Factor Bikes, perhaps best known as a boutique carbon bicycle manufacturer with a presence in the WorldTour, is seemingly on a mission to expand into other cycling categories. The Factor LS gravel bike was a recent example of this, and now the company has announced its entrance into mountain biking with both a progressive cross country (XC) full suspension offering, and a lightweight cross country hardtail.
According to Factor’s CEO Rob Gitelis, the company’s goal wasn’t to be a boutique road brand as it’s perhaps currently perceived, but rather a premium bicycle manufacturer, regardless of discipline. And so while the entry into mountain bikes is starting with XC bikes, the company already has plans for a longer-travel mountain bike and is currently assessing what it could do in the e-MTB space, too.
This article takes a look at the two new mountain bike offerings from Factor. More details can be found at Pinkbike, our sibling mountain bike website.
Why enter MTB?
Factor’s somewhat rare competitive advantage is that it owns its own factories in both China and Taiwan. While recent years have seen the company move to a more secure business of focussing on its own brand, the company was previously a contract manufacturer for the likes of Cervelo, Santa Cruz, and Rocky Mountain.
No doubt there’s an increasing convergence between disciplines, and Gitelis suggests that approximately a third of Factor’s existing customers also ride mountain bikes. Meanwhile, gravel is acting as a gateway between those who have traditionally only ridden skinny-tyre dropbar bikes and introducing them to the world of dirt. And let’s not forget that the new Lifetime series is more than persuading pro gravel racers to pick up a MTB, and MTBers to race gravel.
So what can a road brand bring to the table that isn’t already served? It’s going to be an uphill battle for Factor to prove itself here, but much of it boils down to owning the manufacturing channel. Factor believes it has the capabilities to produce high-performing machines with premium materials, exacting tolerances, and carefully thought-out details, all while hitting a price point that rivals other high-end options. And in-house manufacturing means Factor can be extremely quick to create, test, refine, and produce such products – an important capability in the fast-paced mountain bike world.
In many ways, it’s a similar story to what other manufacturer-owned or in-house-produced bike companies claim to achieve, but there aren’t too many operating with the resources of Factor.
The Lando XC
Already raced at the 2022 Cape Epic (under mixed-pair riders Nancy Akinyi Debe and Jordan Schleck Ssekanwagi), the new Lando XC is Factor’s answer to the modern cross country and endurance race bike. With a more progressive geometry and longer travel than the current norm of XC race machines, Factor’s approach is comparable to what we’ve seen with the new Scott Spark.
Available in four frame sizes, the Lando XC comes stock with 115 mm of rear-wheel travel and is intended for a 120 mm fork up front. The head angle sits at 67º, while the effective seat tube angle is 75.5º across all sizes. Factor also caters to those wanting a more traditional 100 mm of travel, something that can be achieved by simply swapping in a rear shock with a shorter stroke length. Sizing wise, Factor has strong demand in certain Asian markets and so current sizes tend to trend smaller than expected; an XL size is not offered at this time.
Like a number of the latest XC machines, the Lando XC employs a single pivot suspension layout with a single-piece carbon rear end, intentionally flexible seatstays, and an adjoining one-piece moulded carbon rocker link. The rear suspension is designed to provide a more active suspension action than many XC bikes, and not unlike the Scott Spark, Factor intends the bike to run a remote lockout for efficient out-of-the-saddle efforts.
Likely to be a polarising choice, the vertical shock position doesn’t leave room for a second water bottle within the main triangle. According to Factor’s head of engineering (and the former head of engineering at Cervelo), Graham Shrive, this decision was made to optimise frame stiffness, shock durability, and standover height.
Shrive states that key partners in the industry are starting to suggest that rocker-yoke-driven suspension designs can cause unwanted loading of the rear shock (imagine the bike trying to bend the rear shock), something that leads to premature wear and failure. By contrast, the chosen vertical shock path handles loads at the already reinforced bottom bracket area. Equally the base of the shock connects at the main pivot point, further reducing the need for excess material or moving components.
Taking a few cues from the gravel world, there are Bento-bag-style mounts at the top of the top tube, and there are mounts beneath the top tube for a tube strap or perhaps a small bottle (if you don’t mind riding a little bow-legged).
