First shown early in 2011, the 3T Luteus was one of the earliest high-end, all-carbon, disc-compatible cyclocross forks to debut on the market. As it turns out, it's also one of the best available, with an impressively stout structure, a good ride quality, and smart disc-specific features that belie its frontrunner status.
Disc calipers impart very different forces on a fork than cantilevers, and it's here that the Luteus seems to shine the brightest, with impressively thorough forethought. Even when diving hard and braking late, the Luteus's sturdy carbon legs don't dive beneath you or twist at all, leaving you to concentrate on hitting your apex without having to readjust your line or make any additional handlebar inputs.
Because the 3T Luteus's shape isn't constrained by conventional cantilever post locations, mud clearance near the rim and tire is also exceptionally good. There's nearly an index finger's worth of room all around, and no protruding bits to which debris can adhere. Thus, one of the greatest potential benefits of disc vs rim brakes is realized, at least when the mud isn't axle deep.
Despite all that surface area and the huge cross-sections, our Luteus Team test sample weighed in at just 459g – no heavier than top-end rim brake forks we've tested in the past.
With no need for rim brake bosses, space for mud clearance is excellent
3T has done a good job of tackling some of the details, too. The carbon fiber dropouts face slightly forward to prevent wheel ejection under hard braking, and they're also lined with aluminum plates on both the inner and outer surfaces, to combat wear. Cable routing is particularly tidy, with a recessed channel running along the outside of the non-driveside leg and two zip-tie slots to keep everything in place.
Provided you're using black housing, it's nearly invisible once installed, and leaves no sharp edges to snag clothing (or skin) as long as you've used flush cutters or a razor to trim the ends. Some people have criticized 3T for simply running the housing on the outside of the fork, but it's certainly easier to deal with than an internal setup. Plus, it's ready-made for hydraulic lines for those running converters or waiting for new offerings from SRAM and Shimano.
Others instead criticize 3T's use of an aluminum sleeve and pre-installed starnut, which needs to be glued inside the carbon fiber steerer after it's cut with the supplied epoxy. True, this requires a little more time during the initial installation, but we've always found the setup to be more secure than expanding plugs – it reinforces the carbon fiber steerer tube against crushing over a longer section of tube, and doesn't induce any internal stress on the steerer.
We did take issue with a few minor things. For one, the post-mount tabs are sized for 160mm rotors, which we think is overkill for typical 'cross applications (but our minimum recommended diameter for road riding).
Post mounts on the 3T Luteus Team fork are sized for 160mm rotors
In addition, riders seeking an ultra-plush fork might find the Luteus's muscular legs insufficiently cushy on rough courses. It's very well damped but not exactly pillowy smooth, and 3T is offering the Luteus exclusively with a tapered 1 1/8 to 1 1/2in tapered steerer and a 47mm rake.
Not surprisingly, the Luteus Team is also expensive, with a suggested retail price of US$560. Although, in fairness, that's inline with other top-end competition. Otherwise, however, the Team is about as perfect a cyclocross fork as we've found.