FACTOR LANDO HT CARBON HARDTAIL MOUNTAIN BIKE REVIEW – WHERE ROAD AND XC COLLIDE

Factor in the speed

FACTOR LANDO HT CARBON HARDTAIL MOUNTAIN BIKE REVIEW 

Factor is perhaps best known for its road bikes, which can be seen under some of the fastest pros on the World Tour and other road and gravel racing circuits; however, the brand seeks to take the best technologies from the road cycling world and integrate them into machines built for off-road. The Lando HT hardtail is a perfect example. The bike brings with it the design heritage of some incredibly fast road machines, and even some of the technology that gives those bikes their race-winning quickness.

FRAME

The Lando is built from the highest-quality carbon fibers with a complex layup to optimize strength and weight. We say “fibers,” because Factor lists multiple names for the carbon technologies used in the Lando. All the complexity in this simple-looking hardtail is designed to deliver an efficient, fast-feeling, yet compliant and durable ride. Claimed frame weight is just 850 grams.

The Lando is one of the first hardtails we’ve seen that is purpose built for cross-country riders who are curious about gravel riding. The design borrows functional and aesthetic features from both road and mountain bikes. The frame has seatstays that connect farther down the seat tube for compliance and connect to a Boost-spaced rear hub. Meanwhile, the chainstays have a road-style flat mount for the rear brake and clearance for tires up to 2.4 inches wide. Factor says the flat-mount rear brake allows them to mold the chainstay entirely out of carbon with no need to co-mold or bond in any alloy parts, resulting in weight savings and increased strength. They say it also facilitates the symmetrical seatstay configuration, which keeps loads being transmitted from the rear wheel symmetrical, thereby improving shock alignment and reducing shock side load.

The internal brake-hose routing goes through the oversized and integrated headset bearing for a sleek and, dare we say, aero look. Another unique touch is the optional Factor carbon rigid fork that, combined with the headset cable routing, offers a completely hidden front brake hose. There is routing for standard mechanical derailleurs and for an internally routed dropper post, should you want to add one. There is also a cable port to bypass the through-the-headset rear brake routing if you want to keep it simple.

COMPONENTS

Factor sells the Lando with only one build kit (tested here). They sell it as a frame if you want to build it your way, too. The SRAM XX1 AXS drivetrain components are on the high end of the performance spectrum and will have you ready to get your elbows out on a cross-country racecourse, if that’s your thing. On or off the racecourse, the build kit features parts from Factor’s boutique Black Inc. brand. The 29-inch carbon wheels feel incredibly quick. With Sapim bladed spokes, hookless carbon rims, a quick engagement hub and CeramicSpeed bearings, there’s nothing holding you back. The integrated bar and stem setup completes the look with a sleek and stiff cockpit feel. We experimented with bar ends but quickly decided we liked the feel of the simple flat bar on its own. The flat portion of the bar near the stem provides an excellent extra hand position for long climbs, a little like putting your hands atop a drop bar on a road bike.

ON THE RIDER:  Giro Helios Spherical helmet ($250); Magicshine Windbreaker Classic sunglasses ($50); Pearl Izumi Interval jersey ($125), Expedition Pro bib short ($265), Pro tall sock ($25); Shimano XC3 shoes ($125) 

CLIMBING

We expected this bike to climb great. The Lando’s featherweight frame is paired to lightweight, race-ready components that wouldn’t look out of place on any pro racer’s bike. That alone lets you defy gravity a little easier. No surprise there. The weight distribution keeps the rider in a forward and powerful position over the pedals yet somehow keeps the rear wheel planted with plenty of traction when climbing steep and even technical lines. We sensed an almost magical feeling of power transfer to the ground, followed by a satisfying claw of the knobbies as our weight kept the rubber pushing us uphill. While there’s no suspension to allow the wheel to track the ground, the bike still feels relatively confident on loose, chattery climbs.

The fork’s remote is a pure XC racer’s dream, offering three firmness modes at your fingertips. We found ourselves toggling between the firmest Locked and Drive modes most often.

