With Factor launching its new Ostro Gravel literally the day before the 2022 British Gravel Championships – and with the brand’s UK headquarters being a mere 30 miles from the event village – taking one to the start line was almost too good an opportunity to miss.
Alas, this was one of those times where the best laid plans did indeed go awry: a slash to the sidewall of the rear tyre spelt a frustrating end to my race.
Nevermind – we had Anna, Cycling Weekly’s online Fitness Features Editor, put on a much better showing in the women’s British Gravel Champs and there was the gran fondo the next day which I was able to ride (this time without any punctures) and actually get a feel for the bike, so it did all work out in the end!
Factor Ostro Gravel: construction and value
For a full dive into the details of the components and design spec, you can find those in our Factor Ostro Gravel launch story over here. But we’ll still go over a few of the fundamentals here for context.
Factor’s previous generation gravel bike, the LS, was already a notably speed-focused machine. No need here for a complete design overhaul as Orbea performed on its Terra platform last year. Nevertheless, Factor has still sprinkled a raft of iterative developments to bring the Ostro Gravel bang-up-to-date.
Starting at the cockpit, the cable routing is now fully internal, winding its way through the Black Inc Aero Integrated Barstem and down into the headtube. It’s worth being aware that Factor’s approach has left the Ostro Gravel being only compatible with electronic groupsets – so sadly no scope for Campagnolo Ekar builds here.
Next are the tube shapes. Whereas the previous generation Factor LS was really quite svelte – its tubes were slimmer than certain pure climbing bikes – the Ostro Gravel strikes a silhouette which has more in common with the latest crop of do-it-all race bikes.
True to form, Factor has sought to blend a high degree of aerodynamic efficiency with a low overall frame weight. The kammtail tube shapes along with the oversized headtube and bottom bracket area are all very familiar cues. But despite these boxy sections, the frame is claimed to weigh a mere 900 grams, with this precise build coming in at 7.98kg without pedals.
The pricing makes for an interesting comparison, too. This flagship build with SRAM’s top tier AXS groupset and power meter; Black Inc wheels and finishing kit; and CeramicSpeed bearings in the hubs, headset and bottom bracket comes in at $9,799 / £8,430. Specizlied’s Crux in a very similar spec, on the other hand, is much more expensive at $12,250 /£11,700.
Interestingly, the flipside to this is that the lower tier Ostro Gravel builds don’t get much cheaper, bottoming out at $8,199 / £7,060. By comparison, Specialized goes down to $6,200 / £6,300 as its cheapest electronic shifting S-Works Crux, whilst Scott offers its Addict Gravel with Sram Rival 1×12 for $4,499.99 / £2,999.
Admittedly, both those Specialized and Scott models use a lower grade carbon to help bring down the price, so it is a little apples and oranges comparing the Ostro Gravel to them – as it’s only sold in that top-tier lay-up. But on the other hand, there are plenty of great points to the Ostro Gravel that don’t centre on the weight. Just as with the Crux and the Addict Gravel, a heavier – but cheaper – version of the same frame would be a nice option to have.
Factor Ostro Gravel: the ride
Although I wasn’t in the race for long, but for what I did ride, I was very much appreciative of the Ostro Gravel’s low sub-8kg weight. It was a large field, but we had a large field. Spread out across the wide, grassy holding pen, about 60 of us got a front row start.
So far, so democratic, but with the bunch being quickly funnelled first onto some doubletrack and then a short singletrack through the woods, the start was every bit as frantic as that of a CX or mountain bike race – with the acceleration of the Ostro Gravel being a massive help.
The handling was both quick and controlled as we twisted through the trees. There was no sense of man-handling it around the corners, but it also wasn’t as unforgiving as a more steeply angled and more highly perched ‘cross bike.
But that’s about as far as I got in the British Gravel Champs, puncturing quite soon after. I hadn’t ridden the Goodyear Connector Ultimates before, but I was impressed by the grip they offered with that file tread and they did feel fast – although the credit for that should rightly be spread across the build. Regarding the flat, one puncture can be considered misfortune, so I’ll reserve judgement on that for now – but I’ll be watching out for any more.
Regarding the aero optimizations around the cockpit and the Black Inc wheels, it’s impossible to say how much of a boost those touches gave to the weekend’s riding. I have to say, with the wide handlebars that were spec’d, I did have the sensation of scooping up more air than really necessary.
Still, I managed to grab a Strava KOM on one of the gently undulating stretches of doubletrack during the Sunday gran fondo, so evidently it’s got a lot going right. It’s also helpful that Factor allows you to choose the stem length and bar width at the point of purchase. Now, that doesn’t do much for any subsequent tweaks, but at least it allows you to get closer to what you need with the stock setup.
One aspect I’m very much looking forward to testing out but didn’t get a chance to in the weekend’s riding is how the bike handles with different tyres sizes. Factor made a point of how the trail values of the Ostro Gravel have been optimised so that when it’s run with skinnier, slick tyres, the handling mimics a bit more closely that which you’d expect from a road bike. But you’ll have to stay tuned for the full review for that.