Bike Test: Factor One

The latest superbike from Factor

Have a serving of some Euro flair

Unlike the three other brands of aero bikes recently released, Factor is the definite outlier, and unlike the decades-long legacy of building bikes like the other three brands, Factor can make no valid claim to a storied history of bike production. The design and engineering firm that created the bike opened shop just over a decade ago with a focus on automobiles and motorcycles. It wasn’t until two years later when they took pen to paper to design their first bicycle project.

However, despite being short on time, they have nonetheless made up for that by designing some noteworthy bikes, along with providing some solid Tour de France results in 2018 courtesy of the AG2R team they sponsored.

The One can trace its lineage back to the radical Factor Vis Vires, which graced the cover of RBA back in 2010. While intriguing to look at, the bike was a bit complex and self-indulgent. The One is a much more simplified and purpose-built machine.  

 

The integrated seat binder is as aero as it gets.

THE FRAME

As unique as the split Twin Vane Evo downtube design is, in a historical context, it really isn’t unique at all. Still, as far as we know, Factor is the only brand using the visually alluring design detail on a modern bike. 

 

In fact, while the same can be said of their OTIS (One Total Integration System) fork with the external head tube, there is no getting around that the steering system is as dynamic as they come. In terms of the internals, there is a small rod and compression ring inside the traditional steerer column that keeps things tight, while the external structure is responsible for steering the wheel.

 

The One’s clean lines are definitely enhanced by the continuous frame structure that melds the Twin Vane downtube right into the chainstays. Factor also touts their wide-stance seatstays for providing a more efficient pass-through of air; we were just happy that there was room for a 28mm tire. 

 

In addition to the cable-free exterior, an immediately recognized (and appreciated) feature of the Factor frame is the high-luster finish, which gives the bike a real luxury Euro feel. The One is available as either a disc or caliper brake-specific model and in seven sizes.

THE PARTS

The steering input provided by the OTIS fork was more than apparent, especially when cornering at speed.

Our test bike was driven by a Shimano Di2 Dura-Ace drivetrain and slowed by a pair of flat-mount hydro disc brakes. The wheels are secured by handle-less 12mm skewers, so don’t forget your multi-tool when you leave the house.  

Like so many other brands, Factor, too, has forged their own path in wheel and component choices. Like the seatpost, the one-piece OTIS handlebar/step combo is an obvious choice given its system-dependent design. Combining a non-sweep Kammtail shape with an 80mm drop, the OTIS bar was the most well-liked due to it being the least particular. The seatpost was easy to use and adjust (something that’s getting harder to find as design complexities rise). 

 

The Black Inc. wheels are of Factor’s own origin. We liked that they were not as deep as those found on the other bikes, but we’re not sure what they bring to the table that’s so special other than being sourced as an in-house brand. 

 

THE RIDE

Of the four aero bikes tested, the Factor is easily the least like all the others. This is a race-oriented bike pure and simple. The bike feels stiff throughout, and the double downtube does help provide a very rigid connection from the head tube to the bottom bracket. 

While we’re not big fans of one-piece handlebar/stem combos, the shape and style of the OTIS unit on the Factor were our favorite we’ve used recently

Using the word “quick” to describe its handling would be an understatement. This is a bike that demands a confident, all-hands-on-deck type of rider. We did find that if you mis-judged and changed lines, the bike would respond immediately, but on fast descents, we had moments where we’d be forced to counter-steer heavily just
to point the bike where we needed to go. 

When the road went up, the bike was stiff, and you felt like every watt of power was going straight into the pedals for cannonball-like acceleration. Owing to its architecture, this was not an overly compliant ride, but never did it rate as uncomfortable. While the bike is very fun to ride, we’re not sure we would choose it for many all-day-long rides when fatigue could limit our level of attentiveness.

THE VERDICT

Within this group of aero bikes, when it comes to the Factor’s price, it’s hard not to sound like a broken record. Somewhere along the way someone thought that nearly $13,000 was a good price to ask for a complete bike. Wow! In that context, what actually comes out looking like a good deal is that Factor will sell the frame, fork, bar/stem, seatpost, bottom bracket and headset with CeramicSpeed bearings for $5549. That’s actually a price not out of line of many other high-end framesets on the market.

As much as all the bikes tested here are designed to be ridden aggressively, the Factor was the one bike that seemed to insist on it. Thanks in part to a 98cm wheelbase, it’s easy to flick and quick to accelerate.  

Despite being the new kid on the block, Factor has already shown a talent for producing impressive performance bikes. Our last outing on one was with the O2 road bike with disc brakes that wowed us with a sub-15-pound weight (RBA, May 2017). 

Whether or not you would feel the need to try and rationalize such a purchase is up to you. If we were to lend any aid in that pursuit, it would be this: of all the bikes tested here, the Factor is the one that has a distinct feel of being something truly exotic. Showing up to the group ride on the One is like bringing a sophisticated Euro sports car to a rally for Nissans and Chevrolets. While it can be a handful on fast descents, it looks and feels like something special.

STATS

Price: $12,550 

Weight: 16.75 pounds

Sizes: 46, 49, 52, 54 (tested) 56, 58, 61cm

www.factorbikes.com

FACTOR ONE GEAR

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