FACTOR BIKES Vis Vires Bicycles

Factor vis Vires
Factor vis Vires

Now a bicycle has become a complete package of a performance enhanced machine, running an integrated data acquisition system akin to Formula1 race cars.

At the beginning of the 1988 road season I'd fitted a brand spanking new Cat Eye cycle computer to the handlebars of my bike. Compared to today's options that early Cat Eye was primitive (taking nothing away from their current equipment). Yet my DS of that year still had his mind firmly planted in the racing world of the 1960's in which he'd competed. His era was a Europe containing many dusty dirt roads and mountain passes. To him, as a result of the modern black top surfaced roads, we, his mere underlings appeared soft, and on this point he was very clear. So when he spotted the Cat Eye it galled him to think that riders had gradually become so weak minded that they would resort to this type of unnecessary distraction. "That won't help you, get rid of it!" was his response. This week I was speaking with a friend who operates a commercial photography studio and as a hobby flies model helicopters. Now he has the option to command his helicopters, in flight, from an iPad. Also in the studio using a Nikon D800E, he can relay wireless images to an iPad located nearby. Meaning no more messy cables linked to computers and in a recent food shoot his client could whiz the iPad straight out to the kitchen for the chef to see, then make on the fly adjustments. To boot, Gary who's known to be a bit of a geek when it comes to technology, remarked that he wouldn't have even thought three years ago, that either of these things would be a reality so soon. In our conversation about swift changes in technology, blink and it'll suddenly smack you in the face - this weeks announcement by Factor Bikes of the new Vis Vires bike range came up.

Go back a couple of years and take a look into the beginnings of Factor Bikes, a creation of bf1systems, a company involved in providing hi-tech solutions for aerospace and automotive applications. Working in the arena of Formula 1 and providing expertise in the building of supercars including Bugatti and Aston Martin. The first Factor Bike was the Factor001, then with a price tag of close to $33,000 USD. Followed up last year with a "Super Bike" the Aston Martin One-77, only 77 were made, almost reaching the $40,000USD mark in price.

Factor Bikes, within the framework of bf1systems, this week announced that they've transformed the road bike as we know it, by leveraging off their expertise in composite engineering, hardware and electrical. Their press release stating these exact words, "FACTOR® Bikes ……. has transformed today’s road bike with the highly anticipated Vis Vires."

The big selling point of the Vis Vires is technology with data capture incorporating a multitude of new parameters and how it's seamlessly fitted into the bike. Compatibility with ANT+ devices adds flexibility to the system for the end user. To properly access the full capability of Factor Bikes technology their own FACTOR Power Cranks and yet to be released data logger are must have items. We've been hearing this for years about computers and how they'll be completely integrated into everything, now it's becoming a reality with racing bikes too.

ANT+ is the industry leading, cornerstone technology which binds the whole Factor Bikes data integration project together. Managing director of Factor John Bailey said, “Apart from allowing us to transition seamlessly between modes, ANT+ also immediately links us to an established ecosystem of best in class interoperable cycling devices, which is important as we will also be offering our Power Cranks as an after-market product.” The stem will take Garmin mounts for the Edge 510 or 810. Heart rate, speed, power, are the basic data sets available. From there Factor Bikes are in the process of re-defining the meaning of what a bicycle is. Now a bicycle has become a complete package of a performance enhanced machine, running an integrated data acquisition system akin with Formula1 race cars.

There are moments in the development of racing bicycles and related technology which stand out. The safety bicycle and Dunlop's pneumatic tyre set the basic pattern in the late nineteenth century. Tulio Campagnolo's quick release hub and Cambio Corsa back pedal rear derailleur of 1933, followed up by modern derailleurs the next big improvements. Clipless pedals by Keywin hit the market in1983 then Look followed up in 1984. Today the black art of carbon layups and related technology has revolutionised the responsiveness of bikes across all performance benchmarks. I wonder if this current technological advancement is one of those rare defining moments?

