Unreleased Factor gravel bike raced by Dylan Johnson at Crusher in the Tushar and Unbound

It looks like Factor's update to its LS gravel bike is now taking more cues from the aero Ostro than the lightweight O2…

Unbound gravel race
(Image credit: Getty Images / Nils Nilsen)

Talk about hiding in plain sight: Unbound 2022 was about a month ago now, with the Crusher in the Tushar not that long after.

But it turns out that pro gravel racer Dylan Johnson was riding an unreleased Factor gravel bike in both those events – and the evidence was there on his Instagram the whole time.

Still, better late than never, I suppose. Let’s jump in and run through all the information we can glean from the photos we have.

Deeper tubes

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First, I’ll start this one with a caveat: the actual updates are significantly beefier looking tubes – especially on the downtube, headtube, fork legs and the bottom bracket area.

Now, there are reasons other than aero why the design decisions might have been made – it could have been simply for the blend of weight and stiffness Factor was trying to hit. 

To give an analogy, British wheel brand Parcours produces its Alta 650b wheels with a depth of 35mm. That’s easily enough to qualify as a shallow section wheelset and claim an aero boost. But the decision on the depth of these wheels wholly centred on the weight and the stiffness – aero didn’t actually come into it, even though ostensibly similar cues are there. 

Factor LS gravel bike

Factor's current generation LS gravel bike

(Image credit: Factor)

But with all that said, I’ll go out on a limb and say that these optimisations on the new Factor gravel bike have been done in the name of drag reduction. Although the average speed of most gravel races isn’t so high, there are typically fast-paced sections within where aerodynamics is the major determinant of speed.

Plus other bikes, such as the new Pinarello Grevil, unabashedly flaunt their wind cheating optimisations – to presume Factor might be doing the same isn’t a huge leap. 

Full internal routing

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Whereas the Factor LS gravel bike still had exposed cables around the cockpit, the new unreleased model appears to have now tucked those fully inside.

For a speed-oriented gravel bike, the reasons are typically three-fold. First, there’s the (albeit marginal) drag reducing element. Second, it’s easier to mount a handlebar bag and not foul the cables. And third, the aesthetics of those ever cleaner lines. 

At least it doesn’t look like the LS was offered with anything other than electronic / hydraulic groupsets, so the cables would hardly ever need touching – but then again, if you can afford a build like that, you can probably afford to have someone else working on your bike!

Proprietary seatpost

The Factor LS comes with a standard 27.2mm round seat post, but that’s now been swapped out for a proprietary design in the yet-to-be-released model.

Some brands use this as an opportunity to integrate a greater degree of flex into the seat post. Giant and especially Cervélo are notable examples.

However, the post here looks a little thicker than those designs, suggesting that Factor has been considering the aero over the comfort. We’ll keep an open mind though, perhaps it will be rather more flexy than it looks. 

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Update or new model line?

We’ve been assuming that this unreleased model is going to be replacing the current LS in Factor’s line up, but that doesn’t necessarily go without saying. This could be a model to sit alongside the LS.

This does seem unlikely, though, as the LS was already a speed-oriented gravel bike with a premium price tag itself. If there was more of a Grail / Grizl distinction going on, as in Canyon’s gravel range with one model being more burly than the other – or if it was clear that one was targeting a very different price point – then an addition to the range would seem more likely than a replacement.

But from what we’ve seen so far, it looks like Factor’s vision for gravel is simply to shift the focus from pure lightweight a little more towards aero – taking cues more from the Ostro VAM than the O2 VAM, to draw a parallel with the road models. 

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