Bikes of the Bunch: Factor O2 ultralight home build

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In this week’s edition of Bikes of the Bunch we head to Hong Kong to learn about an ultralight build put together by Francis Lim. This is the story of Francis’ Factor 02.

Cycling for me is half riding, half the building of bikes. I get adrenaline pumping through my brain when thinking about what components to add to a build; just as I do when climbing a steep hill and swooping down the other side.

I have built quite a number of good, personal bikes over the years, scooping third in the 2010 Weightweenies Bike of the Year (Canyon Ultimate) and some other top 10s, most recently in the Starbike Bike Galleries competition. I build my own bikes at home, in a compact apartment in Hong Kong, using a portable workbeam clamped to my dining table, due to a lack of space.

I usually shy away from mainstream brands with my builds. There’s nothing wrong with the big brands, but I just don’t want to bump into someone else who rides the same bike as mine. I need to add more than a personal touch when building up a bike — my builds have to be unique.

My previous build was a boutique brand (Storck Aernario G1, bought second-hand, stripped and built up again) so the next one would have to be on par with that or exceed it. I am already riding an aero setup on my other bike (Canyon Aeroad) so I figured a light, climbing bike would be its best partner.

I had been intrigued by Factor Bikes ever since they came out with the Vis Vires and eventually the Factor One. What got me looking further were the rumours in the various cycling forums that Factor would be on the WorldTour in 2017. I also liked the industrial lines of the O2 model, not to mention its low weight. The unique colour combination of grey and turquoise was the clincher. The next problem was securing a frame.

Early this year, Factor O2 was not available on the market yet, and Factor certainly didn’t have a dealer in Hong Kong. I sent a probing email to Factor Bikes and it was Baden Cooke who replied that they were already setting up the Hong Kong dealership and that he could help me reserve a frameset for their first shipment.

How cool is that, that a former pro will personally answer your inquiry and connect you with the right people? That former Hong Kong resident David Millar is part of the team just makes it more awesome.

After a few more emails with the local distributor and a couple of weeks waiting, I picked up my frameset just as it was announced that Factor would be ridden by Ag2r-La Mondiale in 2017.

The theme for this build was to build a very light bike, while still maintaining good aesthetics. I also wanted a bike I could ride regularly, not just put on display. I like light, simple-looking components that are not necessarily expensive.

Most of the time my cockpit is affordable and devoid of logos. So I usually debadge them by sanding and refinishing them or by using paint remover. I also like to recycle components from previous builds and give them new life so there were quite a number of recycled components from previous builds that I’d kept and stored. For instance, I had an ultralight climbing wheelset which was used and stored for future use and is now seeing action again on this build.

I tuned the stem and seatpost by changing the bolts to black titanium, and added a carbon cradle for additional weight-savings. I also like to tinker with small components so I added titanium bowties and fasteners to the pedals for this build.

As a new release with awesome reviews, not to mention its low weight, the choice of SRAM Red eTap was a no-brainer. The drivetrain gearing (50/34 and 11-29t) was an ode to the place I live, Lantau Island, home of the infamous Beast Climb.

The build took about 2.5 months to complete. I ordered some parts from Europe, such as the saddle. Other parts took some time to work on to remove the decals and logos.

When I had all the components ready, I built it up to a weight of 5.4kg. I was roadtesting it already but not yet satisfied, so I changed some components and tinkered with the bike again before I stopped at a final weight of 5.01kg, including pedals.

(Quick sidenote: During the roadtesting process I was stopped by the police and had to be brought home in a police van as I was too excited to ride and forgot to install a bell. It’s illegal to ride without one in Hong Kong.)

The details of the build are as follows:

Frameset: Factor 02 turquoise
Handlebar: Unbranded compact carbon, UD glossed
Stem: Uno6 -7 stem, debadged and tuned with titanium bolts
Seatpost: Token carbon 27.2, debadged and UD glossed, tuned with titanium bolts and carbon cradle*
Saddle: Berk Lupina saddle, UD gloss
Shiftkit: SRAM Red eTap
Drivetrain: FSA K-force light BBright / Extralite RC2 chainrings / Ybn black 11s chain / Recon 11-29t cassette*
Wheelset: Extralite C26 tubular / Vittoria crono-evo CS / Carbon-ti QR skewers*
Cables: Nokon universal kit
Brakes: Ciamillo GSL, carbonlord edition / Campagnolo carbon pads*
Pedals: Speedplay TI, tuned with titanium bolts and bowties*

*indicates a previously used component.

If money was no object, I’d like to have spec’ed a -12º Extralite UltraStem on it to match with the wheelset and chainrings, or go straight to a Berk custom integrated cockpit to match the saddle. About the saddle: I thought the Berk Lupina would only be a showroom piece, something I’d take off in favour of a more padded option for everyday use. But it ended up very comfortable during the 3-4 hour rides we do in Hong Kong. The saddle is now a permanent fixture on the bike!

I’d still like to work on the cranks to sand the red accents out and make it a neutral color. With that done I’d also change to black skewers. I’m also thinking of ways how to go under 5kg without having to spend much.

I might also swap in some deeper carbon wheels on some days for the extra aero-ness when I ride on the flats.

I only completed the build a little while ago so I haven’t the chance to ride many kilometres on it. But I can tell you that it flies on the climbs! Its super low weight, stiff chassis and gearing make it the ideal climbing bike. It also handles well on the descents and the brake pad/rim combination works well.

It may lack a bit of a forward momentum on the flats, as expected because of the superlight wheels, but considering the purpose of the build — to be able to go up and down Hong Kong’s hills — it does very well and achieves its ultimate purpose. Also, adding a deeper wheel (Lighweight Meilensteins from another build) solves the problem of momentum and makes it a very solid all-around ride for hills and flats. I’ve also ridden it with bomb-proof aluminium clinchers — Mavic Ksyriums — and this makes for the perfect training setup.

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