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The Factor 001e from bf1 Systems

Road Bike 8 856

I have been getting quite a few emails lately about the Factor 001 bike from bf1 Systems. A couple of emailers cited this recent Autoblog post, which has apparently has stirred new interest on the web in the last week or so. Some of you may remember that I first mentioned the bike in December of 2007. At the time, I was skeptical about the design, but I was still glad to see a company from the motorsports industry investing design and engineering resources into the development of a bicycle. Regardless of my initial impression of the bike, I was certainly interested to hear what would come of the project. As of late 2009, custom fitted, Dura-Ace Di2 equipped Factor 001e bikes are available to order for £27,000 (about 40,000 USD) with the full electronics package (£22,000 for the Factor 001s base model). The production design does look better than the prototype that I posted a couple of years ago, but that $40K price tag is still a bit unbelievable to me.

I shouldn’t be surprised though. Obviously this bike is not intended for everyone. It is certainly geared toward a narrow (and very affluent) segment of the custom made, high-end recreational bike market. The bike was not designed to comply with UCI requirements, a fact that one of the designers pointed out in the comments section of my 2007 post:

“The Factor 001 is not designed for UCI sanctioned mass-start races – Just as a car such as a Bugatti Veyron isn’t designed with FIA regulations in mind. So super-quick wheel changes take a back seat to having the best braking option. It is a fast road machine rather than a ‘racing’ bike. The frame ‘architecture’ was arrived at simply because it offers the best lateral stiffness with the least mass, not to fit with UCI regs”

Bf1 Systems bills the bike as training machine, pointing out that it can provide the rider with a wealth of data via the integrated touch screen console. I won’t go into detail about the information provided by the onboard computer, but Ron at Cozy Beehive posted some detailed information about it in a post a couple months ago. The specification sheet that is now out for the bike has a long list of the features of the bikes’ electronic system. Highlights of the system include:

  • Integral, back-lit, high contrast touch screen display embedded in Factor001e handlebars
  • Display page switching via integrated control lever switches
  • Individual left and right crank torque measurements
  • Integrated crank position sensor with an accuracy of one degree of rotational position
  • Embedded rear wheel speed sensor
  • Optional medical grade ECG system via Bluetooth

The spec sheet goes on to list around 80 specific data channels including everything from rear wheel speed and interval targets to skin temperature, breathing rate, and core body temperature. It is a longer list than I care to repeat on a Friday afternoon, but suffice it to say the electronic capabilities do sound impressive. Just who needs that much data is another question? I suspect that the majority of prospective factor 001e buyers will not use the bike for training (for competition anyway), but will be older wealthy individuals who are drawn to the bike’s integrated high tech features as well as to the exclusivity of owning such a bike. I could be wrong though…I would love to hear about any customers who have already ordered one of these bikes.

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  1. Tim March 6, 2010 at 12:58 am -  Reply

    Just wondering how they measure core body temp. Nothing invasive I hope!

  2. Ted Lewandowski March 6, 2010 at 12:20 pm -  Reply

    The front disc brake is on the wrong side and it appears to be three times as big as the rear brake disc? Also the caps on the presta valves indicates they are clueless about what is deemed cool and what is deemed to be a ‘Fred’s bike’.

    The Factor ZERO ZERO ONE bike offers nothing new to the market outside of the geeky on board cyclometer – what good is that going to do you when you get dropped on a club ride?

  3. Marty March 8, 2010 at 11:39 am -  Reply

    Disc brakes on a carbon mag wheel– what could possibly go wrong? At least the rider is likely to be well insured.

    And Ted is right, how do you even manage to mount a disc brake on the wrong side?

    This is the same thing we always see when people who know nothing about bikes try to design one — a laundry list feature set, limited usability, proprietary parts used for wear items, and colossal errors around the simplest elements.

  4. Joshua March 11, 2010 at 5:01 pm -  Reply

    Marty, or Ted,

    Excuse my ignorance. But why does it matter what side the disc caliper is on?

  5. James T March 11, 2010 at 5:15 pm -  Reply

    I would guess that the front disc placement on the drive side was not a “mistake”, but a conscious decision by the engineers who developed this bike. I am not sure why, but I would be interested to hear from the designers. The issue that Marty brought up about disc brakes on a carbon mag is something else that I would like to hear them address. Whether you like this bike or not, I think it is safe to assume that engineers who normally work on high performance parts for F1 cars know something about braking forces.

