Tuesday, December 08, 2009

8 John Bailey : Design Aspects Of The Factor 001 Bike

Image of the retail version of Factor 001. Courtesy Factor001.

Many of you may have heard recently that Beru F1 System's high tech Factor 001 has been finally launched into the market. A couple of its first releases are now available through the premium London store called Harrods. Guess the price tag. Yes, you're wrong. It's precisely 36,000 US$.

Early this year, I had blogged about the bike, outlining some of its main features in brief. However, the specifics were still anyone's guess at that time. In this post, I dig a little more into one or two aspects of the bike, one of them related to the bike's proprietary method of measuring the cyclist's leg torque. I took an interest in this aspect after reading this review from a journalist working for Telegraph. "I could see on the screen that my right leg had produced maximum torque of 85.6lb ft, my left 83.3lb ft," he wrote in that article.

Considering the above aspect, I think had precisely predicted before that this is where the future of biometrics is headed in top end bicycles. Individual leg input measurement.

So, I pressed managing director John Bailey for some details into the biometric measurement system and the price. What are some of the capabilities of this bike? Here's what he wrote to me:

"Hi Ron. The system measures true force directly in each crank. We felt this was the only correct way in which to do this as this is where the power is inputted to the machine. Clearly each leg is independent and therefore each crank has to be measured. From this we can plot push and pull left and right. More importantly this is referenced to a true measurement of crank angle (1 degree resolution) and all is transferred to a data logger and head unit display. With these parameters you can plot power distribution in many forms from simple data plots against time to complex histograms and full circle power distribution - this also allows angular velocity calculations.

These elements are vital to enable user and trainer to truly understand the rider's technique and short comings. Once the rider is equipped with this data he can tune his pedaling stroke to such a degree that he will hopefully eliminate negative torque from his lifting leg on the reverse rotation of the cranks.

We will in the next couple of weeks have the website live and hope to display some of the plots to give everyone an idea of the detail available in the bike. All this data will be stored on a removable data logger and can not only be analyzed post ride but also monitored live via head unit display.

We sample the crank at 1khz and transmit the data at up to 350khz so you will miss nothing in terms of "events".

We will in due course offer 2 and 3 axis cranks for the aftermarket that will not only measure true torque but also pedal deflection in x and y axis so riders will see what kind of twist and deformation they are inducing in the crank.

All of the above is a direct derivative of our F1 sensor systems used for drive shaft torque and suspension force measurements.The system is highly accurate and offers lab spec data in the real world environment.

I'd also like to add something about the design of the bike and its price. We considered everything when putting this machine together. The trouble with convention by its nature precludes any lateral thinking. When you combine this with design rules for competition it really places a restriction on what the consumer can buy.

What we want to achieve is a new standard in design and to show what can be achieved when there are no ties to convention. All that you see in the frame is there for a reason and is completely engineering based. Once these parameters were fixed we then concentrated on the visuals.

Our bike was never intended for road race entry but for road race training and for pro riders to understand their techniques and physiology better and in a real world environment - not some stuffy lab that presents a stale and very non real environment.

If a rider can ride on a particular stage and gather so much data he will know where he is falling short.

Under the UCI regulations I believe that increased performance has all but peaked and manufacturers will struggle to make huge steps given the rules they operate in. What is clear is that the human element can always improve but requires new data collection in order to fully understand his or her own levels and where realistically improvements can be made.

Again the FACTOR001 is a training "machine" - its the ultimate in stiffness and comfort but is also a mobile lab (in Electronic specification) and that is our point. For the affluent its a real opportunity to buy something that is more than just an expensive bike. We realise this is a small market but we never intended to join the big boys in the mass markets.

We had the bike go for its first professional test ride last week with a highly respected Frenchman.The results have suggested that we have achieved 95% of our goals and indeed have set the bar. The price is high but it reflects the effort involved in the development and indeed the manufacturing techniques involved.

Its a special machine that will cater for professional teams looking for new training apparatus and indeed those affluent enough to want something different and collectible.

On a final note we intended to use FACTOR001 as a launch pad to future things. We fully intend to enter the electronics aftermarket with our systems at prices within the current high end market.

Who knows what the future holds and perhaps once people fully appreciate what we have - and there is more critical reviews of the machine - we may gain a good enough reputation to maybe consider a bespoke race legal machine that utilises everything we have learnt from this project - I hope so!

On a final final note! We also recognize that this project has been harder than we originally anticipated and we have the utmost respect for some of the more recognized brands within the industry who produce fine and well engineered machines and it is their products that have inspired us to do what we have done."

Keep up the good work, Beru F1. Like Kevin Saunders from KGS Bikes said in the comments to my first post, it is really great to see a Formula 1 company come up and shake the industry in such fine manner.

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  1. Lovely piece about the bike. And no, I didn't hear it was out yet. How are they going to 'cater' to professional teams. I don't think the bike was UCI legal, the last I heard of it.

  2. Definitely not UCI legal with the disc brakes, but at least the bike will actually stop more effectively.

    Really interested in the integrated monitoring for torque, angular velocities, etc. There's big potential in this, it'd be cool if in a few years high-end bikes integrated some of these. Heck, some are already making neater connections for DI2!

  3. Mr. Bailey does mention its a "training tool" for now. But what they're not realizing is, from a customer's standpoint, if they're spending all these dollars on a bike, they'd rather use it race in competitions as well. Who in their right frame of mind will buy a 36,000 dollar training tool? I think the fact that its UCI illegal and expensive outweigh its new innovations. Also, not to put down the bike, but companies like MetriGear are coming out with pedal spindle based power/torque measurement systems which are far cheaper to integrate into an existing bike. That's their competition.

  4. Although I wouldn't (couldn't!) buy a 30K+ bike, this is how tech progress is made - by making expensive protos. Remember ENIAC? Now we have frigging phones with more calculation power.

    More power to this guys for making the investment. I hope they (and other engineering firms) keep pushing the envelope. Will they take the place of Trek (or heck, even Calfee or other boutique builders) - no. I don't think it's their intent. Here I see a lot of people in really nice bikes that have never pinned a number :)(Ottawa, ON, for reference).

  5. Well Rod, :) not sure if I would compare the Factor001 to ENIAC. I mean I get your point. I think its related to expertise and knowledge. For Beru, this was the first major project with not only a bicycle, but implementing electronic systems into the bike. The engineering hours must have been a lot because of trial and error which translates to the overhead. Like you, I too believe that subsequent revisions of the bike in future could be much cheaper than what it is now. However, that will depend a lot on the promise of this bike, wouldn't it? I'm really wondering how many folks are going to purchase one of these.

  6. UCI only bans disc brakes on cyclocross bikes specifically, I do believe.

  7. Jm : If that's the case, I don't understand the rationale behind the decision. Why would you ban a better safety component? Besides, if I'm thinking about this right, disc brakes also have larger surface area for better heat transfer in braking. Certainly it eludes me why disc brakes are banned by the UCI.

  8. I can definitely see this as a training tool for reconnaissance rides. I'd like to see how it compares with the CT/Velodyne spinscan feature. This bike is for the top 10% pros without a doubt. Cost/application comparison would only eek out a negligable advantage. I'm hoping these guys are using Ant+ sport integration instead of proprietary. So many advantages going the Ant+ route with the available slave/master ports on that hardware spec.


Thank you. I read every single comment.