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The Factor Ostro VAM frameset is a brilliant way to start a custom build. Its stiffness and geometry result in a bike that is super fast, tracks through high-speed corners beautifully and is comfortable enough for long training days. Yes, it is expensive, but this is one of the best race bikes out there.
Factor bills the Ostro VAM has a 'quiver killer.' They say it's fast, light and 'supremely comfortable' and for the most part they're spot on – that is exactly what you're getting. As I racked up the miles, there was one recurring thought I just couldn't shake; the Ostro VAM rides incredibly similarly to my Specialized S-Works Tarmac SL7.
It isn't quite as mind-bogglingly fast uphill as the Aethos or the new Merida Scultura V, and it isn't quite as fast as my old Venge on a dead flat road, but the Ostro VAM, like the SL7, does everything very well. It's a brilliant bike to use on mixed terrain rides, especially when the group ride gets a bit competitive or you find yourself in a race.
Factor intends this frame for racing, and the Ostro VAM is easily stiff enough to handle everything my legs and arms could throw at it. The position is long and low and the weight is bang on for one of these do-it-all frames.
The down tube is wide and deep with a trailing edge that flattens off very quickly. It's a truncated design that we commonly see on road race bikes these days, and while I haven't got a wind tunnel to do any testing, the frame wasn't slowing me down.
That down tube flows into a monster of a bottom bracket shell and then into some mighty chain stays. It doesn't take a genius to realise this will result in fantastically effective power transfer, and that's exactly what I found. Such is my lack of sprinting power, I handed the bike to some bigger friends and told them to see if they could detect any flex. A few 1,500W sprints later and all of us were suitably impressed.
As a bike for all occasions, you're probably going to want this to climb well too. It does. The stiffness of the BB area really helps here, and I didn't feel like any of my precious Watts were being lost in the frame.
As I said earlier, this isn't going to climb with something like the Aethos, and I prefer deep wheels on a bike like this anyway. Your personal build will have some bearing on how this climbs.
Going back down the hill or putting this into a criterium shows how good the handling is. I quickly felt comfortable leaning the bike into fast corners, and found the bike's smooth tracking makes pushing at your cornering speeds addictive.
Tighter hairpin bends aren't the Ostro VAM's greatest strength, but it's fine once you've got used to the feel of it. The corollary is that this bike is fabulous at speed with a steady, sure-footed nature.
Factor claims it's comfortable enough to race Paris-Roubaix on, and we did indeed see Guillaume Boivin and Tom Van Asbroeck hammering across the cobbled roads of Northern France in the lead group, both eventually emerging from the mud to finish inside the top ten. The Ostro VAM, then, can't be that bad on rough roads.
I personally wouldn't describe it as having an especially comfortable ride, though that isn't necessarily a criticism. The Ostro VAM is very similar to the SL7 in that it is unashamedly a race bike.
Factor says it didn't make the seat post as deep as it could have done, and over broken ground you will feel some feedback from the road, but then many riders like to know exactly what is going on beneath them.
Made from a mix of TeXtreme, Toray and Nippon Graphite pitch-based carbon fibre, the frame features a deep head tube, chunky bottom bracket, large chain stays and thin dropped seat stays. The trailing edge of every wind-facing tube has been chopped off in an effort to cheat the wind while saving weight, and if you're looking at this bike thinking it'll be a solid platform for big efforts, you're not wrong.
The cable routing is fully internal and, when set up with a bar such as the Black Inc, you get a very clean look with no annoying rattle from loose cables.
Factor uses an asymmetric version of the T47 BB standard. What you get here are aluminium cups that screw in to the frame and house the CeramicSpeed 30mm bearings. To use a 24mm axle, as I have done with the Power2Max NGEgo, you'll fit the included Wheels MFG 24mm reducers.
I've used reducers in the past and can't say that I'm their biggest fan. I'd much rather use a dedicated system, and Wheels MFG does a T47 BB for 24mm axles – I'd say order at the same time as your frame if you know you're planning a crankset with that axle. That said, I've been riding the Ostro VAM through some horrendous weather and I haven't heard a peep from the BB.
