THE RIDE OF YOUR LIFE
Made largely in Italy, 3T’s high-end, state-of-the-art bicycles combine lightweight road-bike speed with off-road versatility
From his office in Bergamo in Northern Italy, René Wiertz reflects with pride on the journey that his bike company 3T has made in the past decade or so. The original company was founded in 1961, making its reputation through the manufacture of high-end, lightweight, aerodynamic handlebars, but it had entered decline by the 1990s. René acquired the brand in 2007 and set about reigniting the founders’ passion for innovation and design. In 2015 bike designer Gérard Vroomen joined René as his business partner, and the company’s range extended from making bike parts to the design and manufacture of complete bicycles. “In this industry, passion is extremely important,” he says. “Making handlebars isn’t as cool as making the whole bike – it’s like making the phone case when you want to make the phone. This has been a very exciting process.”
As part of his mission to innovate and inspire, René has brought production directly back to Europe. Like many bike manufacturers, 3T is reliant on the factories of China and Southeast Asia, but this is starting to shift. In 2016, René acquired a company in Germany that makes cranks and brought the factory to Italy, where it has started to produce frames as well as other parts. He believes that this is a unique offering.
“It means we can use our own material and our own resin,” he explains. “We can make better bikes and lighter bikes. We are the only bike company that can make frames in-house which – because of our technology – are cost effective, so we can compete with the Far East. We will start to increase production and we want to organize customer tours, so people will come to the factory and put their name on a frame. That will create a completely different experience for our customers.”
Bikes can be acquired through select retailers or direct from 3T, which will then ship it to one of its approved shops. The company focuses its attention on three designs, the first of which is a cyclocross bike partly inspired by René’s own cycling habits. “I like to ride for fun,” he says. “To go off-road, into nature, have a long ride, then a long lunch and ride back again. The bike is named after the philosophy, which is Exploro. We were the first people to come up with a bike like that.” Equally innovative is the Strada, a road bike with wider tyres, making it easier on the back and neck. The latest release is the Race Max, an all-road fast performance-led luxury bike. “It has wider tyres but still built for speed,” says René. “Luxury means beautiful. We are an Italian brand, so beauty is important but so is performance and we look at every detail to make sure it is perfect all the way through. That eye for detail is very important. That’s luxury.”
3T has also started making e-bikes, again concentrating on producing top-of-the-range machines. “You don’t need the best car just to drive five miles to your office but a lot of people do that because it is a great experience,” says René. “For cycling it is the same thing. We have customers who are commuting but they want to do so in a more luxurious way. That is our customer. They could get a cheaper bike but ours is faster and the experience is completely different.”