I couldn't let this one slip through the nets. The Tour de France is the big news of the week, but watching Orica Green Edge win the TTT by less than a second drove home how close finding a point of advantage in cycling is. At the half way mark in that race there were nine teams within striking distance of a spot on the podium.

It's certain that for years riders and their technical advisors, have been collecting various types of performance data, then adapting that to performance outcomes. Now Factor Bikes have taken their expertise from the motor sports arena, and added advanced options for data capture into bicycles, creating a new playground for cyclists to explore their natural limits. The immediate and obvious standout here is the measurement of crank outputs.

"To allow the analysis of pedalling technique in greater detail, the Factor® Logger (available Winter 2013) can be fitted to the bike, and automatically instructs the crank to enter a high speed data mode via its wireless protocol. The high speed data mode samples internally at a higher rate than in ANT+ mode, and transmits data to the Logger at 192Hz. The data transmitted in the high speed mode includes force applied to each crank, the torque applied to each crank, crank position (with a resolution of 1°). From this data, power from each leg can be calculated. Analysis of this data allows in-depth analysis of pedalling technique, and how the rider is applying torque and force to each crank throughout the whole crank ratio……..as opposed to the few averaged points provided by most other power measurement systems."

Robotic like Racers of the 21st century? Combine this with compatibility with ANT+ devices measuring wheel speed and heart rate. Other parameters include GPS position, altitude, temperature and 9-axis bike orientation. Imagine the possibility for plotting curves across these data collection points and their crossovers then improving on them for maximum training effect, combined with smoothing out any irregularities from your left or right leg across the entire crank revolution. That's just for starters.

Factor go on to say that their new Data Logger which will be available from November 2013 will add to the opportunity for detailed data analysis. Partnering with experts in the field of cycling power measurement, Hunter Allen's Training Peaks company. It's obvious then that this is not just about the Factor Vis Vires bike. To access full potential of what's on offer, Factor cranks, their data logger and subsequent data analysis package will provide an advanced, athlete performance, analysis tool. Remembering that all this comes from a firm involved in high end automotive applications where, as Bike Radar in an article on Factor Power Cranks point out, that creating strain gauges is kiddies stuff to FACTOR. The Bike Radar article is a must read, as they went to the factory and had a good poke around.

Factor Bikes Vis Vires Reveal from Factor on Vimeo.

All this over-shadows the usual argument for marketing a bicycle based on technical points about frame design and carbon layups etc. Despite the striking split tube arrangement of the Vis Vires, I think the data integration package is the standout here. Although obviously again with their motor sports involvement they'd have to know a thing or two about working with carbon! Factor compare their bike to Cervelo and Specialized. "Using industry juggernauts like Cervelo and Specialized bikes as benchmarks, FACTOR’s Vis Vires excels in terms of stiffness, aerodynamics, comfort and weight, specifically performing its best at high yaw angles." So to compete in the marketplace and allow their brand new version of integrated technologies to shine, Factor bikes announced three new models priced way more favourably than the Factor001 and Aston Martin One-77. They are

Vis Vires Ultegra Di2 approx $9,168USD with Ultegra cranks Vis Vires Ultegra Di2 approx $12,224USD with Factor Power Cranks Vis Vires - Dura-Ace Di2 - approx $15,280USD

Factor Bikes new technology has the potential to have the same impact, in regard to re-defining a significant advance in bicycle functionality, that Tulio Campagnolo's derailleur had in the twentieth century. Time will tell though and I'm betting this is just the beginning of an avalanche of new technologies which will revolutionise what we're riding now.

In years to come 2013 may well be the cut off year for a new type of event similar to L'Eroica but with it's own bitumen topped terrain? Pre electronic, non data integrated machines 1988 to 2013?

Next on the agenda, and will this ever happen. It's been a long time coming, tried and tested then failed since the 1890s, yet now successful in heavier commuter models. A lightweight, practical and serviceable, race ready - integrated sequential gearing system, removing the need for Tulio Campagnolo's beautiful derailleur invention?

As for my DS of 1988, well times change.