British firm Factor, the company behind the £25,000 Aston Martin One-77 superbike, have revealed their new road bike, the Vis Vires.
Like its predecessor, it has a radically shaped frame and comes with Factor's own, highly advanced crank-based power meter. Two different builds will be sold, costing £9,999 (Shimano Dura-Ace Di2) and £5,999 (Shimano Ultegra Di2), and will be available in August.
Vis Vires bike details
Unlike its forebears, the Vis Vires is a full production model rather than a handmade rarity. But it carries over Factor's convention of defying key design features – traditionalists, look away now.
The Vis Vires has a split down tube, dubbed Twin-Vane, and a hinge-type external steerer fork that meets the structurally integrated, adjustable stem in front of the head tube.
The bike is designed to be aerodynamic without compromising ride quality, and development work was carried out using Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) with prototype verification in the Faster bike-specific wind tunnel in Arizona. All of the cabling is internal, including the noodle for the integrated aero TRP V brakes.
The Vis Vires Ultegra Di2 will come with the new 11-speed 2014 group and a Garmin 510 and heart rate strap, while the Dura-Ace model will feature the Factor Power Crank power meter and a Factor-branded Garmin 810 with heart rate strap. The Ultegra build can be bought with the Power Crank for £7,999.
Both the Ultegra and Dura-Ace models will ship with a Scicon AeroComfort bike bag worth £450. The first 100 frames will be individually numbered limited editions to celebrate the Vis Vires launch.
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Video: Factor Vis Vires reveal (courtesy: Factor Bikes)
Both models use the same frame and top-end build kit – a custom-colour Fi'zi:k Arione 00 saddle, an ENVE Composites Compact handlebar with custom internal cable routing, and Vittoria Open Corsa CX tyres on Black Inc 50C full carbon clincher wheels. Black Inc are a new brand set to launch on the aftermarket soon. Their rims have 'fat' profiles, in tune with the zeitgeist, that Factor say interact very well with their Twin-Vane down tube.
The Dura-Ace bike is claimed to weigh 6.9kg (15.2lb) for a size 56 with the Power Crank and Garmin fitted; the Vis Vires Ultegra is claimed to weigh 7.4kg (16.3lb) including its Garmin.
The Factor Bikes story
BikeRadar had an exclusive first look at the Vis Vires bikes and spent the day with the Factor development team at their base in Norfolk. Our first question to managing director John Bailey was a simple one – why make bikes? After all, Factor's parent company, bf1systems, make electronics and carbon fibre components for top-level motorsport, including Formula 1.
“In 2006 we were doing very well in motorsports and our engineers needed new challenges," he said. "We wanted to produce our own vehicle and show what we could do with electronics, but a car would have been too expensive, so we thought, 'Let's do a bike.' That's how the Factor 001 came about.
"Once we got into it we discovered that it really isn't easy, especially because we decided to throw away the rule book. The 001 was entirely designed and made on site, and we're still making them under the Aston Martin name, albeit in super-low numbers.
“That bike achieved what it was meant to do in terms of opening doors for us with cycling teams and national federations who were interested in our power meter. Once we appreciated how huge the power measurement market is, we started thinking maybe we should do another bike.
"Just at that point, Steve Domahidy contacted us. He was one of the founders of [29er MTB brand] Niner Bikes, and had just left. He loved the 001 and he wanted to work with us. That was two years ago and here we are.”
The Factor Vis Vires in action
By the time work began on the Vis Vires in 2011, Factor Bikes had grown from a side-project and were as passion fuelled as pretty much any other bike brand. Project engineer (and amateur racer) Stuart Brierley said he gladly took a pay cut from his previous job at Lotus Cars for the chance to work on a cutting-edge bike.
For Domahidy, the design direction was clear from the start: “I wanted to honour what they did with the original bike and retain as much as possible of what made it special. John and I were really on the same page with that. Designing a mould to make the split shapes was the biggest challenge.
"You can come up with any shape you like but you have to be able to build it. The structural challenges in the frame were taken care of pretty quickly – the structure of the fork and the integration with the stem and brakes were harder. This project has just been the most exciting two years of my life, building what I think is the coolest bike around right now."
Factor set themselves tough targets for the Vis Vires in terms of stiffness, aerodynamics, comfort and weight, and selected a handful of bikes to use as benchmarks. They say they match the Cervélo R5 for stiffness and "did really well" against the Scott Foil, Specialized Venge and Cervélo S5 during final validation wind tunnel testing.
"We came out on par in terms of straight line aero, and we're especially good at high yaw angles up to 30 degrees," said Bailey. Above all, though, the goal was a balance of strengths. "We're much stiffer than the most aero bike of the bunch, the S5, and faster than the Foil, which is the only bike [we tested] to compare to the Vis Vires on stiffness."
The original Factor 001 was criticised for its harsh ride; the Vis Vires is intended as a do-it-all race bike, so comfort couldn't be neglected. "It was important to make it as comfortable as possible without compromising other factors," said Domahidy. "The damping is done in the seatstays, which are thin and join the frame below the top tube [to allow the seat tube to flex slightly]. There's only so much you can do when you have airfoil shapes but we're happy with the comfort level we have."
The bare Vis Vires frame weighs "just under 1,000g". It's made from high-modulus, unidirectional Toray carbon for 70 percent of the frame, with medium-modulus fibres blended in to help with comfort and impact resistance. It's a semi-monocoque, laid up by hand.
The Factor 001 was entirely designed and made on site
Factor have no qualms about admitting their new bikes are made in China, not least because they share a factory with Cervélo. "We have a very deep knowledge of composites and we are very happy with the quality of manufacturing there," said Bailey. "We could build the Vis Vires in the UK but it would cost £20k. With the scale of high-end bicycle production in China now, it's the best place to go."
Factor are projecting sales of 100-200 of each Vis Vires model in the first year, and Bailey said they will remain a premium brand and never sell a bike for less than £2,500. A time trial/triathlon bike will be next. "It's at major concept stage," said Domahidy, "and we're asking ourselves whether we should try to make it UCI legal."
Given that virtually every TT bike sold is only raced in non-UCI events, that would only be a concern if Factor were to partner a pro team. Bailey said he'd love that to happen but that it's "probably four or five years away. We're also aiming to supply teams with our power meter, and that could happen sooner."
Check back to BikeRadar soon for an exclusive first ride review and a closer look at the Factor Power Crank.