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Factor launch lighter, fully integrated O2 VAM – Chris Froome's 2021 Tour de France bike?

Factor’s sub-brand, BlackInc has New lightweight disc wheels (1240g for the clincher version) from Factor sub-brand BlackInc – tubular version coming, but no tubeless

Factor bikes have announced updates to its O2 VAM lightweight climbing bike with a claimed weight saving that brings an unpainted 54cm disc frame down to 677g. There’s also a new front end that sees the cables follow the 2021 trend of being routed down through the headtube for a claimed aero gain.

Factor has been sponsoring a high-level team since the brand caught people’s attention with its split down-tube aero bike design: firstly One Pro Cycling, then Romain Bradet’s AG2R La Mondiale, and now the Israel Start-Up Nation (ISUN) team. It is with ISUN that Factor has its first truly massive name on its bikes with Chris Froome joining the team in a move worth a rumoured €5m per year.

2021 Factor O2 VAM 3

The bike that Froome will likely turn to in next year’s Tour de France is this, the O2 VAM. It has long-been Factor’s lightweight offering and for 2021 they claim to have saved even more weight, while also routing the cables through the headset. Factor claims that this move to fully integrated cables has allowed them to revise the carbon layup which they say improves stiffness.

Factor says that it hasn’t exactly followed the crowd when figuring out how it can hide those cables.

“Achieving an aerodynamic improvement requires more than simply hiding a feature – the design solution itself has to be aero," says Factor.

"A common method of internal cabling used by other brands employs an oversized upper head tube bearing to create the routing space. However, this, in turn, requires the head tube to be bigger and therefore less aerodynamic. For the new O2 VAM, it was deemed essential to maintain the bike’s optimised head tube ratio, aesthetic appeal and aero performance.”

The solution that Factor has used is a D-shaped steerer tube which they say is “reinforced for impact strength”. This allows the brake hoses and any electronic cabling – there’s no mechanical sifting options available – to pass between the steerer tube and the upper headset bearing.

2021 Factor O2 VAM 1

While Factor claims to have made an aero saving through the new integrated front end, they don’t specify how much of a difference this has made, simply stating that “creating a cleaner aesthetic and enhanced aerodynamics. As small as cables may seem, the aero drag they create is significant”.

2021 Factor O2 VAM 8

Smaller tweaks include split headset spacers for easier position alterations and a new direct-mount rear derailleur hanger that “stiffens the shifting system for Shimano and brings the top of the rear derailleur hanger back behind the axle entry path, speeding up installation and removal of the rear wheel on disc frames.”

The 2021 O2 VAM frameset comes with the Black Inc integrated bar/stem and seatpost, and headset and bottom bracket bearings from CeramicSpeed. Sizes range from 49-58cm and the package will cost you £5,400.

Black Inc Twenty Wheels

2021 Factor O2 VAM 5

If you’ve got a lightweight climbing bike then you might as well have wheels to match. Factor’s in-house component brand Black Inc now has just that with a low-profile wheelset that is disc-specific and comes in either clincher or tubular, with a claimed weight of 1,240g for the clinchers and “sub-1kg” for the tubular version which will also, apparently, feature carbon spokes.

There is no tubeless option here, though Factor says that the rims are optimised for 25-28mm tyres with an internal width of 21mm for the clincher version.

The rim doesn’t have a uniform profile with a 20mm rim depth where the spokes meet the rim. this drops away to a rim height of 18.5mm between the spoke holes.

2021 Factor O2 VAM 9

Factor says that the Twenty wheels feature a revised hub construction, though they don’t specify what has changed, apart from “an updated freehub body engagement system.” Inside, you’ll still find CeramicSpeed bearings.

The clincher wheels are available now, with the tubular wheelset coming later this year. Both cost £2,200.

We think that Factor’s big news is still to come as they have also just registered the ‘Ostro’ bike on the UCI’s approved frames list. We expect this to be an aero bike for the flatter days, but we’re awaiting more information.

Add new comment


neeb | 3 years ago
1 like

Why would you buy a bike for which ridiculous lengths have been gone to to save weight (ultra light wheels, top tube apparently not strong enough to sit on..), but where an extra half kilo of disc brakes has then been added back on? Revealingly, there's no mention of how much the complete bike actually weighs..

IanEdward replied to neeb | 3 years ago
1 like

Ah but, the extra 500g of disc brakes allows them to save 100g on the carbon wheels 😁

Blackthorne replied to neeb | 3 years ago

Hence the need for weight savings. It's almost as if you're saying it's ok to compromise discs for antiquated things like squeezing pieces of rubber along a wheel or shoving a spoon into the tyre.

Blackthorne replied to neeb | 3 years ago
1 like

Hold on I thought the do not sit on the top tube was a joke until I saw it in the photo! What's a poser to do at the stoplights? Pretend to sit on the top tube?

RobD replied to neeb | 3 years ago

So All disc brake bikes have to have a heavy frame? Especially when there's a minimum weight limit for racing your comment doesn't make much sense, what would be the point of fitting a more compromised braking system and then having to bulk up the weight of the bike at other parts?

werics replied to neeb | 3 years ago

Last year's model was sub-UCI; I expect this will be as well. For better or worse, that's all the weight saving their target market cares about.

Chris Hayes | 3 years ago

Love my Factor O2.  Sub 7kg.  Incredibly stiff. Very, very comfortable. And descends and tracks as well as my Colnago C50.... I have the CHPT3 colour scheme, and tend not to like black bikes (there are far too many of them), but the above colour scheme looks superb... It'd be interesting to hear Chris Froome's honest comparison with his Pinarello. I guess we'll have to wait for his memoires. 

handlebarcam | 3 years ago

Nice stem.

Gd29 | 3 years ago

"DO NOT SIT ON TOP TUBE" sticker on the .... top tube

Are they going to have to make a special Froome Bum Friendly (FBF) model?

check12 replied to Gd29 | 3 years ago

Great spot

lesterama replied to Gd29 | 3 years ago
1 like

Probably great for bunny-hopping, too.

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