Factor recently unveiled a Hanzo track bike that will be used in the Australian Cycling Team’s campaign through to – and beyond – the Paris Olympics later this year. It is part of a new partnership with AusCycling that will later also include a sprint bike.
RIDE Media caught up with the owner of Factor, Rob Gitelis, to find out more about the bike design and sponsorship agreement with the national federation.
Below is a transcript of an interview recorded during the Tour Down Under of 2024.
– Click the link below to watch the interview with Rob Gitelis
By the Saturday evening of the 2024 Tour Down Under a rider racing on a Factor road bike was in the lead of the race with just one stage remaining. Stevie Williams, the 27-year-old Welshman who would go on to claim the #TDU2024 title, races for Israel-Premier Tech, the WorldTour team that is sponsored by Factor Bikes, and he rides a Factor bike.
The owner of Factor Bikes, Rob Gitelis, was in town for the ‘Festival of Cycling’ and he had plenty on his mind, including celebrations – at the end of the race – for Williams’ stage six win and the TDU title in 2024. Other things he had to consider was the launch of a new Factor road bike, and the unveiling of a pursuit bike that will be raced by the Australian team.
During the TDU they hosted a function at the Adelaide Hilton where the track bike for the Australian team pursuit campaign for Paris 2024 was officially unveiled.
The cost of the bike through to the Paris Olympic Games (26 July to 11 August 2024) is listed on the Factor site as USD$59,999 but it won’t always have such an exorbitant price tag. Rather, as part of an arrangement with AusCycling and the Australian Cycling Team, the aim is to maintain some sense of exclusivity for the bike until the end of the Games.
The radical design you can see in the images (and video) on this page was created in conjunction with AusCycling and while it borrows some features from the Lotus / Hope bike that has been raced by Team GB riders in recent years, there are also some clever innovations – as well a funky finish, resplendent with paintwork featuring graphics inspired by aboriginal artwork.
During the launch at the Hilton the bikes on display had decals with the names of a couple of Australian riders, Georgia Baker and Sam Welsford. Each bike has customised 3D printed titanium aerobars created by Sync Ergonomics, an Australian company that has worked with a number of high-profile riders and teams in recent years.
Lowdown on the new Factor Hanzo pursuit bike
Shortly before Rob Gitelis left Adelaide after his visit to the Tour Down Under, he took a moment to answer some questions about the new pursuit bike that had been unveiled a couple of nights earlier. At the launch few details of the benefits of the design were offered, rather it was an overview of the new partnership with Factor.
As you will learn when you read the Q&A (below) this has been a work in progress for a couple of years even though it was only formalised last week. It is a partnership that was brokered by AusCycling’s new executive following the sponsorship / product supply years when Argon 18 provided bikes for the national team.
In Paris later this year the Australian track team will ride both Factor and Argon 18 bikes. The newly created Hanzo pursuit bike is the first stanza of what will be an ongoing partnership between the Taiwanese brand and AusCycling.
Q&A with Rob Gitelis, owner of Factor Bikes
Below is a transcript of the interview that you can watch by clicking the YouTube link at the top of this page. It was recorded in relative haste as Rob Gitelis was already running late for a flight out of Adelaide. Still, he took a moment to answer some questions about the new bike for the Australian team pursuit riders…
RIDE Media: Rob, you’ve been busy this week. I’ve seen you here, there and everywhere but we’ve not caught up until moments before your flight out of town but can you just give us a quick overview of the Australian team’s association [with Factor]? If I could be so bold, we could sort of see it coming for a little while. Is that correct?
Rob Gitelis: “We started discussions with Australian cycling about two years ago, about their track bike development for 2024 and 2028. And then it kicked off officially a few months after that.
“Obviously the bike has to be raced one year prior to the Olympics so it was really a stretch to get a bike in time for – I think it was in Glasgow – where they rode it for the first time.”
RIDE Media: I put some photos up of it yesterday (Factor Hanzo Gallery). I didn’t have any technical details. I saw it. I didn’t even get to pick it up. It looks fantastic. The paintwork is wonderful. But it’s all about going fast. And I’ve been told it’s “the fastest bike in the world” – and that is, I think, a claim that every manufacturer makes. Talk to me about the development.
Rob Gitelis: “Factor turned eight years old two days ago. We originally launched here at the Tour Down Under. And every bike that we’ve done ever since gets better and better.
“This was probably the first bike where we really led with CFD development so we probably spent four to five months just in CFD before we made any prototypes for the wind tunnel.
