First Look: T
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First Look: T

Aug 24, 2023

A few months ago, we got our first glimpse of the new bike from T-Lab. The Montreal-based purveyors of custom titanium bicycles had just shown the world its new X3-S at the Philly Bike Expo, and our test bike was also on its way.

What is the X3-S? In this case, the "S" stands for suspension. T-Lab took its flagship X3 gravel race bike and modified it to run a gravel suspension fork based around the RockShox Rudy Ultimate with 40 mm of travel. More than just dropping in a suspension fork to the front end with some geometry changes, the new frame has been redesigned with a stiffer front triangle to cope with the added stress that's bound to come from having a suspension-equipped gravel bike.

Like all of the T-Lab builds, the X3-S starts with a frame made in Canada from Grade 9 titanium tubing. Where T-Lab claims to set itself apart from other titanium builders is in its cold working procedure it calls "Ti-Morph Technology." This tube-shaping process claims to produce frame profiles that are up to 30% stiffer without a weight penalty.

When used in strategic locations of the frame, T-Lab is able to tune the performance of its titanium frames more so than just using round tubes. It goes as far as claiming to produce a "titanium bike that performs like high-end carbon models, all while delivering superior comfort and durability."

Those are big claims for sure, but the process also yields a stunning profile that is undeniable. The ovalized tube sections flare out to meet their junctions at the head tube and bottom bracket in a way that's meant to increase stiffness where you want it, but improve compliance where you don't.

Overall, the X3-S is striking — but even more so with a custom finish. Painting a titanium bike is a tricky thing. Titanium is so naturally beautiful and hard-wearing, it's almost a shame to cover it up. Yet, so many riders want their bike to be an expression of themselves, so if you want a custom paint job on the X3-S, it's an option. Every X3-S includes the Lux finish, which is fully brushed by hand. Semi-custom paint options start with the Hue design for $375, up to $750 for its Versa finish picked here. Riders can also choose to have their bike personalized on the top tube with 24 characters for an additional $125 fee.

When it comes to paint, I am one of those people who has a lot of opinions on the finish, but has trouble articulating those thoughts. When it came time to pick a finish for this test bike, I gave T-Lab's Co-Founder and Creative Director John Anagnostopoulos a rough idea about what I was thinking with some color choices, and T-Lab nailed the final design. It was even able to color-match the orange from the BikeRumor logo for the accents.

While the paint is gorgeous, I like that it's mostly on the front half of the bike. The back end is still raw titanium which will keep it looking sharp in the long run as rocks and debris bounce off the frame from the rear tire.

Along with the custom paint option, T-Lab offers a number of other custom touches as well. The stock bikes all include a BB386 press fit bottom bracket to maximize the welding area for the tube junctions to make the stiffest frame possible. Don't want press fit? For $200, T-Lab will weld your frame up with a T47 threaded shell.

Additional custom options include rack mounts, fender mounts, bento box mounts, and a third water bottle mount under the downtube. (T-Lab mentions that some customers don't want them, so they made it optional.)

Component sizing and specification can also be customized, as it has been here. T-Lab put together this total dream build with a full SRAM Force AXS XPLR group, the Reverb AXS dropper post, an FSA AGX/KFX carbon cockpit, Selle Italia saddle, Reynolds Black Label G700 Pro wheels, and Maxxis Rambler tires. For reference, a T-Lab X3-S (with base Lux finish), a SRAM Force AXS (1x) drivetrain, Rudy Ultimate XPLR fork, and BOYD GVL wheels (its base level wheelset) would sell for $6,975. Depending on the custom options you choose, the pricing will go up from there.

T-Lab also offers complete stock builds with Shimano GRX 1x, Shimano GRX Di2 1x, SRAM Force AXS eTap 1x, and Campagnolo Ekar 1x (SRAM and Campy available soon).

That includes the option for full custom geometry, which adds another $500 to the price. T-Lab offers a fairly comprehensive sizing profile where it will work with you to determine whether you really need custom geometry (if you’re on the fence). The X3-S is offered in three standard sizes if not. If you do decide to go the custom route, T-Lab will want to know results from a pro bike fit, existing bikes you love, and any other fit-related concerns, injuries, etc.

Back to the bike itself, the X3-S offers official tire clearance of 700c x 50mm, which equals the tire clearance of the RockShox Rudy Ultimate XPLR suspension fork at 50 mm. Combined with the suspension capabilities of the fork and the option to run big tires, the X3-S is clearly up for adventure. But it's also built to be fast and efficient like the original X3.

What does that mean for the ride? We’ll have that answer in the full review coming up!

Average frame weight: Headtube: Seatpost: Bottom Bracket: Dropouts: Fork: Wheel size: Maximum Tire Width: Lifetime warranty on frame