I've had a number of wonderful and surreal moments in the cycling industry. Some of these are the obvious candidates: seeing readership grow, seeing success with the products, watching world-class athletes ride my products to Ironman wins.
But the most special moments are much more human, and much more subtle. These are things like attending a Felt media event and seeing Jim Felt, the legendary name behind some of the best bikes on the planet, serving lunch out of a catering tin. Or watching Mark Cote, aerodynamicist behind some of the most iconic Ironman wins of all time, kneel down and pump up tires for demo riders. Or bumping into Phil White, co-founder of Cervelo, mingling at the Kona bike check-in just to wish athletes good luck. These are the moments when I've gotten the rare opportunity to view these industry folks as real people, and to see the humility and honor in their character.
Such was the case this morning in Las Vegas, when I bumped into Cervelo's other co-founder, Gerard Vroomen. And I can't help but share the story with you, because it illustrates what a great guy Gerard is, and how his focus on bringing innovative products to cycling continues unabated, even after he sold and left the ultra-successful company he and Phil White built together.
Bumping into Gerard
I was just hopping off the bus arriving at Outdoor Demo when he stopped me in my tracks and said, "Hi Nick! I love your work, you make great stuff." Now, mind you, this was Gerard Vroomen. He is responsible for a large chunk of what we call the triathlon bicycle industry. The company that he and Phil built arguably did more than any other in pushing the development of aerodynamic bicycles in the road and tri segments. Then he sold Cervelo, and undoubtdly made off with a very handsome profit. He's a legend. And I was a bit dumbfounded; all I could muster at first was a feeble "Thank you!"
So he followed up with, "I'm Gerard by the way." Um, yeah Gerard, I know who you are. "Of course I know who you are, Gerard! You're a legend! You and Phil are inspirations to me. What you did with Cervelo, in terms of doing what you love and turning that into a success, is a model for what I am trying to do with TriRig."
With utter humility, Gerard seemed genuinely embarrassed at the compliment. He literally waved it off with a swipe of his hand, and offered me some more kind words before we parted.
At the risk of seeming a little arrogant for sharing the story, I wanted to illustrate what a cool, humble person Gerard is (and Phil too - I had a similar experience with him last year in Kona). Anyway, after I picked my jaw up off the floor, I headed back to the 3T tent to check out the Strada, Gerard's newest aero road creation.
The 3T Strada - 1x Aero Road
The Strada is, by conventional road bike standards, a little weird. But that is par for the course with a Vroomen design. The P3 was quite a weird creation when it was first introduced. Strada does a few very neat things boldly and without apology. First and foremost, it chucks the front derailleur. It's not merely 1x optimized, it's 1x mandatory. There's no front derailleur mount. 3T is putting its eggs quite squarely in the 1x basket, and I couldn't be happier. I've been doing 1x builds since 2010 and have found that generally, if you take a little more care with knowing your terrain and ability, and selecting the right cassette/chainring combo, you can comfortably get rid of that front derailleur.
3T is helping the situation with their recent announcement of their Overdrive and Bailout cassettes, which each offer a staggering 9-32 range, meaning you can generally use much smaller chainrings and still get all the range you need.
If that were all this bike offered, it would be a lot like our own Project Liberty, a 1x Di2 build made on another bike bearing Gerard's name, the S5 VWD (those latter initials stand for Vroomen-White Design). But there's a fair jot more going on here.
Next up on the list, this is a disc brake-only bike. I'm generally not sold on the concept, and not just because I produce rim brakes. We could certainly design a disc brake. But we haven't, because in my view disc brakes are not ideal for road riding. Rim brakes, designed and installed correctly, with the correct pad/rim combination, work exceptionally well. And they eliminate the sensitivities of disc brakes, allow for lower spoke counts (thus more aero wheels), and generally offer cleaner cable runs (if you're using a centerpull brake). For gravel/mountain bikes, or when the tires get really big (say above 28c), discs become appropriate. But Strada is designed specifically to work with tires up to 30c, allowing it to straddle the space between an aero road and a gravel bike. So it gets a marginal pass on the choice to use disc brakes, in my book. And other than the sad exposed cable run up front, and the broken-looking left fork leg, the implementation is as good here as on any other road bike.
That leads me to the third design theme of the bike that I actually really love. It makes a deliberate decision to work with wide tires (as mentioned, up to 30c depending on the rim/tire combo), while maintaining sound aero design choices throughout. The head tube is narrow (think P4 narrow), while the down tube flares outward to better catch airflow coming off of the (presumably wider) tires, and better shield the water bottle. This theme of "narrow up top, wide down below" has not been done to this extreme, to my knowledge. But it works brilliantly for the design choices the Strada makes.
This bike represents a really cool new direction and certainly the best case I've seen so far for road disc brakes. I am delighted to see Gerard back in the nitty gritty of design on the road side (he's still been in Mountain and Gravel with his other brand, Open Cycles). Check out the gallery below for a good look at the personal Strada of 3T's own Dave Koesel (formerly the product manager at Felt Bicycles). Dave has a keen attention to detail and built his bike up with some pretty snazzy choices.