It’s been a little more than a half century since Mario Dedionggi created the Turin Tube Technology company after working for a decade at Ambrosio. With his mind tipped toward racing and an understanding of metals, this move made sense as he also understood that the day’s current crop of racing hardware in steel could likely be made lighter while maintaining proper strength and stiffness relative to cycling.
Needless to say, the thinking was correct and the popularity and demand followed.
It was also right around this time that the name changed from Tecnologia del Tubo Torinese to 3TTT and from there (after an employee mistake) the company became 3T.
Now located in Brembate, Bergamo Italy, they’re still turning out great bars, stems and posts, but they’ve recently added space…
…and production capacity…
For their new line, including the wheels for this review, the Mercurio 60 Limited.
It takes all of a split second to see a couple of the features that set 3T’s design apart from most others…
We’ll get to the hubs a bit later, but of particular note for most people seeing the wheels for the first time is that the rim’s spoke mounting is unlike anything else in the market.
3T had a few goals in mind when developing a wheel – they wanted a total system that was at least as strong as the current best in class and they wanted to reduce weight at the rim if possible.
With that in mind, they looked at what most companies were doing, which was mounting hardware at a hole punched right at the apex of the inside curve of the rim bed…
As you can see below, 3T’s solution is very different.
You can argue over what part of this design provides the most benefit, but as you can see, the 3T design has a few interesting points:
-It has eliminated hardware.
-It has eliminated spoke threading.
-And my favorite point is that 3T shifted the stress away from a very small point at the base of the rim bed and have spread it across several times the area. Perhaps even more important is that this load is now pulling in line with the carbon fiber rather than punching a hole through it and then side loading that hole.
There are a couple of other advantages to this offsetting / side position of the spokes.
That spacing also allows for the spokes not to have to cross over and bend slightly on the rear wheel drive side. This starts at the hub, where the spokes are spaced with a slight gap.
This space is maintained again where the spokes cross, eliminating the rubbing and slight bend that generally occurs.
This straight and uninterrupted path flows all the way to the rim where the carbon pockets allow the spoke to settle directly in line with the hub, for the straightest possible alignment.
The drive side hubs feature nipples that have a slightly rounded surface to also allow for the straightest possible spoke.
The rear hub on the whole is a clean affair. Some will recognize the design as 3T looked at lots of hub versions, including designing their own and chose instead to license a couple of key features for their production. Some might recognize the rear hub as something from Cane Creek (who are fantastic manufacturers).
The way the hub handles spokes is a natural fit for the rim / pocket design but that’s not the only trick feature that 3T decided to use.
Another inclusion that is fantastic for the multiple bike owning consumer is that of Edco’s Multisys Spline. In fact this is probably an even better design for bike shops that only have to carry one wheel for Shimano-SRAM-Campy in 10 (with spacer) or 11 speeds (it’s also great for bike reviewers with loads of bikes and group-sets).
There’s a mounting point for SRAM – Shimano…
Every wheel company should be doing this (or something like this) multiple system without exception.
3T’s front hub is fairly straight forward as well. It’s a nice clean design with internal nipples inside that rounded edge.
Perhaps the one detail I wish would be different for the hubs is that they need to be black, as that would work better visually with most of the bikes that these wheels will find themselves on, namely the carbon go-fast types…
On the other end of the spectrum from go-fast, 3T put some newer thought into slowing down as well. Braking tech for these wheels has been updated beyond a simple smooth surface and high temp resin.
3T employed Richard McAinsh (formerly with Ferrari’s F1 team and now at Verve Cycling) during the design and build phase of these wheels and he brought over a few ideas not normally included in cycling.
With regard to braking, Richard brought up a technique called a “surfacing veil”. This means that they have another material molded directly with / on top of the carbon that is a mesh (The veils in Formula 1 can serve multiple functions like heat shedding / resistance on suspension and around exhaust, impact or wear resistance on wings and suspension, fine raised detail for aerodynamics, etc). In the case of the wheels, the veil lies fairly flush with the surface and mixes with the high temp resin to create a different structure that adds some dimension to the brake track while also adding longer term durability.
3T have their own brake pads and they work well. Still I have to admit that these wheels work well with a couple of carbon specific pads from Swisstop as well as a couple of other manufacturers’ pads.
Braking now with most top line carbon wheels is MUCH better than it was 5 years ago. So much so that most wheels’ brake feel no longer resembles older models (though there are some “factory direct” cheap rims out there that perform like crap).
Of course, most peoples’ top priority when buying deep dish carbon is performance (aerodynamic and weight benefit) and 3T put a few different versions of this wheel through its paces during development.
Now, it needs saying (and we all know) that several wheel companies have come to similar shape conclusions in a fairly short period of time, and 3T have a similar shape to a few other profiles that are widely considered better performing and market leaders.
