Can one drop-bar bike do everything? I've thought a lot about what the perfect quiver-killer might be, and it’s probably an “all-road” bike. It's not quite a road bike, but not quite a full-on gravel bike either. I need a bike that's somewhere in between the two genres, and capable of a bit of everything.
In search for my perfect do-it-all bike, I combed through road bikes and gravel bikes available at The Pro's Closet to find something with the ideal mix of sporty road bike geometry and gravel bike capability. Ultimately, I decided to pull the trigger on a 2020 Factor Vista.
After riding the bike for several months on a wide mix of terrain, I came away thoroughly impressed.
Factor Vista pros
- Excellent comfort and versatility
- Road bike-like agility and efficiency
- Geometry tuned for larger 30-35mm tires and all-road riding
- Well-designed integrated cockpit
- Size-specific carbon lay-up
- SRAM Red AXS drivetrain shifts flawlessly
- Head-turning looks
Factor Vista cons
- Occasional maintenance needed if seat binder creaks
- May not be enough tire clearance (if so, you should be looking at full-on gravel bikes anyway)
- Mechanical disc brakes won't appeal to everyone
What is an "all-road" bike?
John Borstelmann won 2019 Gravel Worlds and Eric Marcotte came in second, both riding the Factor Vista. Photo courtesy of Factor Bikes.
As an all-road bike, the Vista feels fast both on the road and off. It has a lot of what makes road racing bikes fun — a svelte, lightweight frame that’s efficient, agile, and feels right at home doing fast group rides. But the frame is also designed to fit wider tires. And it’s comfortable and capable enough to tackle rugged gravel. In fact, the Panaracer gravel team rode it through the 2019 season at big races like Unbound Gravel 200 and Gravel Worlds.
The Vista I'm riding is a 54cm that I picked up new from The Pro's Closet for $6,673. It’s painted in Hunter Green, which I think looks amazing. And it’s built with a SRAM Red AXS group, Vision SC 40 tubeless-ready carbon wheels, and interestingly, mechanical disc brakes, but I’ll go into that later.
Without pedals, it weighs 17 pounds and 14 ounces — lighter than any gravel bike I've ridden. I’m running 30mm tires, but it can fit up to 35mm tires. If you want to hit some really burly gravel, I’ve experimented with 38mm Gravelking SK tires and, though you might want to avoid thick mud, they fit fine with 3-4mm of clearance at the chain stays.
The OTIS front end
The first thing you might is the Vista's unique front end. It’s really similar to the front of the Factor One, which is Factor’s aero road bike. They call this OTIS, which stands for “ONE Total Integration System.” It has an external fairing that ties the fork crown and steerer together with a dual-clamp design. This gives you two things: excellent steering and easy internal cable routing, which is perfect for lousy mechanics like me.
Factor spent a lot of time modifying and testing the carbon lay-up of the Vista’s OTIS front end to optimize it for rough surfaces. The fork legs are narrow so they can flex and absorb vibrations and bumps, while the dual clamp and external fairing ensures plenty of steering accuracy.
It’s complemented by an integrated bar and stem. The stem is thin and wide. This lets it flex vertically without compromising the lateral stiffness desired for sprinting and cornering.
You’ll also notice that the front end is super clean. This frame is built up with a wireless group, but even if it wasn’t, there would be no exposed cables or bolts. I usually fear dealing with integrated cockpits, but Factor put a lot of thought into this design to make it easy to set-up and adjust. Cables route through the bar and stem, down into the frame relatively easily. Changing the bar height with the two-piece spacers is completely painless. You don’t have to mess with the cables and with the dual clamp design, you actually don’t even need to worry about headset preload.
Tuned for comfort
On the subject of the cockpit, the lay-up has been optimized to absorb vibration, plus the bars have a bit of sweep to the tops and flare to the drops to suit gravel riding. I really liked is the shape of the tops; they are U-shaped, so the top is flat like an aero bar, but the underside has a nice curve so you can still wrap your fingers around it. It’s comfortable and secure feeling, and I prefer to hold the bar on the tops when things get rough.
At the back of the bike, the seat stays are super thin and join the seat tube low down with an arch at the top. This increases compliance and comfort, especially when paired with the Vista's flat back seatpost. The flat back lets the seatpost flex rearward when you hit bumps.
