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Factor Vista review

18 Mar 2019
Verdict:

The Vista aims to do everything but only succeeds in parts

Cyclist Rating: 
Price: 
£3,750 frameset, bar/stem, seatpost, approx £7,500 as built (at RRP)
For 
Competent on a range of surfaces and terrains • Fun to ride • Bomb proof tyres
Against 
Could be quicker on tarmac to truly be ‘all-road’

Don’t call this a gravel bike. Factor is adamant that its new Vista is an ‘all-road’ bike, which it insists is not the same thing at all. The difference, it seems, lies in the design and geometry.

Factor’s design director, Iñigo Gisbert, says, ‘For the Vista we chose the term all-road because we wanted to avoid the use of the word “gravel”.

‘It has come to define some sort of drop-bar bike capable of fitting large [up to 45mm] knobbly tyres.

‘A gravel bike is a bit like a fully rigid mountain bike from the early 1990s, which we feel falls short on paved and unpaved roads when compared to a lighter, nimbler bike equipped with 30-35mm tyres.

‘Equally it cannot compete with a proper mountain bike in terms of safety and speed on real MTB trails full of ruts and rocks.’

As a result, the Vista has been engineered in line with the brand’s leading road machine, the O2, and is intended to have the same ride quality as its WorldTour-proven older brother.

The stack is a touch higher on the Vista (588mm on a size 56, compared to the O2’s 565mm) and the reach a touch shorter (386mm compared to 392mm) to provide a more upright position when riding off-road.

But otherwise Factor insists the ride feel should be more or less the same.

‘The handling of the Vista is designed to be similar to the O2,’ says Gisbert.

‘We adjusted the riding position for longer, rougher rides, which places the rider in a slightly higher position for more control when going downhill on unpaved roads and on steeper climbs.

‘Also we limited the biggest tyre size to 35mm as we think that makes the lightest, fastest, most fun bike to ride on paved and unpaved roads [It’s possible to fit a 38mm tyre but only just].

‘It means we can design the geometry properly around those tyres and keep it compact.

‘There’s no need to unnecessarily stretch the bike in case somebody wants to fit a much bigger tyre.

‘On gravel bikes, trying to fit anything from 28mm to 45mm tyres usually results in a lot of handling compromises.

‘The bottom bracket height and fork trail are key dimensions for a dynamic and agile bike, and they are dependent on the tyre size used.

‘Limiting it to a range of 30-35mm tyres lets us keep it right. ’

Eyes front

One of the most visually striking parts of the bike is the front end.

The fork flows into an external steerer that connects directly to the one-piece bar and stem.

Factor calls this OTIS-AR, a variation on a setup it already uses on another of its bikes, the One, but with altered shapes and dimensions for added comfort.

The idea is that this system allows for excellent shock absorption from the all-road specific carbon layup in the fork legs, while being torsionally stiff thanks to the external ‘double clamp’ design and solid connection to the bar/stem.

It also looks very tidy.

All the cables are directed inside the bar/stem to keep the front end more aerodynamic and free of clutter.

Furthermore, this novel assembly means it’s possible to change bar height without having to cut down the steerer tube.

This is because the top of the stem is secured by four vertical bolts that sandwich spacers to the top of the steering assembly.

Thus, to adjust bar height, you simply unscrew the bolts and insert or remove spacers between the stem and the top of the steering assembly.

(Factor supplies bolts of varying lengths to accommodate slammed or very tall positions.)

It’s a straightforward enough process for even the most novice mechanic, and also negates the need to ever worry about whether your stem is perfectly in line with your front wheel.

The bar/stem also comes with an out-front mount for bike computers.

Although its short extension means it can’t take a Wahoo Elemnt, nor I suspect a Garmin 1030, the Wahoo Elemnt Bolt I used was a good match.

Rough and the smooth

With the Vista, Factor has aimed to make a bike that rides like its O2 road bike on the tarmac, but which can also go off-road.

In truth, I found the ride to be similar, but not the same.

Even with all the spacers removed and the bar/stem as low as it would go, I found the front end of the bike gave a position that suits blasting along local bridleways, but not the sharp end of a sprint.

The geometry of the Vista is just not as aggressive as the O2.

And that’s before we mention the 1.5kg of extra weight that it carries, which makes it a noticeably different ride.

However, this doesn’t count against the bike by any means. The Vista shines when it is taken off the tarmac and onto canal paths and single track terrain.

Here, the position results in improved handling, allowing for extra comfort while still maintaining that road-like agility and control.

The assured handling is most obvious when taking on fire road descents over gravel and rocks of differing sizes.

Hammering along on flat tracks sits you in a position that ensures easy control of the bars from a relaxed grip on the tops.

Despite the more upright position, the Vista is no slouch.

It’s a bike that makes me want to head to Roubaix.

I want to see how it would cope on the cobbles of the Trouee d’Arenberg or Carrefour de l’Arbre.

Then I want to see how my secteur times would compare to those achieved on a standard road bike.

I tried to take the Vista on as many different surfaces as possible – from tarmac roads to muddy trails to gravel farm tracks and leafy descents – and Factor’s idea of an all-road bike was borne out.

Wherever I went I felt as if I was riding a road bike, but with the added confidence that it could go places where I would never consider taking an actual road bike.

If you’re a road bike rider, do you need an all-road bike? Probably not, but if you’ve got the means, then you should definitely think about getting one.

Britain’s roads aren’t getting any quieter, motorists aren’t getting any friendlier and road surfaces aren’t getting any smoother.

With a more versatile bike such as the Vista, there are plenty of ways in which to make an escape.

Specification

Frame Factor Vista
Groupset Shimano Ultegra Di2 Disc
Brakes Shimano Ultegra Di2 Disc
Chainset Shimano Ultegra Di2 Disc
Cassette Shimano Ultegra Di2 Disc
Bars Factor Otis Vista
Stem Factor Otis Vista
Seatpost Factor Otis Vista  
Saddle Fizik Aliante
Wheels Black Inc Black Thirty Disc, Goodyear County 35mm tyres
Weight 8.38kg (size 56cm)
Contact factorbikes.com

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