Factor Bikes was founded to build nothing but dream bikes. We're such strong believers in that dream that we took the 2018 Factor O2 Disc frameset ($5,049 MSRP) and built it up with a curated selection of some of our favorite component brands. Rather than a stock build from Factor, the O2 Disc SRAM Red eTap HRD Complete Road Bike is an in-house build reflecting the stuff that we actually race on (and dream about) at Competitive Cyclist.
Of course, the dream begins with the O2 itself, and we took that dream-bike inspiration and ran with it, assembling a build kit that—even just a few years ago—was literally the stuff of dreams. SRAM's wireless electronic shifting and road hydraulic disc brakes combined with the latest in Zipp's ever-evolving quiver of speed weaponry simply didn't exist a few years ago. And they're not even the most impressive parts; we reserve that honor for the heart of the dream, the frame itself, which is the same model Bardet rode to a stage win in the 2017 Tour.
During that win, the O2's stiffness was on full display with a final grind up the Peyragudes, a wall so brutal that it produced the only apparent weakness we saw from Froome between Düsseldorf and Paris. What wasn't as obvious is the frame's sub-800g claimed weight, which no doubt contributed to keeping Bardet's fatigue down across the final sucker punch of Port de Bales, Peyresourde, and Peyragudes, ensuring he had enough oomph left in the tank to muscle up the final ramp and overtake Aru for the win. A bike with such a low weight and a deceptively responsive drive spine seems like a too-good-to-be-true fantasy, but Factor manages to bridge the divide while maintaining an admirable amount of long-mile comfort. It's not as smooth as an endurance-minded steel frame, but the O2 doesn't have the ass-on-asphalt punishment so common in the sub-800g, high-mod category.
The O2's characteristics are the product of a collaboration between some big names in the cycling industry and a big name in automotive aerodynamics. The project was started by bf1systems, a motorsport firm that dabbled in cycling with the revolutionary (and non-race-legal) Factor 001 and Vis Vires framesets. A group of two-wheeled visionaries recognized the potential of bf1systems' designs, snapped the Factor name and technology up, and have since translated it into race-legal framesets with the ultimate aim of sponsoring a World Tour team.
Though not as advanced as the One and One-S models, the O2's aerodynamic benefits are still readily apparent to the naked eye. The vertically oriented tubes' bullet-nose face and truncated tailing edge will be no surprise to anyone staying abreast of industry advances because the shape babysits airflow from the point the frame encounters it till long after it's detached and dissipated into wake. The abbreviated rear face is especially important for two reasons. First, it reduces the negative vacuum of trailing drag that traditional NACA tube shapes produce. Second, it doesn't turn into a destabilizing parachute when crosswinds and road conditions shift the yaw angle outside of a NACA profile's near-zero comfort zone.
The frame's aerodynamic features extend to such subtleties as a hidden seatpost clamp, tucked-away seatstays, internal cable routing, a Di2 junction box, and the inclusion of an integrated stem/bar unit designed to work as part of a drag-reduction system with frame and rider. Frankly, we expect this roster of wind-cheating features from high-end aerodynamic road frames; given Factor's penchant for going above and beyond what's expected, it's no surprise that they're all represented here.
The fact that the aerodynamics don't come at the cost of comfort is a surprise, though. We've got to stress again that the O2 isn't as buttery smooth as a classic, lugged steel frame or a heavy, carbon cobbles machine, but it does transmit a lot less harshness than the non-traditional tube shapes and seatpost would suggest. Maybe this is because of the low chainstay juncture and shape, or maybe it has something to do with the EM2 RGicarbon lay-up. Given one that one of Factor's co-owners has a 15+ year pedigree producing carbon frames for an impressive list of boutique brands, we suspect the latter might play a significant role. The O2's EM2 RGicarbon construction involves three different carbon moduli that balance the vibration damping and durable compliance of lower and middle moduli with the unyielding stiffness of Pitch Fibre, a material that is as unabashedly stiff and light as its name is unabashedly British.
Factor isn't shy about claiming that Pitch Fibre is the lightest, stiffest material that can be shaped into a bike frame, so you might assume three things here: 1) Pitch Fibre is extremely difficult to work with, 2) it's very expensive, and 3) Factor jealously guards the exact details of its lay-up schedule. You'd be correct on all counts. The one insight Factor gives into its process is the use of a program called Fibersim, which Factor uses to "ensure that we put the waste into the garbage can and not into the frame." Fibersim helps the brand keep material to a minimum, resulting in fabric cuts and construction so discerningly meticulous that the process rates at the tippy-top end of luxury, a theme that's also reflected in finishing details like a Ceramic Speed bottom bracket.
Finally, though Factor typically builds its bikes with AG2R-sponsor Shimano drivetrains, we've taken the opportunity to paint this canvas with a wide swathe of SRAM Red eTap. This includes the wireless functionality mentioned above, and it also adds the versatility of SRAM's HRD hydraulic disc brakes. This is a concession to safety and reliability over pure pursuit of low weight. Guys like Bardet don't typically have time for braking on descents—indeed, the Frenchman's star shines brightest during daring downhill raids—but we like the ability to stop on command in all conditions and while descending the kinds of steep climbs where the O2 earns its keep. The Addition of Zipp's 404 NSW wheels is another nod to all-around versatility, as the rim aerodynamics mean the bike is a blast whether you're punching up a climb like the Peryegaurdes or rolling through to the front on a 100-mile out-and-back.
- A versatile road racing bike from the industry's newest giant
- Lightweight stiffness excels on climbs and flats
- Aerodynamic design with European auto racing pedigree
- One-piece carbon bar and stem keep the cockpit aerodynamic
- Black Inc. carbon seatpost and integrated clamp mechanism
- Zipp race wheels and eTap shifting mean no upgrades are necessary
- Hydraulic disc brakes ensure stopping in all conditions
- Generous frame clearance accommodates up to 28mm tires