Little surprise that the people behind the world’s most expensive bicycle – £23,400 – are F1 people. Formula One costs are as stratospheric as the technology. In F1, £23K barely buys you a wheel nut.
Little wonder, also, that the key components of the Factor 001 are electronics and carbonfibre, the prime qualities of any self-respecting GP winning car. The carbonfibre frame is innovative and impressive – as well as being outrageously handsome – and those carbon wheels are even more noteworthy. (This bike has disc brakes. Liberated from the need to double as rim brakes, the wheels are especially stiff and light.)
Yet it is the electronics that most distinguish this bicycle. The people who make the Factor 001 are demonstrating its extraordinary on-board data measuring capability – more than 100 pieces of data, all collected in ‘real-world’ cycling – to pro teams and the British Olympic team. Studying the charts and graphs should make Chris Hoy and Bradley Wiggins go even faster.
The Factor 001 is the brainchild of Bf1systems, which supplies parts to every F1 team on the grid. Electronic tyre pressure monitors are a speciality, but they also supply other high-tech materials and electronic gizmos, ‘which we can’t talk about’, F1 being such a dastardly secretive business. Bugatti, Lamborghini and Aston Martin road cars are also peppered with Bf1 tech.
Because so much of its stuff is secret, Bf1systems wanted a publicity tool to showcase its talents. The Factor 001 is it. Lewis Hamilton, no less, has bought the first one.
This is a radical machine, not least because it puts a twist on the classic ‘diamond’ bicycle frame. The down- and seat-tubes are twin vane (to increase rigidity). The forks go from the front axle to the handlebars, obviating the need for a conventional fork crown. Braking is done by hydraulic discs, so the wheels don’t need deep rims for braking: bf1 says this enabled it to make the carbon wheels very stiff but light.
That’s the major quality that’s apparent when you ride this bike: its structural stiffness. Kick the pedals and the bike responds, instantly. Handling is sharp and lively, like a good road bike should be. All the electronic gizmos add weight – as tested, the Factor 001 is about 1.5kg more than my carbon Condor Leggero. That counts against you on any hill.
So don’t expect the Factor 001 to win the Tour de France any time soon. But those data gathering electronics could well help tomorrow’s Tour de France winner.
About £8000 of that £23,000 price is electronics. This bike measures things that no ordinary bicycle can calculate. Like useful pedal force versus wasted pedal force (when there’s tension but no torque). Like cornering forces and rider lean angles. It measures instant torque of right and left legs, pedalling motion, cadence and the gradient of hills. It’s all state-of-the-art F1 and way ahead of any other bike – even those used by the pro teams. Really, it’s the ultimate training bike.
The whole frame is carbonfibre – not unusual for a fast road bike, although the twin vane design is certainly stand-alone. Gears are electronic, so there are no cables (they are made by Shimano, and apart from the tyres, are the only components likely to be seen on any other bike).
Other pricey bits include those full carbon wheels and hydraulic disc brakes – highly unusual for a road bike, which typically have cable-operated calliper rim brakes. Ceramic discs are optional – for an extra £4000.