The frame's carbon lay-up has also been optimized for each size, meaning larger sizes are tuned for slightly heavier riders, so every rider gets the same balance of stiffness and comfort.
Everything Factor has done to maximize compliance really works. I came off of a 2020 Cannondale SuperSix, which is a road racing bike, but probably one of the most comfortable I've ridden. Obviously, it's not a fair comparison, but the Vista is a huge step up in terms of comfort. I really noticed it riding over railroad crossings and expansion joints, or when hitting potholes and washboard roads. It soaks it all up, and it does so without using gimmicks like micro-suspension that can affect the feel of the bike.
Perhaps a more fair comparison is my titanium gravel bike. What impressed me is that, with the same tires, the Vista is perhaps even more comfortable than my ti gravel bike. But the light frame, well-tuned stiffness and geometry make it feel like I have most of the speed and efficiency of a road bike like the SuperSix. No surprise probably, but it really is good compromise between the two genres.
The Vista also has about 20mm more stack than Factor’s road models, so it’s pretty upright and comfortable. I did some 70-mile early season rides when my flexibility and fitness weren’t great, and thanks to the upright geo and frame compliance, I always got home feeling pretty fresh with a happy lower back. It'll be perfect for the 100+ mile epics I plan to do later in the season.
Factor designed the Vista specifically for 30-35mm tires. The fork offset and bottom bracket drop, in particular, are designed to match that tire size so the bike has the right balance between stability and agility. There’s 5mm more fork offset to counteract the slower handling of big tires, and at 75mm, the bottom bracket drop is 5-7mm lower than Factor’s road models to match the taller tire profile. It’s stable enough that I feel confident on light singletrack, especially with bigger tires, but unlike most low-slung gravel bikes, it still retains an agile road bike-like feel on pavement.
Build and components
There’s not much to say about the SRAM Red AXS drivetrain. It shifts quickly and effortlessly. I’m a total electronic drivetrain believer. The wheels are light, stiff, and easy to set up tubeless. The frame even has some hidden fender mounts. They’re barely visible, but if you need them they’re there.
The TRP Hy/Rd brakes are an unconventional setup. Cable-actuated disc brakes usually don’t have the same power as hydraulic brakes, but they’re a lot easier to maintain, which some people prefer. This bike's TRP Hy/Rd brakes actually come close to hydro brakes in terms of power. While they are cable-actuated, there is a small hydraulic reservoir at the caliper which goes a long way to improve power and performance. I really only notice a difference in the initial lever pull, until the pads make contact. Nice cable housing and a bit of tinkering with cable tension would likely make these brakes feel indistinguishable from full hydraulic setups.
One thing I appreciated — since I’ve been riding SRAM hydraulic levers for so long — is how small and sleek the old non-hydro hoods are. They fit in my hands really nicely and would be great for riders with smaller hands.
I did have one issue with the seatpost wedge. I’ve said this before, but every single bike I’ve ever had that secures the seatpost with a hidden internal wedge has ended up creaking at some point. The Vista is no different. When the creak appeared after a couple hundred miles, it took a few tries, removing everything, and applying carbon paste and grease, and then re-torquing, before I finally silenced it. It’s been creak-free for many, many miles since, but for the first month of riding, it was a bit annoying. I should have taken the time to fix it right away, because it wasn't hard to remedy.
Overall, I’m incredibly happy with the Vista. It might be the ultimate “all-road” bike. Does that make it the right bike for you though?
If pavement performance isn't important to you, Factor offers a true gravel bike, the LS, which can fit up to 43mm tires. As we've gone over, the Vista occupies a space between pure gravel and pure road bikes like the Factor One or O2.
Where I live, versatility is essential. I need to ride pavement for 10-15 miles before I can hit any good gravel or dirt roads. Recently, I’ve also been doing a lot more fast group rides with riders on aero race bikes. But sometimes I like to sneak off and explore local trails and gravel. So if I could only pick one bike to tackle everything, the Factor Vista would be the one for me. And if that sounds like how you want to ride, then it might be the bike for you too.
Does an all-road bike sound like the bike for you? What do you think of the Factor Vista? Let us know in the comments!