“So, this is a really big step forward for us, having in-house CFD so we could then really learn quite a bit about where our product was and where we want it to go.
“Obviously the track bike is based on our Hanzo which is, in our opinion, the fastest TT bike in the WorldTour – and proven by how many teams have bought it and tested it. And so that was sort of the base that we started working on the track bike from.”
RIDE Media: Can you tell me: is it developed in conjunction with the Australian team? And what are the processes that have gone on in the development?
Rob Gitelis: “At the beginning of the project we discussed, as a group, who had what resources. And obviously, at that time, there were some very solid CFD resources available from Australian cycling. So, we used their CFD development. We used, obviously, our manufacturing capabilities – the factory that we own – to produce the bike.
“Wind tunnel testing was done at our side, in Toronto, just because of our comfort with the wind tunnel that we work with. We’re there four or five times a year, so we know the consistency of the tunnel.
“And then, obviously, Australia provides the riders that did a significant amount of ride testing.
“We did about 50 iterations of carbon-fibre lay-ups. I think we gave the team four or five iterations of those lay-ups that we then narrowed down to two, which we then narrowed down to one, which is the bike that they are currently riding and going to race next month (at the Nations Cup in Adelaide, 2-4 February 2024).”
RIDE Media: To confirm, it’s not a sprinter’s bike yet. You don’t have that in the works?
Rob Gitelis: “Honestly, we talked about providing a sprint bike and a pursuit bike for 2024; because of the timing that was available, we just didn’t have enough time to do two bikes for 2024. So, the plan is that we just did the pursuit bike for 2024 and for 2028 we will have both a pursuit bike and a mass-start bike.”
RIDE Media: All products at the Olympic level need to be commercially available. And I’ve understood that the price of your [Hanzo pursuit bike] is quoted at around 60,000 euros, or something along those lines… but that’s just gossip. Can we go beyond gossip please?
Rob Gitelis: “Sure… everything that every sports team does is try to work inside the rules to be compliant but then you need to be a little bit more clever. So, obviously this is a bike that is exclusive to the Australian Olympic team to be used in 2024. And so, according to the UCI however, it has to be commercially available.
“If you receive an order for it, you have to deliver it within 45 days. And so, to be compliant, it had to be on our website – which it is, it is for sale. It is USD$59,999.
“If someone orders one we could deliver it in 45 days. We’re happy if anyone wanted to order one.
“Right after the Olympics it will be commercially available for a price quite similar to our Hanzo TT bike, as far as the frameset goes.”
RIDE Media: And that is?
Rob Gitelis: “I think that’s about USD$6,000.”
RIDE Media: Okay, so we’re looking at a massive discount.
Rob Gitelis: “A massive discount… after the Olympics.”
RIDE Media: So, that’s assuming it gets the publicity that you’re expecting… is the agreement with AusCycling a sponsorship or product supply?
Rob Gitelis: “We are a sponsor of AusCycling as well as product supply. So, we’re doing both.”
RIDE Media: I know you’ve got a plane to catch so I really just wanted a couple of basics. Do you want to give me a little overview of what it is that makes the bike super special, if you’ve got an elevator pitch?
Rob Gitelis: “When you look at the bike, especially from the front which is pretty much the view that everybody got to see here in Australia – because we’d [previously] only shown a side view of it – you can see how narrow the front is.
“The front hub is only 40mm wide. It is using a flat disc [wheel] on the front, and reticulated disc [on] the rear. We found that in our testing that is the fastest approach.
“As far as the frame goes, obviously there’s a lot of very special air foils that are being employed.
“All of the CFD work that we did, we actually were able to do it with rider, with turning wheels, so we really took into account how things interact together. And so we really tried to reduce the CDA as much as possible while providing a bike that can take 2,000 watts of power transfer, which these guys can do.
“We were pretty shocked when we got the ‘keep out’ zones. And one of those things is we had to see what is the size shoe of the riders, and one of the riders has a size 17 foot which shows you just how big and how strong these guys are.”
RIDE Media: I’m guessing that’s Kelland O’Brien…
Rob Gitelis: “Probably so.”
RIDE Media: If you know me, you know that I love the team pursuit, and you know that I love Australian cycling, so I hope that this partnership delivers on the objectives.
Rob Gitelis: “We were approached by many federations. I wouldn’t want to go through this level of energy to not win a medal.”
– Interview, photos and video by Rob Arnold
RIDE Media’s 2024 Tour Down Under coverage is presented by Plasmaide.