Canadian Cycling Magazine

Factor Vista

Stretching the meaning of the all-road label, which will widen your smile

- reviewed by Molly Hurford

The Factor Vista isn’t technicall­y a gravel bike because it can only run tires as wide as 35 mm, but it’s also not merely a road bike. So, what the heck is it? The company refers to it as an “allroad” bike, which is a perfect descriptor. I took it on all roads, including some gnarly rocky singletrac­k, smooth 25-km 1,000-m climbs, a mini-cyclocross course and some 28 per cent steep grades on slick pavement. In every situation, the bike handled what I threw at it. Was it always the perfect bike for the job? No. But there was nothing that it couldn’t ride. After a month of big miles, I realized that this was the bike I’d been craving. As a former road and ’cross racer, I want a fast ride, not just a plush one, but it has to be burly enough to handle the occasional offroad detour and comfortabl­e enough to ride for hours.

At a glance, this bike looks fast, and a little intimidati­ng. When I saw the saddle that the test bike came equipped with – a sleek, but very uncomforta­ble-looking Fizik – I was nervous that this was a bike designed to ”go fast,” not “go comfortabl­e.” A saddle like that lets you test a bike without a cushion: I had no choice but to see how smooth the ride would feel on an ultra-aggressive seat. The bike surprised me. Normally, I don’t expect much from “carbon layup for comfort” claims. Despite awful road conditions and some washboard gravel, however, I found that I wasn’t vibrating quite as much as I did on my road bike.

The Vista was designed with both speed and comfort in mind, and it delivered: as an all-road bike with 35-mm-wide gravel tires, I anticipate­d having slower times on my favourite climbs in Girona, Spain. Instead, I surprised myself with massive personal records on every single ascent. And trust me, I was not fitter this time around. Was it entirely due to the bike? I can’t say that for certain, but in a year-over-year comparison, I’ve been happier, faster up and down, and more comfortabl­e than I was the year before on the Spanish routes.

The handling was the most impressive – ahem – factor in the ride: I tested it while chasing a herd of 15-year-old racers down a slick 20-km descent and was able to carve into corners with confidence. The otis-ar fork truly did make the bike feel more natural when it came to leaning into turns, and felt more stable when I was standing and stomping the pedals up an awkward climb.

The Vista isn’t sold in the traditiona­l frameset format. You buy the Vista chassis, which comes with the frame, fork, bar/stem, seat post, headset, bottom bracket and a “pizza box” of finishing accessorie­s and components. The pizza box is actually one of the most genius things I’ve ever received with a bike: it had bar tape, spare derailleur hangers, an integrated handlebar mount for a Garmin computer and a surprising amount of small things that are often overlooked when buying a bike that isn’t completely pre-built. The rolling chassis option includes Black Inc. wheels that can be set up tubeless, which is ideal for taking this bike out on its many, many adventures.

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