If you haven’t yet heard of Factor Bikes, best lock away your credit card before you read any further. This small British brand, born out of F1 technology, has three new bikes it wants you to know about, and they’re seriously impressive. So good in fact that ONE Pro Cycling has already ordered a complete fleet of the bikes for the 2016 season, which the team will be racing under a Pro Continental licence.
BikeRadar was invited out to ONE Pro’s training camp in Andalucia to see the new Factor One, so for those who want to know how it compares to the ‘old’ Vis Vires – head on down the page. But first some backstory: Factor Bikes was formed back in 2007 as a showcase for the engineering expertise of Norfolk-based motorsports company bf1 systems, and it quickly blew people away with the superbikes it produced.
First there came the 001, which incorporated advanced electronics, hydraulic brakes, integrated LEDs and an onboard battery system into a superbike carbon frame. This was refined and evolved into the limited edition One-77, developed in partnership with Aston Martin and costing a whopping £25,000 (about $37,500 / AU$52,000. But it wasn’t until the advent of the Vis Vires that we saw a production bike with wider market appeal. BikeRadar rode the Vis Vires back in 2013, and described it as a “production race bike with superbike credentials”, costing £10,000 (about $15,000 / AU$20,800).
Trouble was, it wasn’t UCI-legal. The split down tube and chunky front end, which gave the incredible aero gains and stiffness that impressed us so much, meant it couldn’t be raced in anger. So Factor went back to the drawing board, this time with new owners at the helm. One of those owners is former pro cyclist Baden Cooke, winner of the Tour de France green jersey back in 2003, and the other is Rob Gitelis, an industry stalwart who owns a bike manufacturing plant out in Taiwan.
Together, the new owners have come up with three new models, with input from former pro cyclist David Millar, who’s been acting as a test pilot. The manufacturing facilities in Taiwan mean that Factor has been able to act very quickly on the feedback that Millar has given them, tweaking the designs until they were ready to be raced. And pass UCI scrutiny, which was important as ONE Pro Cycling wanted the bikes, and quickly.
“Baden and I knew right away that we wanted to be associated with a pro team,” said Gitelis. “The whole discussion started, and we realised that where ONE Pro Cycling were going and where we going was a very similar place. They wanted a partner who could develop the product for them and with them. We’re not just expecting them to ride the bike we give them.”
That’s echoed by Matt Prior, ONE Pro’s owner: “What was really appealing to me was the fact that we can go to a guy who owns a factory, who has the ability to get feedback from the riders and make the changes we need,” he told us.
“Factor want to create the best bike in the world. We want to be riding the best bike in the world. And the exciting thing is that it’s only going to get better.”
So what are these new bikes? Read on…
Top of three is the Factor One, the new aero race bike that’s the most similar to the Vis Vires. The front end has been reshaped and the fork is no longer twin-bladed, but it retains the distinctive ‘Twin-Vane’ down tube to help funnel wash from the front wheel through the frame rather than around.
“It definitely cleans up the wind that’s coming up off the wheel,” Gitelis told BikeRadar. “It’s very easy to prove this. When you’re out on the bike you can see the dust coming up.” The twin vanes aren’t connected in the middle, which is very difficult to make – and around 40 percent more expensive to create the carbon moulds – but also very difficult to replicate.
It keeps the wheels from Black Inc, which Cooke also runs. These will be spinning on Ceramic Speed bearings, and in the configuration that BikeRadar rode (of which more later), sported the 80mm-deep carbon rims. Tyres are Hutchinson’s handmade Pro Tour tubulars, 24mm wide with dual-compound tread and polycotton casing.
There’s a new handlebar design, too. “We’re pretty confident that our new design has greatly reduced the frontal area of this bike,” added Gitelis. “You can see that we’ve hidden the Di2 box away from the handlebar, so we’ve been able to go very thin. Our Di2 junction box is underneath the water bottle on the down tube.”
Seating duties are taken care of by Prologo’s Nago Evo CPC saddle. It will come with three widths of handlebars and five lengths of stems.
The Factor One runs on Shimano’s Dura-Ace Di2 groupset, and uses standard Dura-Ace caliper brakes rather than the TRP mini V-brakes that the Vis Vires used. The rear brake is hidden out of the wind under the bottom bracket, while the front brake is mounted to the front of the fork rather than the rear.
Complete build weight for the new Factor One is 7.4kg, and it will cost just shy of $10,000 (we’ll add UK and Australian prices as we have them). There’ll also be a Factor One S, which loses the integrated fork and handlebars, for riders who want to spec their own handlebars. It will cost $7,650.
Next up is Factor’s all-rounder bike, the O2. This loses the split down tube and deep-section 80mm wheels, but keeps the integrated handlebars and comes in a little lighter than the Factor One at 6.9kg for the complete build. It will be available in Dura-Ace and Ultegra Di2 models costing $9,000 and $7,650 respectively.
“When we designed the O2, we designed it knowing that we need a disc-brake version, so we are making a racing disc-brake bike,” said Gitelis. “It’s our O2 model frame, designed for disc brakes. We’re not doing anything that’s going to change the ride characteristics. It will be a racing disc brake frame, available in March 2016. The price point will be the same [as the O2] at Dura-Ace and Ultegra Di2.”
There will also be a Factor O2 that loses the integrated handlebars and stem, for riders who want to spec their own.
Finally, there will also be a tri bike to come, which will be a non-UCI compliant, very integrated machine. Gitelis told us it will be competitive with the Scott Plasma and Canyon Speedmax CF SLX in terms of integration. According to Gitelis, this will be coming in 2016; we’ll update with more details as we have them.
So will we be seeing these bikes at the Tour de France any time soon? “Make no mistake, it’s going to be a massive challenge making the step up to Pro Continental,” Prior said. “We both have the ambition to put this team in the Tour de France. We’ve made one step, a big step, but this is just a step in the right direction.”