Factor feels like one of those brands that has been around for ages, turning heads with interesting innovations like split downtubes and integrated cockpits. However, the British brand only hit the mainstream recently, in bike industry terms, with their first major breakthrough in 2011 with the release of the Factor One-77.
Coined as a “hyperbike” Factor were aiming – and still are for that matter – at the very pinnacle of the echelon. They were arguably first to leapfrog the superbike, dismissing that title as too trivial as to be worth pursuing. As this first pivotal release was a collaboration with none other than Aston Martin, you can see how heads were turned and eyebrows raised. As a conceptual project, the One-77 represented a significant advancement in technology and engineering.
In the eight years since, Factor has taken the concept of the One-77 in all its hyperbolic glory, learned from its strengths and weaknesses and endeavoured to push the expectation of every model it’s released to date. The Vis Vires was the first model to push the envelope for the masses. Championed by David Millar – then and now Factor ambassador – the Vis Vires introduced concepts to bicycles that questioned the norm. The split head and downtube for example, still draws admiring glances to this day. Whilst we won’t go into the cleaning and maintenance battle, the VV was revolutionary. The cockpit, inclusive of stem, handlebar and computer mount was reminiscent of a Transformer and in a world not yet used to an integrated steering system, it was viewed with a balance of scepticism and intrigue.
Since then, the ONE – a comparably more serviceable, every-day friendly evolution of the Vis Vires – hit the market and remains Factor’s poster-girl aero bike in the range. Now in its second iteration as of 2018, the ONE retains the split downtube (losing the split headtube) in the pursuit of better air turbulence management and has evolved the cockpit with in house carbon component brand, Black Inc. The Factor O2 followed shortly after, notably beneath French superstar and Rouleur columnist Romain Bardet, and our very own Desire Editor, Stuart Clapp. The O2 helped Bardet to a podium position at the Tour de France in 2017 and cemented itself as the choice for the high mountains.
So what next for Factor? Well, as you may have noticed, the world is going a little mad for bikes, kit and tech that does a little more than it used to. Consumer demand for 3 or 4 separate bikes is reducing, with space at home and cost cited as reasons to reverse the n+1 principle. To address this, Factor released the Vista in 2018, a do-it-all bike designed to offer all the excitement and innovation of their dedicated race platforms, with all the versatility of a bike that takes big tyres, handles well on the rough stuff, but performs like a road bike on the tarmac.
The Vista has a recognisable silhouette, with the tell-tale shape of its lineage. It manages to nicely blend the look of a performance road bike – a style that we can all attest to being desirable – but with a dose more practicality. Clearance for up to 35mm tyres, ample for most gravel-road forays, as well as added compliance through a flat-backed seatpost and dropped seatstays. All very modern indeed.
Factor have recognised that with their lofty position in the market – after all, £4,000 for a frame is not easy to swallow – that the customer experience is where they can make waves. 2019 sees Factor open the doors to its brand-new HQ, right where it all began, in Norfolk, England. Part showroom, part service centre and part head office, the Hethel Engineering Centre hopes to combine the Factor eco system in one cycling-centric location.
The centre is a cycling hub, allowing customers to experience the entire journey in the hands of Factor’s passionate team on the ground. From the showroom over fresh coffee, through to paint design, build and fitting from Rëtul, all with the roar of Lotus’ nearby test track in the background.
With a quiver of bikes to ogle, test and peruse, it’s worth popping over for a brew or two and a good chinwag. For more information, head over to Factorbikes.com