The Factor Vis Vires is one of the most revolutionary road bikes road.cc has ever tested. With its striking looks, featuring a split down tube, full length fork and integrated stem and Factor-branded and colour matched components, few bikes have been laden with as much anticipation. Few match the £10,000 price tag either.
The Vis Vires is an extraordinary example of what can be achieved when you throw out the UCI rulebook, or selected pages at least. Unhindered by such constraints, Factor has produced one of the most striking new bikes of recent years, packed with innovative features and the best example of integration we've yet seen on a road bike.
Incidentally, the name is Latin for force, power or strength, and it can also mean might, and influnce.
Ride: Sensationally fast
On the road, the Vis Vires delivers on all that promise. It's an exhilarating bike to ride, providing breathtaking performance and handling that lets you exploit the speed it is capable of producing when you turn the pedals in anger.
It devours roads with insatiable speed. It simply barrels along big roads and is happy cruising at ridiculous speeds, really faster than anything else I've ever ridden. We don't have a wind tunnel to verify Factor's claims, but it's abundantly clear the aerodynamic features are fulfilling their purpose. Of course, you still have to pedal the thing, but you're going significantly faster for the same effort.
It's not just the Factor's speed that impresses: it picks up pace rapidly too. Give the pedals a decent shove and the Vis Vires lurches forward. It's immediately apparent from the moment you get on this bike that there is a high level of stiffness from the frame, ensuring it responds to your every input. While it's happy to trundle along at a sedate space, it only really comes alive when you're piling on the watts.
The steering is a little on the fast side, but it doesn't take long to acclimatise and adapt. That novel fork creates a very stiff front end, noticeably stiffer than other top-end bikes I rode at the same time, the Cannondale SuperSix Evo, BMC TeamMachine SLR01 and Bianchi Infinito CV. This produces the most responsive steering I've ever experienced from a road bike, but there is a slight downside: occasionally on very bumpy roads the front wheel can struggle to smoothly follow the surface of the road.
Generally it's very well behaved though. It's impressively comfortable over long rides, but there were occasions — steep descents requiring heavy front braking — that highlighted the extreme stiffness of the fork. Negotiating tight country lanes isn't really the Factor's comfort zone though. It's the big open roads where it's able to stretch its legs that it favours.
The bike fitted me perfectly, which is rare. I usually have to get the Allen keys out and make a few adjustments and changes. The upright stem does give the visual impression of a high front-end, but it's really not the case; the handlebar height was the same as my own bike. It's pretty low. If you like to get low over the front of the bike for an aero position, the Vis Vires won't disappoint. The height and reach is easily adjusted with spacers in the stem. Oh, and the limited steering lock of the fork was unnoticeable during normal riding situations.
Aerodynamic bikes are not usually comfortable. The Scott Foil is a good example of a fast aero bike let down by uncompromising stiffness. The Factor was closer to the Ridley Noah Fast in terms of ride comfort, with a good degree of vibration absorption noticeable through the contact points. It might not be your first choice if comfort is top of your list, but you don't have to fear being beaten up by the Factor even on a longer ride.
While riding the Factor, I was reminded of my time on the BMC TeamMachine, road.cc's Superbike of the Year 2013/14. Both are similarly high-end, carbon fibre race-ready bikes at the bleeding edge of what is currently possible. I revelled in the balanced handling, stiffness, comfort and outright performance of the BMC. The Factor is simply faster in every way, but the BMC is a more rounded package, and is easier on the hills on account of the lower weight. They're close, and that I think is an impressive accolade for a company brand new to cycling, to have produced such a good bike straight out of the starting blocks.
I tried to find fault with the Vis Vires on every ride, but instead finished every ride blown away with the high level of performance. And exhausted, the Factor forces you to ride pretty damn hard. Did I mention I crashed it?
The reason for all that speed is the unique frame and fork. The most interesting design feature is the split down tube and fork blades that extend right up to the integrated stem.
The down tube is made from two individual aerofoil tubes joined at the top tube and bottom bracket, and braced in the middle to maintain stiffness. The split lets turbulent air from the front wheel pass through the gap, rather than being forced around the down tube. Factor claim this design produces produced 100g of aerodynamic efficiency compared to a non-split down tube in their CFD modelling and wind tunnel testing. That amounts to about one second per kilometre. There's only one other bike that uses anything similar, the Merckx time trial bike from a couple of years ago. Such a design was immediately outlawed by the UCI.
