The Factor Vis Vires is fast, accurate, and visually stunning, boasting a radical design that makes all but its most sophisticated competitors look generic.
Its construction is unflinchingly stiff, the components of the highest quality, and its integration a level above anything else we’ve seen, with the possible exception of LOOK’s 695 AeroLight.
On the road, the performance of the Vis Vires matches its striking appearance. The ride quality is stiff, but not harsh, and it processes rider input at the pedals and steering instantly.
We made a detailed account of the Vis Vires’ design features, including the radical split downtube, in our ‘first look’. You can learn more about the design philosophy in our Industry Insider profile of its creator, Steve Domahidy. Here, we’ll focus entirely on how the Vis Vires performed.
The Vis Vires’ chassis proved to be immensely stiff. This is not to be confused with harsh, however. The balance between the two is the greatest challenge faced by a frame designer, and the characteristic that reveals most about the quality of construction. The Vis Vires offered nothing in the way of flex, but neither did it deliver a jarring ride. A steel frame will offer greater comfort, of course, but nothing like the performance.
This stiffness was most obvious under ‘full gas’ efforts: big ring climbs, and sprints on flat roads. All of our input was converted to forward motion. Nothing was squandered. In this regard, the Vis Vires is the most efficient bike we’ve tested. Lighter machines (notably the LOOK 695SR) have offered superior climbing performance, but the Vis Vires is a power convertor nonpareil.
The fork, which put us in mind of Wilier’s Twin Blade, was similarly unyielding. Steering was impressively precise, resulting as much from a design that unites the fork blade with the stem as the super stiff construction. Its purpose is to channel airflow, but we’re not qualified or equipped to comment on aerodynamic performance. We can tell you that in any corner, from 90 degree junctions to 180 degree hairpins, the Vis Vires responded instantly to our steering input, and plotted an accurate course.
There are few bikes, even at this price, where we wouldn’t change any of the components. The Vis Vires is one. Nothing offered less than the highest level of performance. The Vis Vires, in its flagship Dura Ace incarnation, is a machine built entirely without compromise.
We’ll confess to slight disappointment when we first glimpsed the TRP TTV brake, and its inclusion here perhaps owes much to the simplicity of its design and the ease with which it can be integrated, but it performed as well as many of the high-end rim brakes we’ve tested, with the notable exception of Campagnolo’s Super Record caliper.
The Black Inc. 45mm carbon wheelset offered a stability in cross winds that we’ve come to associate with the ‘new school’ of carbon wheels: those that have eschewed the flat, high-sided designs of their predecessors in favour of the rounded profile pioneered by Simon Smart in his work with Enve Composites. The DT Swiss 240S hubs performed flawlessly, and, along with the 45mm rim and Aerolight spokes, contributed to an extremely stiff construction that continued the excellent work of the frame in converting rider input to forward motion. The Vittoria Open Corsa CXIII tyres were magnificent: wonderfully supple, and cushioning.
Enve supply the handlebar, one custom made to Domahidy’s specification to continue the cable integration. The 40cm bar supplied with our 51cm test bike, and its 160mm drop, suited us well. The colour coded stitching in the handlebar tape gave another subtle, but revealing insight into the depth of thought applied to the Vis Vires. We found a further example in the Fizik Arione 00 saddle – the Italian firm’s 135g flagship – and its matching, Factor orange stripe.
The central component is one we’ll delay commenting upon. Factor’s £2,000 power crank, one that in standard trim will communicate with any ANT+ device, is new to the market and we hope to bring you much more on its performance and function in a follow-up article. Factor’s parent company, bf1systems, supplies force measurement systems to the upper echelons of motorsport and makes impressive claims for the turbine, one that can be charged in situ, requires no recalibration, and which Factor say produces ‘clean’ data free from external influences such as temperature. We’ll be heading to their Norfolk HQ to learn more in the new year, when a ‘logger box’, one that will communicate at 192hz and offer detailed analysis of pedal stroke, will be added to the range. Watch this space. The Vis Vires is supplied with a Garmin 810, but we fitted our own 510 into the integrated mount and found that it communicated instantly with Factor’s integrated, chainstay-mounted sensor.
Elsewhere, the drivetrain components came from Shimano’s flagship 9070 Dura-Ace Di2 groupset, which performed flawlessly. The comparative merits of electronic shifting and a highly engineered mechanical system guided by human input are the subject for debate in a separate article. We’ll offer the view here that 9070 does as much as can be done to substitute ‘feel’ with precision. The slender hoods and shaped levers were a pleasure to use.
The Vis Vires is a high-performance racing bike. The ride, as discussed above, isn’t harsh or jarring, but this is far from the style of machine we’d choose for an all-day, sportive-style event, any more than we’d recommend a super car for a rush hour commute or the school run. The Vis Vires is a machine to push hard, and to bask in the performance.
Its acceleration was superb. Input through the pedals was lavishly rewarded, creating a virtuous circle: eager for another dose of the same thrill, we pushed on repeatedly. Pan flat roads proved to be the natural habit of the Vis Vires, and it’s hard to imagine a better machine to arrive with at a crit race. Its ability to respond instantly, both to inputs at the pedals and the handlebars, made it ideal for swooping in to corners and sprinting hard from them.
Climbing was only adequate: superior to more cumbersome machinery, of course, but not as flighty on slopes as some of the featherweight steeds of our acquaintance. The Vis Vires is a muscular flat-lander: more Cancellara than Contador. Despite the responsiveness and precision of the steering, it proved reassuringly stable on descents, too.
The Factor Vis Vires fully justifies the superbike status demanded by its price tag. Its unique aesthetic, the ‘zero loss’ performance of the chassis, and zero compromise approach to componentry make it a match for anything we’ve ridden. The integration of chassis and components (we were frequently asked if the bike had cables) set the standard for all but LOOK to follow.
Finally, a word on the price. Given its position in the rarified air at the top of the market, the Vis Vires could almost be perceived as good value (stay with us). Remove the Factor power crank from the equation (as we have, effectively, for this review) and a model with full Dura-Ace Di2 costs £7999, making it comparable to any of the flagship machines from the biggest players in the industry – which takes us to the heart of an interesting debate.
The Vis Vires did not gain certification from the UCI and so cannot be raced in events organised by cycling’s world governing body. Its freedom from sporting regulation (though certainly not from safety standards), however, has allowed Factor to produce a striking machine.
A privileged few, sufficiently well-resourced to shop in the superbike market, will enjoy the opportunity of choosing between the Vis Vires and more conservatively designed but UCI-compliant competitors. Its commercial success or otherwise will tell us much about the appetite of the market for machines that, in the humble opinion of this correspondent, take steps to advance bicycle design, rather than offer yet another variation on a theme.
Price: £9999 (with Factor power crank); £7999 (with Dura-Ace crank)
Size: 51, 54, 56, 58, 61
Colour: Team Orange
Website: Factor Bikes