Not unlike the new Scott Spark or Canyon Exceed CF SLX, the front end is designed around an oversized 1.5″ headset with optional internal cable routing through the top bearing for the rear brake hose (and dropper hose if running a RockShox Reverb). The bike also features a number of modular port options at the sides of the head tube to allow for any combination of mechanical shifting, dropper and/or suspension lockouts. Factor will provide two different headset top caps so that users can choose their own path.
The bike comes stock with DT Swiss’s dual lockout remote which is routed via the side-entry cable ports. And Factor hopes to greatly reduce the need for headset maintenance by fitting CeramicSpeed’s new SLT solid fill bearings as stock (frame pivots use Enduro Stainless Max bearings as CeramicSpeed doesn’t yet produce the SLT bearing in suitable sizes).
The other lesser-seen feature of the mountain bike world is the use of a T47 bottom bracket shell. Here Factor is using an 88.5 mm shell width that replicates the width of a PF92 system once the “internal” style T47 bottom bracket cups are threaded in. A serviceable CeramicSpeed bottom bracket is supplied.
Other features include room for 29×2.4″ tyres, Boost wheel spacing (max 36T chainring), a SRAM Universal Derailleur Hanger (UDH), flush-mount water bottle rivets, and a seatpost clamp that’s intended to provide a more integrated aesthetic while also providing even clamping tension on a 31.6 mm seatpost. A painted medium frame with hardware and DT Swiss R232 One rear shock is claimed to weigh 2.1 kg.
In a market ruled by RockShox and Fox, there’s no denying that the DT Swiss suspension is bound to be another polarising choice. It seems the lack of a dropper seatpost, the 2.25″ tyres, and the equipped suspension are all outcomes of ongoing supply chain issues. The final potentially polarising choice is a complete lack of ability to mount a chain guide to this frame.
Factor has launched with a single bike spec option that features a SRAM XX1 AXS groupset and a number of new Black Inc components (see below). It sells for US$9,199 / €8,399 / £6,999. Factor will also offer framesets (US$4,499) that include the rear shock, one-piece handlebar/stem, seatpost and CeramicSpeed bits.
The Lando HT
Factor’s new hardtail, the Lando HT, looks to borrow from both the new full suspension bike and from the company’s road bikes. The design is pared back without excess mounts, and in turn, Factor claims a rather impressive 850 g figure for a painted medium frame.
The kinked seatstays pay homage to some of Factor’s road models and are said to aid in vertical compliance. The same benefits are claimed for the flattened and curved top tube.
The geometry of this light hardtail is based around a 110 mm fork to provide a 68.5º head tube angle. The 73.5º seat tube angles on the medium and large sizes are rather slack for a 2022 bike release, but they’re also directly in line with what we’ve recently seen from the likes of Ibis’s Exie race bike. Both brands maintain that a slacker angle is better for extended stints in the saddle.
The feature list of the Lando HT repeats much of what the Lando XC offers. There’s the optional integrated cable routing through the oversized headset, the bottom bracket remains T47 threaded, and there’s the same styled seat clamp holding a 31.6 mm seatpost. Likewise, the all-too-easily-missed flush bidon cage mounts are also there, as is the clearance for 29×2.4″ tyres with Boost wheel spacing.
Seeing a trend of high-end cross country hardtails being used for adventure gravel-type riding, Shrive has also designed a 720 g suspension-corrected carbon rigid fork to match the frame. The optional fork is designed to work with the internally cabled headsets for clean front brake hose routing.
Offering the same race-ready spec as the Lando XC, the Lando HT complete bike is listed at US$7,099 / €6,499 / £5,399. Frame pricing (including Black Inc cockpit and CeramicSpeed bits) is US$3,299.
New Black Inc pieces
Factor’s sibling component brand, Black Inc, has a number of new mountain bike components to go with the new frames. There’s a one-piece handlebar and stem, a 31.6 mm carbon seatpost, and the previously mentioned rigid fork. There is also a new 29″ wheelset with 27 mm internal width hookless rims and in-house engineered hubs which roll on CeramicSpeed bearings. Claimed weight for the pair is 1,459 g.
It’s perhaps too early to tell whether Factor has done enough to sway people away from the proven choices that already dominate the cross country markets. Certainly Factor’s entry into the MTB market will be watched with interest by a number of other road bike brands – who are no doubt well aware that many traditional road customers are also now interested in other segments of cycling.