While it’s likely going to be for the courts to decide (and or the general public with their dollars) if everyone was coincidentally developing in a similar fashion, one thing seems to be holding true in that having the inside (toward the hub) rim shape similar in roundness to the leading (tire side) edge shape performs well.
The Mercurio have that fairly rounded inside profile.
A bit of yellow tape helps to see the rounded shape…
Just to get it out of the way, these wheels seem to hold speed in a fashion that is competitive with the current best in class aero wheels.
I’ve seen these in the wind tunnel and can say that their numbers are competitive with similar profiles and depths for leading competitors (but as it wasn’t 3T’s test, the numbers have to stay in my head rather than going in print). These are competitive with the fastest wheels currently offered.
And there is no penalty for the spoke pockets. Tape them over if you like, but you’re just adding weight.
The Mercurio also do well in cross winds. This shape is proving out over and over again to be much more cross wind friendly than wheels ending with a sharper point.
Yes, deep wheels catch more side wind than shallow rims, but getting hit with a cross wind hasn’t bothered me nearly as much lately as the good old days of deep V shaped wheels. Maybe that’s down to me just getting lucky over the past couple years with wind conditions but I don’t think so… The new rounded shapes are plainly better than the older brothers.
I should take a set of old Reynolds wheels out on a windy day along with these the next time I think about it, but 4 tunnels have suggested the data tells the same story in that the new shape is better.
The 3T Mercurio have very good road feel to them but not so solid that they seem harsh.
I honestly would have thought that these wheels would have been very rough given the straightest of straight pull spokes (added to deep section carbon and relatively short spokes due to deep rim and high flanges).
I spoke to Richard McAinsh for an hour at Interbike and while 52 minutes of that conversation were about F1, he did mention that the layup they were doing made a difference in a couple of ways…
First, the in-line layup (putting some carbon fibers in line with the spoke tension) for the spoke pockets was REALLY strong (and actually pretty easy to do).
Second, he thought that because of the spoke pockets that they could lay up the rest of the rim to allow for a little more movement / deflection than typically found in deep carbon wheels. This is because current wheels need a lot of material laid in a not so deflection friendly way in order to reinforce the spoke hole punching and nipples.
[It was that deflection talk that got us on to bending aerodynamic wings in F1 that would meet regulations in parc ferme’ but do a wholly different job from 80-120 and then potentially level back out again for top speed… and poof there went the time].
In any case, these wheels are fairly comfortable. More so than the other 3 sets of 60-ish depth wheels in the house. And the other three sets are from the very top of wheel manufacturing.
The Mercurio are not “night and day” better, but with same tires and tire pressures (and bikes) the Mercurio 60 are a smoother set of wheels.
They’re also very responsive to pedal input.
Part of the responsiveness is down to weight and the test set tipped in at 1410 grams. That’s lighter than a couple leading competitors and 15 grams under the advertised weight from 3T. And while I didn’t cut the wheel into pieces, 3T’s removing the nipple weight and their making the overall rim structure lighter by handling the load differently makes sense in reducing weight at the rim.
Another part of a wheel set’s responsiveness is stiffness and the Mercurio are competitive within the class. They’re not the stiffness champs, but they’re in the mix and suitable for most (reasonable) competitors.
I thought, given the design allowing for straighter spokes and the spoke pocket design that these would have potentially been overly stiff / harsh. 3T decided, much as Zipp, Hed and a few others have decided, that total performance, feel and durability should be considered as well as stiffness. That’s frankly smart thinking.
Some of you read loads of chat room garble about wheels and one of the most overrated suggestions is that the top class of wheels need to be “stiffer”. It’s almost always said by people that have no idea how stiff the new wheels are and or how much more (or less) stiffness their old wheels had to start with, so it’s nice when a company tests its wheels and builds them to perform on-road rather than on-line.
The Mercurio 60 Limited are a hell of an accomplishment for 3T.
Imagine a man walking into a party and at the same time, Brad Pitt, David Beckham, Lewis Hamilton and Princes Harry and Carl Philip walk in with you…
Now imagine all the women (and, if we’re being honest, lots of the men) can’t decide which of you-all they would like to, well, er, ride…
The Mercurio is 3T’s first wheel (they now have several models in tubular and clincher) and it stands toe to toe in a field of multiple world class / world championship level competitors. It’s arguably smoother rolling with competitive aerodynamics and total performance and it adds some genuinely new design features that make a lot of sense.
They’re available now through multiple retailers and are distributed in North America by Vittoria Industries North America. The 60 Limited come in standard and Ceramic Speed bearing options. Retail prices for Standard front: $1080 / Standard rear $1320 / Ceram Front: $1246 / Ceram rear : $1654.
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