The seatpost is a D-shaped carbon design, and you can select the zero offset I have here or a 25mm layback. Which one you go for will depend on your riding position, but if you're looking to eek out every last bit of comfort, the layback might be a better bet.
The fork legs are very wide for a road bike and Factor says that this is all about aero. From my limited understanding of aerodynamics, a lot of a fork's aero performance depends on how the air passing over the legs then interacts with the front wheel.
On a practical note, the space allows you to fit a very chunky tyre; a 32mm fits easily. If you want extra front-end comfort then, this is the way to get it.
The fork crown area is huge and with the shaping on the frame, everything sits very neatly.
Factor did have some issues with a batch of compression plugs within the previous steerer tube design. This caused preload problems and led to a steerer tube failure for a rider on Team Israel Start-Up Nation, but the new compression plug I have here seems absolutely fine.
Part of the frameset package – and doing a bit to make the price a little friendlier – is the Black Inc integrated bar and stem. This carbon design comes in a very good selection of widths and lengths, and helps to hide all the cabling from view.
Integrated carbon designs can suffer from a little bit too compliance, resulting in a slight twist when you're wrenching on the drops in a sprint. There is, thankfully, none of that here. It's a rock solid platform for the biggest efforts, and it matches the frameset perfectly.
I really got on well with the shape and got the feeling Factor had played things safe with this test bar, knowing the middle ground – a 120mm drop and an 80mm reach – would please a wide range of riders.
Alongside the basic measurements, there is a 3° flare to the drops that kicks the width out by 15mm in each size. It is a tiny change, but felt very comfortable on my wrists. There is more to like when you get to the tops as the 2° backsweep, while only small, again offers a very comfortable ride feel.
Routing the Di2 wires and brake hoses through the bar proves a simple enough task, and everything passes through into the head tube easily.
Speaking of building bikes, seldom do I actually get to build a test bike from the frameset up, and I wish I could do it more. It's a brilliant way to get to know a bike you'll be riding. So on a Friday afternoon I grabbed the instruction manual, started #DrinkAtYourDeskFriday a few hours early, and got building.
First up, the D-shaped steerer tube needed chopping down as per the instructions. Factor recommends a Bahco Sandflex 32tpi / 12D blade and, as you'll be cutting through the bonded threaded insert, you might want to have a tap on hand to make sure you've got a clean thread afterwards.
CeramicSpeed supplies the headset bearings and the compression ring is slotted for two brake hoses plus, if you're running Shimano, a Di2 wire. The hose for the rear brake has a foam tube running the length of the down tube to prevent any annoying rattles.
The cable routing passes directly into the integrated Black Inc bar/stem and, as long as you have a decent routing tool, it's a pretty simple job to get the most tricky part of a modern road bike build done and out of the way.
Factor again turns to CeramicSpeed for bearings in the BB, which are pressed into T47 threaded cups that screw into a bonded aluminium insert. The thru axles are pretty standard and do the job.
The seat post clamp slots into a little space just at the top of the seat tube. The first time you try to install it, it will fall into the bottom bracket, but as long as you lean the frame forward, the seat post slots in easily. Once installed, it holds the post securely and it's easy to adjust saddle height.
A quick look at the geometry charts suggest why I was quickly very comfortable on the Ostro VAM, and just how close it is to my SL7.
The effective top tube is the figure that I look to when trying to get a feel for frame size. I opt for something around 530mm, and my SL7 is 531mm for the size 52cm. At 527mm the 52cm Ostro VAM is a couple of millimetres shorter, but ever the fan of a long stem, I didn't find it an issue.
A nice short wheelbase is great for responsive handling, and the Ostro VAM keeps things tight at 968mm for this size 52cm. For comparison, the SL7 is slightly longer at 975mm.
The head angle for both bikes is 72.5° and there's just 2mm difference in the front centre measurement. That's 577mm for the SL7 and 575mm for the Ostro VAM. Everything points to a racer's bike, and that is what you're getting.
At £5,200 you'll be forgiven a sharp intake of breath. There is no getting around it; this is a rather expensive way to start a bike build.
The S-Works SL7 frameset, for example, will set you back a cool £4,450. While it does include a stem and seatpost, you'll be needing a handlebar – it's £350 for the Roval Rapide bar – and where Factor provides you with a CeramicSpeed BB, I was disappointed to find nothing supplied with my SL7.
