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Factor O2 review

13 Sep 2017
Verdict:

British brand Factor has been resurrected, found a pro team and has its sights on the top end of the road bike market

Cyclist Rating: 
Price: 
£7,750

Buy the Factor O2 frameset from Torque Bikes here

‘We wanted to offer something different to the rest of the market,’ says Factor co-owner Rob Gitelis. It’s a slightly odd statement because, despite Factor having made some truly innovative bikes during its short history, the Factor O2 is perhaps the most conventional frame the brand has ever produced. 

You may remember the Factor 001 back in the heady days of 2009. It was a sort of Bond-bike that had a split down tube, an integrated computer screen and disc brakes long before other brands considered them.

It also cost the same as a family car. Since then Factor has evolved toward more conventionally accepted norms of road cycling to create something that can be raced at WorldTour level. 

It may have morphed from a quirky British outfit to a more mainstream cycling brand, but Factor maintains one unique hook – it owns its own Far Eastern factory that makes items for Factor and no one else. 

‘The only people who really own their own [Far Eastern framebuilding] factories these days would be Giant and Merida.

The Factor factory right now is only making bikes for Factor,’ Gitelis tells me.

That shift to first-hand production came when ex-pro rider Baden Cooke and Gitelis, who is a Taiwan-based industry veteran, bought Factor from British motorsport company bf1systems.

Pro aspirations

The acquisition has seen the brand launch onto the pro scene with a sponsorship contract with WorldTour team AG2R La Mondiale, a world away from Factor’s historic niche as an ultra-specialist luxury offering.

‘It’s very unusual for a start-up to have even a Pro Continental team in its first year,’ Gitelis tells us. ‘Most start-ups will aim for a Pro Conti team after 10 years, but our goal with this was not to just stumble along.’ 

The bike being ridden by the pros at AG2R is this one, the Factor O2, so I was naturally eager to put it through its paces.

Of Factor’s three current frames – the One, One-S and O2 – the O2 is the most generic in appearance, with the first two still flirting with the split down tube concept.

At a claimed frame weight of 750g, the O2 is the brand’s lightweight endurance racer, and it compares favourably on weight with bikes such as the Cannondale SuperSix Evo or Trek Émonda.

In terms of geometry, the O2 is a touch more on the aggressive side than those bikes, with an effective head tube of 154mm on a top tube of 565mm. It sits long and low, and is meant to be a pure racing machine.

The tubes of the O2 use a Kamm-tail profile (truncated wing shape) for aerodynamic gains, while the bottom bracket sits in an extremely wide and chunky carbon platform for stiffness and power delivery.

Gitelis tells us that it’s so stiff that sprinters on AG2R are happy to use the O2 ahead of the bulkier Factor One.

Factory standard

All this talk of rigidity in the Factor O2 left me slightly nervous. Factor’s previous bikes had stiffness in spades but I largely felt it was to the detriment of the ride.

For example, the Factor Vis Vires I tested two years ago was blindingly quick, but uncomfortable on anything other than mirror-smooth tarmac.

I was worried that even under new ownership that ride quality – if you can call it a quality – may have lingered.

It didn’t take me long to realise that the O2 is indeed very stiff, making it responsive and fast. It offers the same immediate reaction to input as bikes such as the Pinarello Dogma F8 or Cervélo S5.

I sprinted as hard as I possibly could on the O2 and never felt like even a watt was being wasted.

There is a penalty, however, in that it is immediately a rough and harsh ride. Of course, the whole point of the Factor O2 is to be raced, so it would be unreasonable of me to mark it down too much for lack of comfort.

And it wasn’t actually too bad when the road surface was decent, offering palpable feedback and a resulting sensation of speed.

Where it suffered was when the road was heavily scarred or potholed. Whenever I hit a hole there was a fairly harsh jolt through the back of the bike. 

Built for speed

The low weight of the frame offered immediate advantages on ascents or accelerating up to speed.

This was aided by the wheelset, made by Factor’s sister brand Black Inc, which proved to be fast while also being light enough to keep the overall build below 6.6kg. 

That combination of light weight and high stiffness did mean that the handling took a little time for me to adjust to. At first the sharpness of the front end meant the slightest inputs at lower speed seemed to unbalance the ride slightly more than I’m used to.

However, once I was attuned to it, the handling proved to be sharp with a pleasantly planted feeling at high speed. 

I enjoyed descending just as much as I did climbing. Well-tuned geometry means it has a precision in cornering that’s shared by the likes of the Dogma F8 and S-Works Tarmac.

I felt confident hitting an apex at speed and coming out the other side on target. Whenever I took the Factor out for a ride, I felt like it was constantly egging me on to go faster and faster.

Much as I enjoyed the Factor’s sense of speed, I had to question whether this is a bike for the sort of rider I want to be, or the rider I am.

If I were a pro the O2 would be near the top of my wish list. But as a fairweather racer and casual weekend rider the O2 is a little too harsh and aggressive to settle down with.

There’s no doubt this is a WorldTour superbike, though, and to achieve that one year after its rebirth is an exceptional feat for Factor. 

Buy the Factor O2 frameset from Torque Bikes here

Spec

Factor 02
Frame Carbon fibre
Groupset Shimano Dura-Ace Di2 9070
Brakes Shimano Dura-Ace Di2 9070
Chainset Shimano Dura-Ace Di2 9070
Cassette Shimano Dura-Ace Di2 9070
Bars Factor RGi Carbon integrated aero system
Stem Factor RGi Carbon integrated aero system
Seatpost
Wheels Black Inc Thirty clinchers
Saddle Prologo Navo Evo CPC
Weight 6.58kg (56cm)
Contact factorbikes.com

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