supposed to win mountain stages with this bike, he replied, “You won’t.”

    So there’s that.

    Also according to Vroomen the FD drag number is 8 watts. So the question is are you losing more or less than 8w of power due to suboptimal cadence?

    • 8W sounds way high. Let’s say a pro is going 400W on flat ground, ~20% of that is due to the frame and wheels, which is 80W, so the FD alone is worth 10% of the total drag on the bike?

      • I can’t vouch for the numbers but I would imagine they include FD, cable (both from shifter to frame and from frame to FD, and 1 chain ring. I think the remaining chain ring can be run closer to the frame as well.

        So, I can’t say that adds to 10% as you have questioned, but it is a bit more than just the FD in the equation.

        • For sure. But that bit of the bike being 10% of the total seems possible but a stretch, given how much wheels drag, and there’s still a RD and crankset and the whole frame… . But even if it is 8W, that’s like running two latex tubes vs butyl. Not insignificant, but only worth it at high speeds. Yeah… gain maybe 8W max at full speed, but lose gear steps all through the range?

    • Vroomem is dead on, there will be no hanging on the grind of the groupetto with this set up. Good idea for marketing but I saw Blue as a much more serious pro team than a stunt.

  13. I think we are missing a product announcement here. 3T has been hinting at 1×12 since the Strada was first shown. They have also talked a lot about the wider XD Driver Road version of the cassette body. My guess is that there will be a 1 x 12 Red level group set coming, perhaps even wireless. The cassettes could be 10-32 and 10-36 12 speed with a 48t front ring to give the same sort or range as 53/39 x 11-25/11-28

    • I’m not sure the commenters are missing that product announcement…it has been mentioned several timesin the comments to this story. It would be trivial for SRAM to implement a 2×12-speed Etap group…all they’d need is a new cassette and a firmware update to the electronics.

      The bigger deal is launching a 1×12 group, as it would require a clutched rear derailleur. I have a hunch that SRAM will launch its 1×12 Etap road group simultaneously with an Etap mountain bike group. If they didn’t, consumers would immediately begin putting clutched road Etap derailleurs on their mountain bikes (shifted via Blipboxes). That would cannibalize mountain bike group sales and possibly result in ticking off OEMs. I expect SRAM to launch both groups simultaneously, even if they use the exact same rear derailleur.

    • I think the argument would be that there’s an Allez Sprint that’s got FD mount capability. There is a 1x frame, and a two chainring frame. Which is to say that the Allez Sprint isn’t a dedicated 1x frame…whereas with this dealio there is no front derailleur compatible 3t Strada frame.

What do you think?