Back in 2019, we visited 3T to get a first hand look at how their Torno carbon cranks were being produced. While the emphasis was on the crankset construction, 3T hinted that Italian-made frames would be a possibility some time in the near future. The pandemic may have slowed things down a bit, but 3T has just officially announced their move into Italian-made framesets, and they’ll be offering a Founders Edition to celebrate.

Dry Fiber with Resin Injection

3T Italian frameset production carbon fibers

Just how do you go about making your own carbon frames in house? For 3T, it was a step by step learning process which started with the Torno crankset. To keep things simple, the Torno started with more standard carbon fiber sheets, but with so called ‘dry fiber’. That means that unlike preimpregnated carbon fiber, the resin hasn’t been added yet. 3T claims that this allows for the creation of more complex shapes, while also opening up more types of carbon fiber to be used.

3T Italian frameset production layup

3T Italian frameset production in mold

Another big advantage is that dry fiber frames can be placed directly into hot molds without the resin starting to immediately cure. This saves time and energy from constantly warming and cooling each mold before use. Then, once the frame is inside the mold, the resin is injected and cured, which with the right technique, results in a better surface finish without the need for huge amounts of hand finishing.

Filament Winding

3T Italian frameset production with filament windingAdditionally, the dry fiber has advantages that 3T was planning to utilize when they made the move to frame production. Deciding that filament winding was the way to go to create carbon layups without limitations for fiber angles, they have gone to great lengths to develop their own custom filament winding machines.

3T Italian frameset production in mold

By using dry fiber, 3T says that they have access to “every grade and type of carbon fiber” as a dry fiber yarn. That gives them more options when it comes to the exact type of carbon fiber used in the frame production, and helps them configure their ideal layup and ride qualities.

3T points out that the filament winders shown above are prototypes – they’re not showing the final versions. For obvious reasons.

First Frames

3T Italian frameset production complete bike

In 2019 (right around the time of Cory’s visit), they started the development of their first  carbon frame – the Racemax Italia. They figured that if they could create a lighter frame than their current top of the line option with the same stiffness and strength, they could do just about anything. Now, that dream has become reality.

Founder’s Edition

3T Italian frameset production founder's edition

To celebrate the occasion, 3T is offering the first 100 Italian-made frames as a special Founder’s Edition. Well, the first 99 frames – frame #001 is going into their museum.

These very special bikes will be sold as a frameset with fork, seatpost, and some special Founder’s Edition touches:

  • Engraved metal limited edition plaque with frame number
  • Custom see-through paint options
  • 2 finish options under the see-through paint (standard or industrial carbon finish, see below)
  • Customer’s name under the clearcoat
  • 1X+2X frame or dedicated 1X frame (perfectly smooth seattube without any inserts for an FD mount)

3T promises more details and photos at a later date, but they point out that bikes will be delivered in order, so the earlier you get your order in, the sooner you’ll get the bike. The Founders Edition can be ordered from 3T’s top Experience Centers and from 3T directly for USD $5,999 (+tax) / EUR 5,999 (incl. tax) / GBP 5,499 (incl. tax). The link below has a contact form for 3T for more details, with production slated from now through October.

3t.bike

25 COMMENTS

  1. when the cycling world finishes rebuilding the supply chain, are people really going to drop $5K+ on a frameset? I guess I’m going to tap out, and just keep riding my old stuff. $12K+ bikes just depress me.

    • First 3T was never affordable second it’s a very exclusive first batch. We’ll see the normal pricing later even if i bet it won’t be anywhere close to prices i can afford. Specialized Trek and such brands have no problem quoting such prices on very conventional frames built in asia.

    • @Tom – well, I guess we all have our own cross to bear. For me, well, I know I cant take my money with me, may as well have a great bike (and enable “tickle down technology” for the plebeians).

  2. So, isn’t it a lot easier to impregnate the carbon sheets with resin when they are still sheets, before wrapped and placed in a mold? What guarantee is there that the resin got into every nook and cranny of the mold without any voids?

    • I believe what they are doing is called Resin Transfer Molding which has been around for decades. Time successfully used this to produce superb quality frames and forks. All carbon processes have a risk of voids if not done correctly so using pre-impregnated carbon isnt a guarantee either of full resin distribution. My understanding is that RTM is actually one of the best methods of carbon construction in terms of minimizing the chance of voids.

    • Easier? Yes. Better? Not necessarily. there is always a chance with pre-preg that you trap air bubbles in the mold resulting in voids, or bad compaction. There are techniques you can use to reduce this chance, like ‘de-bulking’. With infusion or RTM and dry fibres, you can control the flow of resin into the laminate. THere is also less need to store all your pre-preg fibres in a freezer until they are used, so it makes supply logistics a bit easier. The harder thing is placing dry fibres in a mold without them falling out of place, but that’s where the filament winding comes in.