  6. Marty March 12, 2010 at 3:54 pm -  Reply

    There is no engineering reason to put a disc brake on one side of a fork or the other, which is exactly the objection — putting it on the nonstandard side means you have some kind of proprietary brake system, and expecting every small part in a hydro disc brake to last as long as a frame is wishful thinking. If you go to the manufacturer’s page you learn that this in fact the case — the lines are actually rigid Ti tubes inside the frame. ::eyeroll::

    As for the wheels, I’d like to hope that some pretty substantial engineering work went into them, but I somehow doubt it. A hub brake wheel simply has to be burlier than a rim brake, and in particular it has to resist torsional forces. This is why you never see a radial spoked front wheel when disc or roller brakes are used, as opposing tangent spokes are needed to resist this force. What’s even weirder here is that if you look at the wheels on the site the front spokes all lead a little, while the rear ones all trail a little. The idea appears to be that the design is stronger under tension than compression (which is generally true of CF as Mavic learned the hard way). Pedal power to the rear hub puts tension on the spokes, while the same goes for braking on the front. This is probably why the rear rotor is smaller, though that might have also been done to keep the stays narrow. Whether the rear wheel could hold up to a panic stop where the rider accidentally grabbed the wrong brake is not something I’d want to be the crash test dummy for, though of course an exploding rear wheel is always better than an exploding front.

    Returning to the issue of whether the wheel design is adequately reinforced for disc braking, let’s look under the hood. The weight claim for this bike is 16.3lbs, roughly 7400 grams. The known components are tallied below, along with some reasonable estimates for others.

    2x Conti GP4000 tubular — 570 grams, call it 600 with glue and valve extenders
    2x some really light disc brakes with rotors and a little extra weight in the STI lever for the cylinder — 700 grams (this is a very generous guess)
    Di2 levers, FD, RD, control unit/battery (a bit hard to find actual numbers on, but shimano says 68 grams over regular DA7900 so let’s just use the mechanical number and spot them the 68g for lighter custom levers) — 600 grams
    Carbon crank with power meter (I used the number from the SRAM model) — 750 grams
    Chain — 250 grams
    Cassette — 200 grams
    Ultralight saddle with carbon post (yes this thing has an integrated mast but I’m going to compare it to a frame that doesn’t) — 200 grams
    Headset (god only knows but there have to be some bearings in there somewhere) — 50 grams
    Normal light carbon frame — 1250 grams
    Normal light carbon fork (this fork is likely beefed up for disc purposes so this is a real lowball) — 350 grams
    Handlebar/stem (shimano integrated, presumably similar to this) — 350 grams

    This brings us to 5300 grams for everything but the wheels and the onboard computer. Let’s say the computer weighs about 100 grams like most of the Garmins, so we’re at 5400, and that’s with a lot of very generous estimates and nothing thrown in for bolts and the like.

    Now let’s talk about these wheels. If the overall weight claim is true and my numbers above are about right, they weigh about 2000 grams for the set. They probably don’t have a power meter, since there is one at the crank, so let’s go with the Spinergy RevX as our comparison since it’s an 8 spoke wheel and pretty light compared to the other carbon spoke options. The RevX “Superstiff” set weighs 1900 grams in a tubular; the non superstiff set is about 100 grams less. You could argue for something like the Hed 3’s as the baseline since they’re a more advanced design than the Spinergy set, but they’re a race-only wheel with only 3 spokes. They may weigh 1500 grams for the set, but nobody would ever train on them, versus the RevX which had an MTB version and were marketed as tough, not as tri and track race divas that will never go over a hard bump like the Heds. I’m not even going to bother considering Aerospokes as they’re much heavier. At any rate, it’s pretty safe to say that the RevX, superstiff or not, would never hold up to hub braking — those wheels had a reputation for failure as is.

    If the wheels on this bike are safe, they are much stronger than the RevX Superstiff without more than 50g additional weight per wheel, including what you need at the hub for the rotor mounts. Now, I’m willing to buy that there is some better design than a Spinergy going on here, but let’s keep in mind how hard hub braking is on a wheel. To give you an idea, Easton will happily sell you an 18 spoke radial front road wheel, while their lightest MTB race wheel is 24 spokes laced 3x, and nobody in their right mind would take that MTB wheel on a rough course without a front shock so the concern is less about big hits and more about braking forces. Let’s also keep in mind that while F1 designers probably know something about braking forces, they know nothing about building carbon wheels given that F1 regulations forbid them. Two decades of work by the best bicycle engineers out there have not produced a rim brake carbon spoke wheel at this weight that is durable enough to safely be used for training. Some people might be willing to believe that a bunch of race car engineers with no experience dealing with carbon drivetrain parts who did a not-so-hot job at designing the rest of the elements of a bike somehow nailed it on the first try and built in enough margin for hub brakes as well, but I’m not one of them. I could be wrong, but I’m guessing that if anyone ever bought one of these bikes and actually trained on it they would get a taste of pavement within 10k miles.

  7. Pandora accessories March 15, 2010 at 6:46 am -  Reply

    If this is for real that i am really very excited to get this cycle, as it has front and rear disk brakes and even a GPS device which was never seen in any cycle.

  8. Hangdog98 July 19, 2011 at 3:18 pm -  Reply

    I’m always amused by the “the brake is on the wrong side” criticism. I makes no difference whatsoever either in braking performance or maintenance. Remember this is a $40,000 bicycle. The same can be said for all the other nonsense leveled at this bike. Grand Prix composites’ technology is decades ahead of any carbon wheel sets from the local bike shop.

    Comparing any part of this bike to Taiwanese production line, badge-engineered, mass market bike is hilarious.

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