Aero road bikes can be blazing fast, but all that material and tube shaping often makes them heavy and rugged to ride (not to mention fugly). Not so the Factor One, which, thanks to some aggressive design, not only nails the speed component but is also plenty light (15.7 pounds for size 56) and luxury car smooth on the road. With its split down tube and sexy metallic red paint, it was also one of the most sought-after bikes in our test last month in Tucson, Arizona.
Factor says the bike’s aerodynamic chops are partly thanks to the company’s partnership with Bf1systems, a British engineering outfit that has worked on Ferrari, Lamborghini, Maserati, Aston Martin, and numerous F1 and Moto GP teams. Unlike most bike brands, Factor owns its factory in Taiwan, so its designs are proprietary. The One was peloton tested, with Pro Tour team AG2R-La Mondiale (the team of Romain Badet, who has reached the Tour de France twice in the past two years) racing aboard Factor.
The One’s most defining characteristic is its double down tube, with two parallel fins of carbon split by a narrow gap. Factor says the design isn’t about aerodynamics so much as ride quality, and it seems to work—the bike lacks the harsh edge that plagues many aero bikes. And while it looks beautiful, the design did turn our bottles a bit grimy with road spray on inclement days.
The One’s front end is as distinctive as the rest of the frame, using a dual-clamp external steerer fork, which Factor says provides a sleeker leading edge to slice better through the wind and disrupt airflow less. Other than the front brake, all cable routings are tucked neatly inside the frame.
The bike uses an exclusive integrated bar and stem, which bolts directly onto the fork. The junction is covered with a face plate for a super-clean look and airflow. It also makes for a very stiff front end and precise steering. Clearly, this is a design that will work best for avid riders and racers who are set on their bike fit.
Black Inc. is Factor’s house brand, and the Fifty wheelset (confusingly, the rims are 45mm deep) was quick to spin up, fast and fairly stable in the wind, and snappy and light enough for big climbs. Braking performance was solid, but the rims still screeched and hesitated when slowing, which made us yearn for disc brakes. Factor says a disc-equipped One is due shortly.
In Tucson, I chose the Factor One for Mount Lemmon, our longest day of climbing, and for a rolling 65-mile day with the stinger ascent of Gates Pass at the end. It felt like the winning choice both days. This is definitely an aggressive race bike, with a long reach, low stack, and steep head angle (73 degrees), but its road feel is also extremely refined. It is, quite possibly, one of the most sophisticated racers we’ve ever tried, and at $11,500 complete, I guess it should be. It’s a bike for those who love distinction and don’t mind paying for it.