Factor Vis Vires High Tech Road Bike Unveiled – Exclusive Interview, Tech & Details!
The new Factor Vis Vires borrows most of the tech and design features and makes them production friendly. The result is a high end road bike that brings new technology and design to the pavement with price points that are inline with other range topping bicycles. To tell the story, we spoke at length with Steve Domahidy, who helped take the brand from boutique to buildable.
“The whole thing kinda started with the Factor 001, and after I left Niner in 2011, I was looking around for something interesting,” Domahidy says. “Their bike was incredibly interesting to me, so I contacted them to see if making a production version of that bike was of interest. John Bailey emailed me back almost immediately with an emphatic ‘yes’, so I went to England a couple days later and have been working with them since.
“The idea with the Vis Vires was to take all of the F001’s biometric feedback and technology and put it into a bike that could be pulled out of the box and raced. I redesigned the frame and seatpost from the ground up to make it producible, but retained all of the electronics that made it unique.”
One of the main things was that the original F001 had the circuit board built into the handlebar. To be able to offer different sizes and widths, those electronics had to be centralized, so they worked with Garmin to create a head unit.
The Dura-Ace Di2 model gets a custom Garmin 810 computer linked to their own Factor Power Crankset that has individual left/right sensors. There’s also a built in speed sensor in the chainstay. A heartrate monitor strap is included, too, all of which communicate with each other via ANT+. And that’s just the beginning…
INTRODUCING NEW TECH
The Power Cranks also communicate in ANT, not just ANT+. The difference is talking at 200Hz versus 2-4Hz. Where this comes in is in a future Factor Logger computer that can capture the flood of data available, and Domahidy says the data is so rich that you’ll see power output at every degree of rotation, giving you exact torque circles. This will let you better see drag and power graphs, and you can see within one pedal stroke if you’ve switched from sitting to standing.
Here’s one example of how that can be used: With the increased information gathering and true left/right sensors, it can show positive and negative markers for each crank, which lets you see if one leg’s upward stroke is creating more drag that’s forcing the other to lay down more power. Without that info, you may simply think one leg is more powerful and try to increase the power output of the other side rather than simply improve it’s stroke quality. The difference is huge from a training perspective because you’ll be able to correct the real weakness, not a perceived one. Word is Hunter Allen is writing an entirely new training program based on this system and their cranks.
An ANT dongle for your computer will let you see the information on your big screen in real time, which can help with home trainer workouts and with shop bike fittings. Combining a bike fit with actual, individual leg output could change the way people are positioned for performance riding.
The downside is that it draws way more power, limiting battery life to two or three rides when in ANT 200Hz mode. It’ll default to the ANT format if it detects anything that can read it, otherwise switching automatically to ANT+. It also has GPS, but no map overlay screen. So if you really wanted to watch the maps but also record the higher data load, stick the Logger in your pocket, it’ll pick up the information first and store it, then it’ll stream the data to your Garmin in real time. The Logger’s info can be dowloaded to WKO+ and Training Peaks, but the data will have to be “down-rezzed” to be sent to Strava or other online networks.
“It’s a leap forward in the way road bikes are designed,” said Domahidy. “Unfortunately, much of the lack of design progression is thanks to the UCI. With this project, we did decide we wanted to be UCI compliant but still be as radical as we could. Not radical just for the sake of being different, but in terms of what people expect from a road bike. In the end, the frame is race legal, but the fork is not. Ironically, the letter we received from the UCI says ‘your interpretation of our rules is correct, but your bike is still not legal.’ So, for now, our bike won’t be allowed in UCI events, but for most of the bike buying public, it likely doesn’t matter.
“Our hope is our bikes will help people really see what the UCI is holding back and force a change. I think it’s coming. For now, though, that’s why we stuck with rim brakes rather than the F001/Aston Martin’s disc brakes.
“Regarding the fork, technically it’s the width that’s non compliant. One thing we carried over is the dual crown design of the fork, which makes the stem one with the steering assembly. The stem comes in three sizes, each with 1omm of length adjustment and 10mm of handlebar height adjustment.
“It also retains the dual downtube design of the original, but the shaping is different from the F001. We consider this to be in the aero road bike category, and the design allows the turbulent air from the front wheel to pass through. Getting the air from the front wheel past a traditional round tube is difficult, so others have used a thinner shape, but that can suffer from torsional rigidity and hurt overall frame stiffness. This design provides the best of both worlds by increasing both bottom bracket stiffness/pedaling efficiency and aerodynamics efficiency. We’re able to claim a full 100 grams of drag reduction just from the split downtube.