The stem is mounted right on top of the forks. It has an integrated Garmin mount on top, and underneath a space to conceal the Shimano Di2 control box. Yes, the stem does look a bit odd, there's nothing else like it on the market, but it looks better in real life and it certainly grows on you. From a fit perspective, it's easy to move the spacers around the handlebars to adjust the height and reach, between 90 and 110mm.
Integrated brakes are increasingly common on aero road bikes and time trial bikes. Everyone is trying to hide their brakes inside the frame. Factor has used TRP mini V-Brakes, hidden in the back of the fork and under the chainstay. The reason here is to shield the brakes with the frame and so minimise drag. Factor customise the TRP brakes, producing their own linkage pieces and eliminating the external noodle for the internal cable routing.
The brakes provide fantastic performance. There's a lot more power at the fingertips than any caliper brakes, and the power is easily modulated; there's no risk of locking a wheel, even with the carbon rims. The brakes are sufficient to check any excess of speed the Factor is easily capable of. I'd have theses brakes on all my bikes.
The Factor has the cleanest example of internal cable routing I've seen on any bike. There are just no exposed cables anywhere. At the front the cables are routed inside the handlebars, into the stem and from there into the frame. They use full housings as well, so the cables are protected from the British weather right the way from shifter to derailleur or brake lever to V-brake. Luckily each Factor is provided fully built so you don't have to tackle that job yourself.
The aero shaped seat tube houses a proprietary aero seatpost, topped with a one-bolt, and very easy to use, saddle clamp. You can choose from zero to 30mm offset plus the adjustment available on the saddle rails. The seatpost clamp is concealed inside the top tube, and is easily adjusted with an Allen bolt.
The rear half of the frame is a bit more regular than the front, with oversized chainstays and short seat stays. Incorporated inside the non-driveside chainstay is a speed sensor that partners with the Factor Power Cranks. This is the sort of integration we've seen from Trek and Giant.
Build kit: Dura-Ace Di2 and Factor Power Cranks
At the moment you can only buy the Vis Vires with Shimano Dura-Ace Di2, costing £7,999, or with the Power Cranks for £9,999. There is an Ultegra Di2 model coming sometime this year. Factor build the bike with top drawer kit, and throw in a Factor-branded Garmin Edge 810 with a heart rate strap and a Scicon AeroComfort case for taking the bike on your travels.
The Di2 groupset needs little introduction, in fact you're better off reading Mat's in-depth review. Suffice to say, it's excellent in every way. The battery is concealed inside the frame, and the junction box, with the charge port, is concealed under the stem. Shifting is precise, braking with the TRP v-brakes is fantastic, and the ergonomics of the hoods is the best Shimano has ever produced.
An Enve Compact carbon bar, painted to match the frame, provides a good level of stiffness and is a nice shape as well. The Fizik Arione 00 saddle is extremely firm but provided you get on with the shape of a regular Arione, is perfectly comfortable on longer jaunts.
As a package, with the colour matched components, it's a really good looking bike. There's nothing you'd want to change, just set the saddle and bar height, and hit the road.
The wheels are Factor's own, the result of a co-branding effort with a new brand, yet to launch in Europe, called Black Inc. The wheels have a 25mm wide rim that follows the modern wheel trend for a wider profile, with a rounded trailing edge. They're a full carbon clincher design, laced via Aerolight spokes to DT Swiss 240S hubs. With the TRP brakes, the braking performance is stunning, no snatching, just a nice progressive feel, in the dry or wet.
Throwing the bike around and hard sprinting reveals impressive wheel stiffness; there's no noticeable flex or brake block rub. They're good in cross-winds, with little buffeting at higher speeds and wind angles. They're good in a straight line at speed too, and combine well with the frame to contribute to the high speeds the bike is capable off.
The wheels are fitted with Factor-branded Vittoria Open Corsa CX tyres in 23mm width. A very fast-rolling tyre with a great suppleness and high level of grip, they suit the bike well.
Factor's Power Cranks
Not only have Factor designed their own innovative frame and clearly gone to some effort to source top-spec wheels and Factor-branded parts, but they have developed their own power-measuring cranks. They could have used one of the aftermarket power systems available, but clearly thought they could produce something better than those current choices. For a first effort, the Power Crank is a impressive bit of kit.
