The new 3T Exploro RaceMax proves wider is better for gravel bikes

3T RaceMax is a monster gravel bike
3T's RaceMax broadens the Exploro range (Image credit: 3T)

3T is pushing the limits of gravel bike design with its new RaceMax frameset.

With its latest Exploro frame variation 3T is taking science to the maximum gravel debate and proving that there is something like ‘ideal width’, with regards to tyre size.

After laboriously researching actual gravel riding trends, 3T’s engineers and product planners recognised that there was an ideal tyre profile. The brand has established a reputation for its obsession with aerodynamics, something which has not been considered crucial by most gravel riders.

Unlike others, 3T believes that aero matters everywhere – especially on gravel. To achieve the best possible combination of wide-tyre traction, ride comfort and overall bike aerodynamics, 3T’s engineers have built a very stout new frame for the Exploro RaceMax.

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The oversized downtube is designed to work with a very large tyre rotating between those front fork legs. Viewed in its side profile, the Exploro RaceMax has a very tucked rear triangle, obviously prioritising aero, whilst retaining adequate mud clearance – which is crucial for any gravel bike.

3T determined that a huge influence of the way a gravel bike will ride for both grip, comfort and aerodynamics is dependent on tyre size and shape. While all tyres offer manufacturers claimed size, these numbers are often inaccurate due to different rim sizes and pressures once setup. 3T created WAM (width as measured) and RAM (radius as measured) as a method of measuring tyres to determine a universal unit of measurement for engineering the RaceMax.

Experimentation has seen 3T learn that for most riders the ideal WAM size for a gravel bike tyre is 35-42mm. The frameset was specifically designed to be fastest around those measurements, delivering a gravel bike that looks imposing but promises to save watts and provide a plush ride on technical roads or mild trails.

3T’s Exploro RaceMax will also roll enormous tyres, up to 61mm WAM, for who riders need huge casing size and air volume. This large clearance is aimed at gravel riders and dirt tourers who will appreciate the additional grip and comfort that could make the difference between riding a long section or walking it.

As a guide, the 61mm WAM sizing equates to a value that is about 15% larger than 2.1in tyres. Despite that size, 3T claims the RaceMax retains 90%pr cent of the aerodynamics that you would enjoy, rolling the recommended 35-42mm WAM rubber, with 61mm WAM tyres.

To best balance the frame and tyre aerodynamic of its new gravel bike, 3T recommends the use of 160mm hydraulic brake rotors.

The new Exploro RaceMax is available in six frame sizes, from what 3T class as XXS up to the traditional 61cm measurement. Pricing starts at €3,200 for a frame, whilst builds are available for between €4,200 and €7,800.

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Lance Branquinho is a Namibian born media professional, with 15-years of experience in technology and engineering journalism covering anything with wheels. Being from Namibia, he knows a good gravel road when he sees one, and he has raced some of Africa’s best-known mountain bike stage races, such as Wines2Wales and Berg&Bush.