The bikes of Factor are perhaps best known for what they initially started as – true price-no-object superbikes from a company that specialized in the design and manufacture of F1 racing components.
Fast forward to 2016 and the brand is a rather different beast. Former Green jerseywinner Baden Cooke and longtime industry carbon-manufacturing expert and factory-owner Rob Gitelis are now owners in the refreshed performance bike brand. With this, Factor is one of a very small number of brands to have its own manufacturing facilities.
Factor bikes are already being raced at a top level under ONE Pro Cycling, a team formed by former England cricketer Matt Prior. With new recruits such as Australians Steele von Hoff and Matt Goss, the team is Britain's first and only Pro Continental squad.
During the Tour Down Under, we managed to get a look at the Factor One S belonging to Steele von Hoff. Nicknamed 'Stainless', von Hoff was riding for the UniSA wildcard composite team, providing him with a start in the race, for which he’s a previous stage winner. Having also ridden for Garmin-Cérvelo for two seasons, von Hoff is a former double Australian national criterium champion.
When we catch up with him at the Tour Down Under, von Hoff has two rather different bikes with him: the lightweight climbing-orientated Factor 02, and the aero sprint-orientated Factor One S.
The 28-year old Australian tells BikeRadar he's been riding the 02 at the race because its 6.8kg weight helps best balance his weaknesses as a rider by giving him a much-needed boost on the climbs. Though it was only a spare for the week, we grabbed von Hoff’s Factor One S for a closer look. And there’s plenty to look at, especially with its unique split down tube.
Building on the original Factor Vis Vires, the Factor One has gone through a few revisions to arrive at the UCI-approved bike it is today. Von Hoff's is the ‘S’ version, which swaps out the integrated fork, stem and handlebar setup for something more traditional.
Speaking with Baden Cooke about this, we’re told the Factor One’s integrated cockpit is available in 15 variations (five stem lengths; three bar widths) and allows for 4cm of height adjustment. However, people that want to get either super low or upright in their setup can move to the slightly less aero ‘S’ version. Here, Hoff uses an extremely low position, something that the steep stem from FSA facilitates.
Apart from the front ends, the Factor One and One S feature identical frames. With this, von Hoff’s bike reveals the distinctive split down tube design that’s said to create a hugely stiff platform that greatly reduces wind drag compared with traditional single-tube designs.
Made as one piece, such a design is of course both difficult and expensive to create. Mould costs are said to be 40% higher and hard to imitate, according to part-owner Rob Gitelis, a person who’s spent much of his life producing bikes for others such as Cérvelo.
Elsewhere on the frame there’s plenty of air trickery to see. The integrated seat tube clamp holding the proprietary aero post is such an example, as is the direct-mount rear brake tucked behind the bottom bracket.
Another notable aspect of this frame is the tyre clearance. We’re told it can comfortably fit 28c rubber, which we suspect is unique among its aero peers.
Equal newcomers Black Inc and Verve Cycling join the Factor framesets on the bikes of ONE Pro Cycling. The young wheel brand is another of Rob Gitelis’, and with this, bikes bought from Factor will surely feature these premium carbon hoops with designs unique to Black Inc (read: not open mould).
While there are deeper wheels on offer from the brand, von Hoff was using the middle-ground Black Inc Fifty tubulars with CeramicSpeed bearings. With an unsurprising 50mm depth, these wheels are said to weigh 1385g for the pair and feature a textured braking surface. They offer a wide rim profile, something that’s targeted at the use of a 25c tyre.
Meanwhile Verve Cycling, an Australian-born business, is a power meter company that started by designing truly accurate devices for the likes of the Australian Institute of Sport to benchmark others from. Plenty has changed since those early days, and Verve now has its own dual-leg power meter crankset on the market. The brand recently signed a five partnership with notoriously data-driven British Cycling.
The rest of the build is all known and proven kit, including the Shimano Dura-Ace Di2 gearing and direct-mount brake calipers.
One interesting detail is von Hoff’s choice of Rotor’s oval Q-rings. Rotor isn’t a sponsor of the ONE Pro Cycling team and so these rings are likely something purchased by the rider, who will have become acquainted with them during his time with Garmin-Cérvelo.
Both wheels and cranks spin on ceramic bearings from CeramicSpeed. Hoff uses the tighter-holding and sprinter-focused ‘V4’ Zero pedal from Speedplay.