The cranks use the ANT+ communication protocol and paired easily with the supplied Garmin Edge 810. The crankset is machined from 7075 aluminium and uses the pressfit 386 Evo bottom bracket standard. They're fitted with Praxis Works Clover 53/39 chainrings and weigh a claimed 825g.
Each crank arm is powered by an internal lithium-ion battery and easily charged by attaching the special charger to each crank arm. A recharge takes just three hours and battery life is a claimed 10 hours. I charged them regularly during the test period and didn't have any problems. They're easy to setup and provided consistent and accurate data during testing.
I won't go into much more detail now, I'm hoping to get a long-term test on the cranks so I'll be able to really get under the skin of them. Factor is also currently working on its own data logger, because it claims the cranks offer a higher resolution of data than the Edge is capable of working with.
Very fast, very stiff and very expensive.
road.cc test report
Make and model: Factor Vis Vires
Size tested: 56
About the bike
State the frame and fork material and method of construction. List the components used to build up the bike.
In 2007, bf1systems® turned their attention and focus towards producing the next evolutionary step in road racing bicycles and in 2009 launched the FACTOR001. The ground-breaking design left an indelible impression on bike designs worldwide. Incorporating advanced electronics with over 100 channels of bio-metric data, full hydraulic disc brakes, and lithium polymer battery system supplying power to the on-board computer, sensors, and Shimano Di2 shifting system simultaneously, the FACTOR001 was a bike like no other.
Tell us what the bike is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about the bike?
Standard features include Team Orange paint scheme, Shimano Dura Ace Di2, Factor® Power Cranks, Garmin 810 computer with HRM strap, integrated wheel speed sensor, 45 clincher aero wheels and Factor® AeroComfort bicycle transport bag.
Frame and fork
Tell us about the build quality and finish of the frame and fork?
Tell us about the materials used in the frame and fork?
Full carbon fibre frame and fork.
Tell us about the geometry of the frame and fork?
Fairly regular road race stuff, 73.25 degree head angle, 70 degree seat angle, 56.2cm top tube and 985mm wheelbase.
How was the bike in terms of height and reach? How did it compare to other bikes of the same stated size?
Fitted like a glove.
Riding the bike
Was the bike comfortable to ride? Tell us how you felt about the ride quality.
For an aero bike with such a high level of stiffness, it was impressively comfortable, more so at the back than the front really.
Did the bike feel stiff in the right places? Did any part of the bike feel too stiff or too flexible?
Oh yes. The front end stiffness is higher than most other bikes, creating very direct handling.
How did the bike transfer power? Did it feel efficient?
Was there any toe-clip overlap with the front wheel? If so, was it a problem?
How would you describe the steering? Was it lively, neutral or unresponsive? Fast and direct.
Tell us some more about the handling. How did the bike feel overall? Did it do particular things well or badly?
Very fast and lively handling, feels alive.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's comfort? would you recommend any changes?
The wheels were superbly fast, and good blustery wind conditions. Di2 was impressive too.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's stiffness? would you recommend any changes?
The wheels are very stiff, as are the handlebars and the cranks.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's efficiency? would you recommend any changes?
The cranks are stiff and transfer power well.
The weight shows up a little here
Wheels and tyres
Did you enjoy riding the bike? Yes.
Would you consider buying the bike? If I won the lottery, yes.
Would you recommend the bike to a friend? If they won the lottery, yes.
Anything further to say about the bike in conclusion?
The Vis Vires is a fascinating bike. It's stunningly fast with superb handling, and is reasonably comfortable at the same time.The unique fork creates very direct steering that is more engaging that most conventional top-end carbon road bikes, and the split down tube clearly isn't a gimmick.
What you can't do is call it a race bike, as it breaks a host of UCI rules. That's not a problem though, there are plenty of people who want to ride the fastest performance road bikes and not race them, simply to enjoy the experience and thrill of riding a fast bike. And yes it's mightily expensive, but you can easily spec up a top-end frame with top drawer components from any other manufacturer and arrive at a similar price. Unlike those bikes though, the Factor isn't hamstrung by the UCI's rules.
I've not ridden anything as exciting or fast as the Vis Vires before, and unless there is anything else like the Factor on the horizon, I can see anything coming close for a long while
About the tester
I usually ride: My best bike is:
I've been riding for: 10-20 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: road racing, time trialling, cyclo cross, commuting, touring, mtb,