by Molly Hurford
The Factor Vista isn’t technically a gravel bike because it can only run tires as wide as 35 mm, but it’s also not merely a road bike. So, what the heck is it? The company refers to it as an “all-road” bike, which is a perfect descriptor. I took it on all roads, including some gnarly rocky singletrack, smooth 25-km 1,000-m climbs, a mini-cyclocross course and some 28 per cent steep grades on slick pavement. In every situation, the bike handled what I threw at it. Was it always the perfect bike for the job? No. But there was nothing that it couldn’t ride. After a month of big miles, I realized that this was the bike I’d been craving. As a former road and ’cross racer, I want a fast ride, not just a plush one, but it has to be burly enough to handle the occasional off-road detour and comfortable enough to ride for hours.
At a glance, this bike looks fast, and a little intimidating. When I saw the saddle that the test bike came equipped with – a sleek, but very uncomfortable-looking Fizik – I was nervous that this was a bike designed to ”go fast,” not “go comfortable.” A saddle like that lets you test a bike without a cushion: I had no choice but to see how smooth the ride would feel on an ultra-aggressive seat. The bike surprised me. Normally, I don’t expect much from “carbon layup for comfort” claims. Despite awful road conditions and some washboard gravel, however, I found that I wasn’t vibrating quite as much as I did on my road bike.
Riding the Vista in Girona
The Vista was designed with both speed and comfort in mind, and it delivered: as an all-road bike with 35-mm-wide gravel tires, I anticipated having slower times on my favourite climbs in Girona, Spain. Instead, I surprised myself with massive personal records on every single ascent. And trust me, I was not fitter this time around. Was it entirely due to the bike? I can’t say that for certain, but in a year-over-year comparison, I’ve been happier, faster up and down, and more comfortable than I was the year before on the Spanish routes.
The handling was the most impressive – ahem – factor in the ride: I tested it while chasing a herd of 15-year-old racers down a slick 20-km descent and was able to carve into corners with confidence. The OTIS-AR fork truly did make the bike feel more natural when it came to leaning into turns, and felt more stable when I was standing and stomping the pedals up an awkward climb.
The Vista isn’t sold in the traditional frameset format. You buy the Vista chassis, which comes with the frame, fork, bar/stem, seat post, headset, bottom bracket and a “pizza box” of finishing accessories and components. The pizza box is actually one of the most genius things I’ve ever received with a bike: it had bar tape, spare derailleur hangers, an integrated handlebar mount for a Garmin computer and a surprising amount of small things that are often overlooked when buying a bike that isn’t completely pre-built. The rolling chassis option includes Black Inc. wheels that can be set up tubeless, which is ideal for taking this bike out on its many, many adventures.
Factor Vista (as tested)
Shimano Dura-Ace Di2 groupset
49, 52, 54, 56, 58
$9,300 (frameset, accessories and wheels)