Unhindered by the UCI rulebook, a decade ago British bike brand Factor unleashed the Vis Vires on the world, one of the most striking bikes we'd seen at the time and one of the first road bikes with a £10,000 price tag. The radical design featured a full-length fork, integrated stem and split down tube, the latter being completely unique to Factor and something we've not seen any other bike brand try to replicate to date.
At a quick glance, the Vis Vires may bear a slight resemblance to many other bikes out there, but on a closer inspection you'll notice some distinct features. The down tube is literally divided in two down the middle, and the fork blades extend seamlessly to meet a completely integrated stem.
While certain other aero bikes with holes in have even started appearing on the World Tour in the last year or so, this was revolutionary at the time.
When the Factor Vis Vires was released back in 2013, it was one of the best examples of integration we'd ever seen on a road bike. The brakes were hidden away behind the fork legs and behind the bottom bracket, the cabling was fully internal and there was a speed sensor incorporated into the chainstay, all with the aim of minimising drag.
Factor used TRP mini V-Brakes which they customised, producing their own linkage pieces and eliminating the external noodle for the internal cable routing.
The stem was mounted right on top of the forks and yes, it does look a bit odd, but it featured an integrated Garmin mount on top, and a Garmin 810 GPS bike computer was even included as part of the package. It also had space underneath to conceal the Shimano Di2 control box.
The down tube is made from two individual aerofoil tubes joined at the top tube and bottom bracket, and braced in the middle to maintain stiffness. The idea was to let turbulent air from the front wheel pass through the gap, instead of forcing it to go around the down tube. Factor claimed this design saved about one second per kilometre.
Unsurprisingly, the Vis Vires didn't gain certification from the UCI so was never raced in UCI-sanctioned events... and, to answer the question in the title of this article, it has long been discontinued.
Factor did release the UCI-legal Factor One, first in 2015 and again in 2018 with disc brakes, which saw the return of the double down tube (now referred to as the Twin Van EVO down tube), and external steerer fork design. That this bike is part of Factor's range today tells us the brand still thinks there is plenty in its gappy down tube design, but ultimately the niche-ness of the Vis Vires and the industry's move to disc brakes probably sealed its fate.
The Vis Vires may not have been popular enough to avoid being consigned to history, but in 2015 Factor released 65 individually numbered limited edition Vis Vires bikes, and retired professional cyclist-turned commentator David Millar had number one in the collection. To our knowledge, that was the last batch of Vis Vires bikes that rolled off the Factor production line.
Back to the bike - the Factor Vis Vires pictured above that we reviewed came complete with a Shimano Dura-Ace 9070 Di2 groupset, and fitted with Factor’s own power-measuring Power Cranks.
Although ten grand was a serious amount of money to spend on a bike in 2013 and still very much is, the complete bike did come with the computer, power cranks and its very own Scicon travel bag. Ditch the cranks and it was a mere £7,999.
The Vis Vires finishing kit included an Enve Compact carbon bar, painted to match the frame, a Fizik Arione 00 saddle and Factor's wheels from its own in-house brand Black Inc, which were fitted with Factor-branded Vittoria Open Corsa tyres in a 23mm width.
The complete 56cm bike with everything attached hit the road.cc Scales of Truth at 7.39kg (16.3lb).
There is very little info out there about the fate of the several hundred Vis Vires bikes out in the wild. We tried contacting a small owner's group on Instagram and haven't received a reply at the time of writing, and we're not sure if David Millar kept his slice of split-downtubed cycling history...
What are your thoughts on the Vis Vires? Let us know in the comments section below.
Emily is our track and road racing specialist, having represented Great Britain at the World and European Track Championships. With a National Title up her sleeve, Emily has just completed her Master’s in Sports Psychology at Loughborough University where she raced for Elite Development Team, Loughborough Lightning.
Emily is our go-to for all things training and when not riding or racing bikes, you can find her online shopping or booking flights…the rest of the office is now considering painting their nails to see if that’s the secret to going fast…