  3. I’m a fan of 3T’s designs and am impressed with the technology that they’ve developed to bring their frame manufacturing in-house. The woven look is both distinctive and beautiful. But aside from the numbered/engraved exclusivity of getting one of the first 100 frames, what is the buyer getting for their $5K+ versus a standard frame for thousands less? Lighter weight is alluded to but no numbers are presented – not a great sign when the Specialized’s etc of the world are able to back up their world-class prices with world-class weight and stiffness/compliance numbers.

    • The Specialized’s of the world are probably made in greater quantities, outsourced in Asia at a lower cost thus higher company profit margins and at a guess not at the quality of what 3T is showing in this article? These production techniques remind me of what TIME do with their frames. Specialized world class prices, weight and stiffness/compliance…possibly 3T do not want to be recognised as the K-MART of the pro scene?

    • BMC was gluing filament wound tubes into carbon lugs, it wasn’t monocoque. Result was a frame heavier than competitors, less rigid, and far more expensive. That was years ago, before the high water mark on standard road bikes breached $12K. If BMC took the same concept and managed to improve the weight and stiffness, it might be viable in this insane marketplace.

  4. Love seeing production come back “home”. Not so keen on the pricing. Non-founders pricing might be nice to see, if available.

    • Fact – top line road bikes are now $11-15K. Opinion – it’s depressing, at least for me. Excuse me for stating an opinion.

      • Agreed, but on the other hand $700 bikes have never been better.

        As more $ is sunk into building newer and more innovative bikes, the cost for the top line increases. But that “top bike” massively overperforms 99.9% of the potential riders. Essentially, everyone that buys an S-Works Venge is doing the same thing a dude buying a Tesla Model S, Porsche 911 or similar. Very few “need” that car, but in exchange most $15K -level cars are vastly better now than 40 years ago.

        I haven’t owned a top-tier frame since 2012 (arguably… Cervelo R3, not the SL), nor a group since about 2015 when I sold that Dura-Ace 10 bike. But the Ultegra version I have now is better than that one.

        It really is only an issue if the rider demands/desires “the best”.

  5. The problem with prepreg is that it’s riddled with human errors. If you look at bike frame cut up videos on youtube you can see that even high end bikes aren’t that well built.

    RTM process if done right seems to take much of that error out of the equation. Time bicycles has done this for a long time, but unfortunately for them build quality hidden under the surface of the paintjob has not been a factor when consumers buy carbon bikes, so they have almost gone out of business despite excellent build quality.

    Hopefully 3T does the technology right, they surely seem to have much better traction in the marketplace.

  6. Neither RTM nor filament winding are particularly high-end techniques. Both are designed to reduce labor costs, not make a better structure. Filament winding in fact will inevitably make for a lower-tech laminate as the fibers will not be able to precisely follow the load paths expected for the structure as a hand layup can achieve. To get the same strength in the same directions for a structure like a bike frame it will always require more material as it won’t quite be on axis.
    There’s endless worship of filament winding on bike web sites simply because it looks neat and techie. It’s not.
    As to RTM, I was involved in the production of thousands of parts using that method. it’s far from perfect. can’t count number of voids large and small I’ve seen. but it def reduces labor.

    • in addition to what you stated, the process of winding doesn’t allow the fibers to completely straighten/lie flat – they have to go over/under their neighbor. In effect, the fibers are “pre-buckled”, reducing their ability to carry load.

      • makes no difference. There’s a reason hand laid frames are made from unidirectional carbon fiber. They might have a woven top sheet for aesthetics, and to add some toughness to the outer layer, but from a STW perspective, it’s a loser. It’s possible these woven tubes have higher fracture toughness, but they give away stiffness and weight. But it’s not so bad to have tough handlebars and seatposts.

  7. After assembling about 6 Racemax frames through my shop. I would never recommend anybody buy a 3T frame no matter where it’s built. Terrible build quality, piss poor FD cable routing, T27 fixing bolt on one of the worst designed saddle rail clamps. How are the 3T cranks? Oh let me go grab a pair out of the freezer before I install and I’ll let you know…once the propriety BCD chain ring shows up from WolfTooth…

    Atleast the paint is nice!!

  8. I’ve owned two 3T frames. Both had horrible BB creaking issues + one eventually had a crack in the seatpost seam. I’ve owned a lot of carbon frames in my life. 3T has had the worst quality on any I’ve seen. Hopefully taking in house will fix this….

  9. I make pretty good money, and I am in no position to own a $15k bike…but I’ll be able to beat you on a 3k bike. You get to a certain level and it’s diminishing returns..

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