In part two of the 2023 pro bike review Gary Blem, one of the mechanics from the Isreal-Premier Tech team offers some insight into Factor bikes…
– Part of a series by Rob Arnold
“I’ve been very fortunate to work with one of the stars of world cycling, a guy who’s made history in the sport.”
Gary Blem is talking about Chris Froome. The mechanic and the rider make a good partnership. They worked together at Team Sky, which then became Team Ineos… and there is a strong mutual respect from both about how they go about their business.
When Froome switched teams, Blem followed and after years of working on Pinarello bikes the South African now understands the Factor brand – and disc brakes – much better.
“The bikes assemble pretty much like Pinarello,” says Blem when asked how he adapt to the change of equipment after so many years working with The Blue Line (which then became the burgundy line before becoming ‘Grenadiers’). “But the biggest adaption for me was disc brakes.”
Factor is a relatively new brand but it now enjoys a strong presence in the pro peloton. It has also become very popular with consumers, and you’ll see plenty of them on roads and trails around the world.
The Israel-Premier Tech riders who are racing at the TDU this January are on board the Factor Ostro with 12-speed Shimano Dura-Ace. The complete groupset it slightly interrupted, with one of the team’s new partners, FSA, now providing the cranksets.
Another change for 2023 is the inclusion of a redesigned, aerodynamic handlebar from Factor’s inhouse brand, Black Inc.
Blem is no stranger to high-end equipment. He has worked with the biggest budget in pro cycling when he was a chief mechanic at Sky/Ineos but he notes that the major difference between the British team and Israel-Premier Tech is the use of disc brakes.
“Disc brakes was the hardest part,” he says of the transition from one team to the next.
“We came from rim brakes with Ineos. [That team] stayed with rim brakes as long as possible… when I joined this team it was hard.
“We had several issues with disc brakes – just the reliability of the discs themselves. You know, we had discs warping, brakes rubbing…”
It was this switch that required Blem get creative with his tools and “overcome those issues”, but he admits that with the new 12-speed Dura-Ace that Shimano has “sorted most of those problems out now”.
When he first joined Israel-Premier Tech, Froome was also critical about disc brakes but he has since invested in Factor bikes and seems to be converted to the ‘new’ way of stopping.
“The weight has been reduced because they’ve got wireless now… and we can build a Factor now for Chris at 6.8 kilograms, so we can have it on the legal limit.”
When I asked how he is able to reduce the weight beyond what a bike shop mechanic might do for a customer who buys a Factor bike, Blem remains coy. “There’s some tricks here that I cannot discuss too much,” he says, before going on to talk about tyre selection and pressures.
Israel-Premier Tech will use a mix of tubeless and tubular tyres in 2023 and the selection will vary depending on what type of race and roads, and the preference of the rider.
Although the industry trend is for wider tyres that are inflated with less pressure than what has been used in the past, some pro riders – Froome included – are still resistant to that change.
“Chris is adding more pressure to his tubeless which is not the ideal thing to do,” says Blem. “I think it varies from rider to rider: some guys like super-soft pressure and other guys prefer a tyre that’s really pumped to the max.”
To find out more about the Factor bikes and some of the challenges that a pro team mechanic faces, click the link at the top of the page and watch the interview with Blem. This is one of a series with team mechanics from the TDU of 2023. There’s more to come and we’ll soon share a few thoughts from the guys who are now working on the Pinarello bikes raced by the Ineos Grendadiers.
– By Rob Arnold
Related: Jumbo-Visma’s 2023 team bikes •