Climbing-specific bikes are becoming less and less of a focus, pushed out by “do-it-all” superbikes that are becoming the industry norm. Factor re-examined its pure climbing machine, the O2. Giving it a stiffer pedaling platform, updated geometry, and shaving weight where it matters.
Before we pick through the new Factor O2, we should look at the history of this super climbing machine and the subtle design changes through the years…
Pure Climbing — Factor O2
Factor first introduced the O2 to the world in 2017. It was one of the first Factor bike offerings and achieved a Tour de France podium under AG2R La Mondiale and a silver medal at the World Championships.
The Factor design team updated the O2 in 2019, introducing a sub-700g frame equipped with disc brakes, and led the charge for ultra-lightweight disc brake machines.
For 2021 the Factor O2 received a slight tweak, with entirely internal cable routing and a D-Shaped steer tube more of a hold over the year than anything substantial. For 2023 however, the Factor O2 VAM gets more than a slight refresh…
All New Factor O2 VAM
The all-new edition of the Factor O2 VAM boasts the most updates to the line since its inception, with a new carbon layup, seat mast, and much more. Firstly the idea of the O2 was revisited by the design team at Factor. Most of the riders from IPT (Israel Premier Tech) still reach for the Ostro VAM for most, if not all, races. Why? The current (2021) model of the O2 wasn’t aero enough on the flats or stiff enough compared to the Ostro VAM.
Factors engineering department took all the feedback from their athletes across the globe. It landed on an updated definition of the O2—a climbing bike with uncompromising lightweight features that is stiff as the Ostro VAM, with aerodynamic shaping.
Reexamining what the O2 VAM took the Factor team in a different direction for design. Eliminating some excess frame material and adding features that will pay dividends for a high mountain finish on the tour — or your local KOM.
Factor O2 — New Factory
Factory created a new production facility to make the new O2 VAM. Why a new facility? The new Factor O2 VAM carbon layup utilizes complex and proprietary mixtures. In all efforts to keep the “secret formula” to themselves, Factor controls the process.
The new factory in Taichung houses state-of-the-art carbon manufacturing equipment. Factor says the molding is so efficient that frames in production require nearly zero finishing, hence the clear coat finish and lightweight.
The tube shapes and wall thickness is a flex from Factor, stating the max carbon wall thickness on the new O2 is 2.2mm at clamping (seat mast area) and as thin as 0.5mm at less structural areas.
Factor O2 VAM — What’s New?
The first (and most notable, IMO) is the new seat mast and tube shapes. Eliminating the seatpost and excess material allowed the Factor team to lighten the frame and make the rear one piece.
This unified rear gives the bike a bit of compliance but also helps create an ultra-thin tapered top tube. How thin? The UCI rules state, “tube dimensions must not exceed 8cm in height or be under 2.5cm in width,” and that 25mm happens to be the size of the new O2 top tube when it joins the seat tube junction.
The seat stay also pushes the rules to the millimeter, with updated NACA-style seat stays at the UCI-mandated minimum of 1cm. The seat stays have a slight yoke at the top before traveling to the dropouts. This joining point helps give the O2 a snappy stiff feel without compromising the 1cm seat stays. The updated O2 now has the same stiffness as the current Ostro VAM — pretty impressive for such a lightweight frame. Our demo bike weighs 15lb 4oz out of the box, with SRAM Force AXS shifting and tubes in the tires.
Regarding aerodynamics, the new Factor O2 boasts “real world aero,” but not as you might think. Aerodynamics and speed while climbing is the metrics we’re talking about here. The speeds on the flat and descents differ from that of a rider rolling up a mountain pass, which is the speed the O2 is for. Yes — it’s meant to perform well in all conditions, but the climbs are where this bike was meant to fly, and the updated geometry reflects that.
Factor O2 Geometery and Sizes
Factor likes all its bikes (Ostro, Ostro Gravel, and O2) to have similar handling and geometry. The updates to the O2 are in the same vein. The most significant update to the O2 geometry is the stack height is increased by 1cm.
The change is in response to feedback from the IPT team and bike fitters for setting bikes up for climbing. The IPT riders prefer a slightly higher hand position and a relaxed back angle when out of the saddle.
The seat tube has changed slightly, moving up half a degree. This uptick accommodates different saddle profiles, and more forward seat positions riders are adopting. The O2 will have a zero offset seat post cap and a 25mm offset for those looking to get the right fit.
In addition to the geometry changes, Factor offers the new O2 in a 45cm frame size. Factor takes smaller sizes very seriously, offering a different fork offset for the 45 and 49cm sizes. That means the Factor O2 will offer four different fork offsets from size 45cm to size 61cm. Doing this gives the full size run of the O2 the same feel, ride expectation, and, impressively — the same wheelbase.
Available Sizes: 45, 49, 52, 54, 56, 58, and 61cm
Factor O2 Key Features
- Complete bikes from 6.2kg
- Frame weight 730g, size 54*
- 12W faster than the previous model, average +15/-15th sweep, 48kph
- 35% stiffer on average across all sizes
- external seat post
- D-shape truncated aero profiles
- Optimized for 28mm tires (32mm max tire clearance)
- 10mm higher stack, in response to customer fit data
- Factor Prisma Studio custom paint is available immediately
- New Black Inc 28//33 wheelset with carbon fiber spokes, 1.146g
- Available in SRAM Force or Red AXS and Shimano Ultrgra or Dura-Ace build options
- frame only available
- Available Sizes: 45, 49, 52, 54, 56, 58, and 61cm
Available Paint Options
Factor decisively chose the paint (or lack thereof) for the new O2 VAM line. Bikes will be available in Storm Gray (our demo colorway), Red Velvet, Chrome, and Raw.
The Storm and Raw colorways are a UD paint finish with no additional touch-up paint underneath. This lack of black touch-up paint means that you can see the raw carbon of the frame in certain sections — also making for a super light frame. The Red Velvet is a complete coverage paint job, more of a classic design, with a high gloss finish.
BLK INC 28//32 Wheels
Blk Inc is Factors inhouse wheel and component line, and like the new O2, this new wheelset pushes the limits of lightweight and functionality. Part of the reason the updated Factor O2 is so lightweight is that the wheels are also super light. The newest Blk Inc wheelset is the Blk Inc 28//32 — the brand’s first wheelset with a differential depth of front and rear rims.
As the naming convention states, the 28//32 is a 28mm deep front rim and a 32mm rear rim. The rims spin on new Blk Inc hubs with Ceramic Speed bearings laced with carbon spokes. The hubs are a DT Swiss 180-style star ratchet design with solid engagement.
The wheelset is 300 grams lighter than the previous Blk Inc 30 wheelset — coming in at an impressive 1126 grams bare (without rim tape and valves). The weight reduction comes from many places; the carbon spokes are light, but the most significant amount comes from the updated rim design.
The rims are manufactured in the same facility as the new Factor O2 and boast zero paint for the finish — only a thin gloss layer for protection.
Both the front and rear rims are designed around a 28mm tire and have a measure 23mm hook to hook — yes, hook; Blk Inc has not found a reason to go full hookless in the World Tour just yet.
The rear wheel is offset by 2mm to accommodate spoke tension and has slightly different shapes on the drive vs. non-drive sides.
Factor O2 Availability and Pricing
The Factor O2 VAM is available now for purchase from Factor dealers and on the Factor website and shipping worldwide.
Look for a full review of the Factor O2 VAM in the upcoming days, and look to the Tour de France to see it in full action!
For more information on Factor and the new O2 VAM, check out Factorbikes.com