Road Cycling

Factor Vista Review | Best Road Bikes 2019 – Bicycling

The Takeaway: The Factor Vista is a bike that bucks the segmentation trend and can hold its own in a wide variety of uses, from cyclocross to gravel to road riding.

  • The right bike for: Riders who want to do a little bit of everything.
  • What we love: Generous tire clearance for 35mm rubber, a high stack for a more comfortable riding position, and hidden fender mounts for foul-weather riding.
  • Something we don’t: Such versatility demands some compromises.

    Price: $4,799 (frameset only)
    Weight: 17.6 lb. (size 58)

    Factor categorizes the Vista as an all-road bike, a ride that can do it all and do it well. At first glance, the bike appears to be a typical endurance road model, but subtle features make it useful for a wide range of applications. Clearance for 35mm tires is adequate for both gravel and cyclocross racing. The soft, supple ride makes the Vista ideal for long days in the saddle, and aggressive geometry means you can even line up for a criterium on this bike. Now, I’m not trying to sell you on the idea that this one bike is truly great for all applications—it’s not.

    Factor Vista

    In order for the Vista to be good at a lot, compromises had to be made. The high stack height makes it tough to get an aggressive, race-oriented riding position, and the low bottom bracket means pedal strikes will occur more easily on both cyclocross and criterium courses. But it’s important to keep in mind that the bar for a great bike is really high in the current era of extreme segmentation within the industry. If high performance in one or two disciplines is important to you, this isn’t your bike. But if you’ve been looking for a steed that’s comfortable for long road rides, capable of making the grade at a gravel grinder, and viable as a super-commuter (hidden fender mounts!), then the Vista deserves your consideration.

    Trevor Raab

    Unparalleled Versatility

    The Vista is billed as an all-road bike, one bike to do it all (their words, not mine). It has enough tire clearance to safely run 35mm rubber, making it viable for both gravel riding and cyclocross racing. Short chain stays paired with aggressive head and seat angles ensure enough maneuverability to race on the road, and cleverly hidden fender mounts make it a great all-weather bike.

    In another deviation from the norm, Factor equipped the Vista with an integrated fork, stem, and handlebar system not often found on road bikes. Aero handlebar and stem combinations are a dime a dozen these days, especially on road bikes made for racing. But the external, double clamp system—instead of a traditional steer tube inside the head tube—is a design feature typically reserved for time trial and track bikes. Factor claims this feature (called OTIS for One Total Integration System) enhances steering precision. But I’d be lying if I said it made a perceptible difference out on the road.

    Factor Vista Details

    Style: All-road
    Material: Carbon
    Tire clearance: 70 x 35mm
    Drivetrain: Shimano Di2
    Brakes: Shimano Ultegra hydraulic disc
    Cranks: Shimano Ultegra, 50/36 chainrings
    Cassette: 11-30
    Wheels: 30mm Black Inc. carbon clinchers
    Tires: 30mm Continental GP 400
    Cockpit: Factor OTIS barstem, 0 degree rise
    Saddle: Fizik Arionne

    Shimano Di2 Drivetrain

    Our test bike was outfitted with an assortment of Ultegra Di2 components. The early generation Di2 levers for hydraulic brakes are something we haven’t seen much of since Shimano refined that design, doing away with the bulky hoods. Those levers were paired with a Shimano RX rear derailleur and Ultegra cranks with 50/36 chainrings.

    Black Inc. 30mm carbon wheels are standard from Factor, dressed up with CeramicSpeed bearings and rolling on 30mm Continental GP 400 rubber. The integrated handlebar and stem on our Vista had zero degrees of rise, which put me in a very upright riding position. Those kinds of handlebar and stem combos aren’t known for being easy to adjust, but Factor does offer this one with a negative-6-degree stem, as well as a negative-12-degree option. And if you prefer a little more adjustability, a Black Inc. combination has a reversible +/-6-degree stem. Most riders will be able to achieve their desired handlebar height and extension with one of those options.

    4 Things We Love About The Factor Vista

    How To Get Your Vista

    Factor does not sell complete bikes–our test sample came assembled for the sake of this review. So riders who find the Vista appealing have two options. The cheapest of the two involves purchasing what Factor calls the Chassis, or frame set, for $4,799. That includes the frame, fork, barstem, CeramicSpeed bottom bracket, Wheels Manufacturing Shimano BB adapter, Di2 battery mount, headset spacers and plug, two sizes of saddle rail clamps, and a spare derailleur hanger. In short, it’s exactly what you’d expect to get when buying a frame set with so many proprietary parts.

    The second option is the Rolling Chassis option, which includes all of the above plus the Black Inc. carbon wheels. Considering the addition of carbon hoops, the price bump to $5,999 is a good deal.

    Factor Vista

    Versatile Design

    The geometry of the Vista underscores the fact(or) (I’ll see myself out) that this bike can’t easily be put into one category. The 610mm stack and 394mm reach lean heavily toward the endurance end of the spectrum. Consider the 0-degree stem and you can very easily have minimal drop between your saddle and the handlebar–setting the saddle height at 78.2cm, I had less handlebar drop on the Vista than on my mountain bike.

    The 75mm bottom bracket drop is low, any way you slice it. That does bring your center of gravity down, which is nice for rough terrain. However, if you decide to attempt a criterium, you’ll have much less pedal clearance in the turns than with a typical road bike, and in a cyclocross race you may find that you’ll plant pedals more frequently on off-camber turns than if you were on a purpose-built cyclocross bike.

    Factor Vista

    A Bike That Can’t Be Categorized

    Segmentation is all the rage in the industry, and we’re accustomed to pigeon-holing bikes. But the Vista doesn’t fit into any one box. Caitlin Dumas of Factor asserts that it’s for the “cyclist looking for unparalleled versatility in a bike that’s fast and built for endurance.” Bikes can be versatile, but we know that with versatility often comes compromises. Aero road bikes are getting lighter, but they still aren’t as light as purpose-built climbing bikes. High performance gravel bikes are a thing now, but they still can’t truly stand toe-to-toe with a road bike when it comes to racing on the pavement.

    Yet Factor claims this bike has that kind of versatility. Consider me skeptical of that claim, in part because it’s up against some truly exceptional bikes in each individual category. That doesn’t mean that the Vista isn’t good for a wide variety of applications. It was comfortable and smooth over rough roads, yet stiff and responsive when I was standing on the pedals. That checks the major boxes for endurance road bikes as well as gravel bikes. The steering is sharp enough, so you’ll be in good hands while navigating switchbacks at maniacal downhill speeds. The Vista isn’t the lightest bike on the planet, but at just over 17 pounds for my size 58, it’s hardly heavy.

    Factor Vista

    So where does that leave us? With a bike that’s a jack of all trades but master of none, to use a common phrase. That’s not a bad thing. In fact, in many cases it’s really good. When you don’t want to shell out for multiple styles of bikes but do want to dabble on different surfaces, purpose-built bikes can quickly become unpleasant to ride when you take them out of their element. Your Cervelo S5 will survive a hardcore gravel ride, but it won’t feel that good. Conversely, your Cannondale Topstone will be quickly outpaced by lighter, more efficient bikes on a hilly road ride.

    If you’re interested in peak performance in a narrow style of riding, this isn’t the bike for you. But if your habits include a little of everything, the Vista presents a very strong case that it is, in fact, one bike that can do (almost) it all.