“It also stays way more efficient in crosswinds. We wanted to test frame to frame (against other brands), so we used the wheels and saddle that we’ll be shipping on the bike. The spread between 0º and 30º is far smaller than any other bike we tested. We’re not as aerodynamic straight on as some, but overall we tested right between the Cervelo S5 and the Scott Foil. We think it’s the right balance of all aspects of efficiency, which makes for a more well rounded ride.”
It’s designed around BB386EVO. They went with this format because the wider 86mm spindle handled the width of their split top tubes and allowed it to flow directly into the chainstays.
The wheels are their own design, built by Black Inc. They’re 50mm deep carbon clinchers with a 26mm wide profile laced to DT Swiss 240 hubs with straight pull spokes. For braking, Domahidy says the wider stance allows for a thicker brake track with more layers of carbon, which helps with heat dissipation and does away with delamination concerns. They’ve been in development for more than two years with pro team testing for about a year and a half. Oh, and they can be run tubeless with a Stan’s kit!
“The other thing I’m really excited about from a design perspective is that the cable routing is truly all internal. There’s not a single cable visible on this bike. Period.”
The only time you’ll see any derailleur wire is the inch or two just before it meets the derailleur. ENVE is making special handlebars for them that run the cables inside directly out of the shifter levers. Because the fork legs run all the way to the stem, there’s no need for a traditional steerer tube, so they can remove sections that allow the cables to run into the frame. There’s a soft rubber bump stop inside the frame that connects with a track on the underside of the stem, and a stop in the track limits the rotation, so your bars won’t swing around and smack the frame or over extend the cables inside. Domahidy says getting the brake cables run invisibly wasn’t easy, but that’s part of the trick to making this bike so special. It also improves its aerodynamics.
They did go to standard caliper brakes on this one to help meet UCI regulations. In the short term, they believe this will make the bike more approachable for racers until disc brakes really catch on over the next few years. They’re aero brakes, tucked behind the fork crown and under the chainstays, and you won’t see any cables running to them. Domahidy says they stuck with mechanical brakes (TRP TTV carbon with custom cable routing and pivot stop hardware, in this case) because space or shape restrictions with current hydraulic models from SRAM and Magura meant they’d have to be hidden with a cover or some other modification. So, it’ll likely stay mechanical until disc brakes become the norm.
The system uses Shimano’s round, internal battery. It’s hidden inside the seat tube using a custom mount. The custom Garmin mount doubles as the Di2 trim box receptacle and hides the wires.
WEIGHTS, PRICING & AVAILABILITY
Pilot production is running now for early orders and test samples. They’ll start selling in July with August/September delivery. US pricing is not set in stone yet. Since they’re a UK company, they’re still sorting out VAT, then they’ll translate to USD. Domahidy says it’ll be very competitive, particularly since it includes a Garmin, power meter crank and other high end hardware from ENVE, Black Inc, Vittoria and Fizik.
The Dura-Ace Di2 bikes (shown on either end, above) get Vittoria Corsa CX, Fizik Arione OO full carbon saddle, carbon TTV brakes and their custom Garmin 810 computer. Completely built, claimed weight for a 56 is spot on 15lbs without pedals or the Garmin. It’s available in the Stealth Black or Team Orange, both for £9999.
The white Ultegra bike will use the same rims but get DT 350 hubs. It’ll come with standard Ultegra cranks, but you can upgrade to their cranks. Other bits switch to a standard Arione saddle, alloy TTV brakes and Rubino C tires. The Garmin is a standard 510. Retail is £5999 with standard cranks and £7999 with the Factor Power Cranks.
Sales are going to be direct-to-consumer. Prices include a soft-sided bike case. They recommend getting a professional fit first and sending them your fit data, then they’ll build it up with the correct handlebar width, stem size and have it all set up so it’s 99% ready to ride out of the box.
The cranks will also be available separately, along with their data logger, both out by the end of the year. They’ll offer a 130BCD to start. A 110BCD is coming, followed by mountain bike cranks. They’ll having to rework the electronics a bit to make the other sizes work with their power meter design.
VIDEO & FAMILY PHOTO
From left to right: The new Vis Vires, the Aston Martin project and the original F001.
Their website is up with full specs and info.