Trek's Emonda SLR is another great option for a do-it-all racer. At £4,150, it is a fair bit cheaper than the Factor and, with the Bontrager Aeolus RSL VR-C bar/stem costing £574.99, the Trek is still a bit cheaper.
You can just about spend more, however. Plump for Bianchi's Specialissima CV Disc and you'll be spending £5,210.
The Factor Ostro VAM frameset is in a crowded section of the market, but impresses with a super-fast ride, excellent handling at speed and an easy build. The stiffness of the huge bottom bracket, chunky down tube and deep chainstays results in a bike that loves to sprint and, over broken ground, the back end provides just enough comfort for long training days.
Addictively fast with brilliant handling at speed. One of the best race bikes out there
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Factor Ostro VAM frameset
Size tested: 52
Tell us what the frameset 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?
"The OSTRO is an 'everything' bike, a quiver killer, a master of all trades. Searingly fast, incredibly light and supremely comfortable, it's ready to win sprints, mountain stages and cobbled Classics. It's the ultimate all-rounder because it refuses to compromise. If you're the sort of rider who races with 'the knife between your teeth' no matter the parcours, this is the bike you've been waiting for. When we say you can have it all, we mean it. Features:
Mid-chord aero profile tube shapes
Wide stance fork featuring our pioneering Reversing Flow Energising Channel
Aero cockpit with fully integrated cabling
Tyre clearance of 32mm
ViSTA-Style Seat Stays
Mid-depth profile, lightweight seatpost
T47 threaded bottom bracket
Disc only / electronic shifting only
State the frame and fork material and method of construction
It's a monocoque frame using TeXtreme, Toray and Nippon Graphite Pitch-Based carbon fibre.
Tell us about the build quality and finish of the frame and fork?
From what I could see of the inside, everything is very tidy.
Tell us about the geometry of the frame and fork?
A proper racer's bike. I wouldn't recommend it to anyone that wants even a slightly upright position.
How was the bike in terms of height and reach? How did it compare to other bikes of the same stated size?
It is very similar to the Tarmac SL7.
Riding the bike
Was the bike comfortable to ride? Tell us how you felt about the ride quality.
There is a good amount of feedback through the frame. It isn't the comfiest ride, but for a race bike, I'd say that it is spot on.
Did the bike feel stiff in the right places? Did any part of the bike feel too stiff or too flexible?
Stiff like a race bike should be.
How did the bike transfer power? Did it feel efficient?
You certainly won't be losing any Watts through this frameset...
How would you describe the steering? Was it lively neutral or unresponsive? On the lively side of neutral
Tell us some more about the handling. How did the bike feel overall? Did it do particular things well or badly?
I felt it was best in faster situations, be that in a bunch or through a turn. The tracking is so predictable, which makes it very easy to send through a corner at speed.
How did the build components work with the frame? Was there anything you would have changed?
I'd be tempted to go even deeper on the wheels, but that would be just for looks!
How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?
It is a lot of money, for sure, but about right compared to the competition.
Did you enjoy riding the bike? Loved it
Would you consider buying the bike? It'd be close between this and my SL7
Would you recommend the bike to a friend? Yes
Use this box to explain your overall score
This is an excellent frameset for building into a lightning-fast road racer. The build proves easy and the frameset as a package is very well thought out. It just does everything very well indeed.
About the tester
I usually ride: Specialized S-Works Tarmac SL7 My best bike is:
I've been riding for: Under 5 years I ride: Most days I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: road racing, time trialling, cyclo cross, commuting, club rides, general fitness riding, I specialise in the Cafe Ride!
Son of a Marathon runner, Nephew of a National 24hr Champion, the racing genetics have completely passed him by. After joining the road.cc staff in 2016 as a reviewer, Liam quickly started writing feature articles and news pieces. After a little time living in Canada, where he spent most of his time eating poutine, Liam returned with the launch of DealClincher, taking over the Editor role at the start of 2018. At the weekend, Liam can be found racing on the road both in the UK and abroad, though he prefers the muddy fields of cyclocross. To date, his biggest race win is to the front of the cafe queue.