 

DESCENDING

This bike is willing to descend every bit of trail that it climbs, but not more than that, please. It has sharp handling manners that will suit the needs of fast riders looking for a cross-country feel through and through. Between the tape on a cross-country racecourse, the Lando would be a formidable descender, utilizing its razor-sharp handling to pick the smoothest and speediest lines.

The Factor rides like an efficient hardtail with an eye towards a smooth ride. The ride is stiff, yet comfortable over chatter and high-frequency vibrations encountered on roads and singletrack.

While not the kind of descender that looks for the rowdy lines, it has a responsive feel that’s confident even on very steep and technical descents. We used the Lando to explore some of the most remote descents, even some we hadn’t dared ride before for fear of the horrendous climb out. When you’re packing this much climbing prowess, it’s easier to allow yourself to explore deeper into the backcountry, knowing the ride home will at least be lighter and faster feeling than if you’d packed the enduro bike. Thankfully, when you bite your lip and put your butt fully behind the seat, the Lando has the descending chops to handle the gnar, so long as the pilot is skilled and attentive.

The Factor rides like an efficient hardtail with an eye towards a smooth ride. The ride is stiff, yet comfortable over chatter and high-frequency vibrations encountered on roads and singletrack. While there is no travel in the rear, the DT Swiss fork takes the edge off the front and lends control on rowdier trails. The travel is useful on rough terrain and works wonders to reduce hand fatigue on long rides. The fork’s remote is a pure XC racer’s dream, offering three firmness modes at your fingertips. We found ourselves toggling between the firmest Locked and Drive modes most often. The Open mode is useful when pushing the limits on rougher trails but leaves the bike feeling unbalanced in other situations. This hardtail rear end mostly prefers the efficiency of firm suspension up front.

WHAT DID WE LOVE?

Test riders appreciated the Factor’s maximum efficiency in a minimalist design that’s relatively durable, with geometry that’s still fun and capable enough to ride on real mountain bike trails. The tuned ride quality is quite stiff yet damped enough for all-day comfort, too. The Factor’s Black Inc. wheels, integrated bar/stem and ceramic bearings throughout give this bike a feeling of quickness that’s uncommon in XC race bikes, even other hardtails in the category.

WHAT DID WE HATE?

The rear brake mount was slightly out of alignment, forcing us to use shims to keep the pads from rubbing. This issue was resolved by machining the mount flat with a Park Tool DT-5.2—a tool used in most reputable bike shop service departments. The internal brake hose is unprotected inside the downtube and can rattle on rough terrain. Because the brake hose is routed through the headset bearings, you must disconnect the brake line to perform any service there, but we felt it worthwhile to disconnect everything to install a nylon covering on the brake line. This kept it from making noise and made the Lando feel remarkably quiet and smooth in the rough stuff.

BOTTOM LINE

The Lando supplies the adventurous efficiency of a well-designed gravel bike, then adds enough tire clearance and geometry tweaks to make the Lando feel like it’s a real mountain bike. Although it’s one of the first, we doubt it will be the last mountain bike hardtail that mixes in gravel functionality and flavor. In fact, we can see a day coming when one frame might cover both segments. The hardtail design, coupled with a sharp geometry and no dropper post, creates a bike that pedals exceptionally well on long rides, climbs great, and makes no apologies about forcing you behind the saddle when the descents get steep. The Lando is plenty capable on technical descents with an experienced rider at the controls but isn’t meant to feel like a forgiving trail bike that will soften every rock and root in the name of comfort and control. Rather, the Lando puts all the feedback in the hands of the rider and begs you to pedal. Whether on a racecourse or not, the Lando HT just wants to go fast. 

FACTOR LANDO HT

www.factorbikes.com

CATEGORY: Cross-country

SUSPENSION: 0/110mm (4.3″)

WHEEL SIZE: 29″

Price: $7,099

Weight: 20.5 pounds (without pedals)

Sizes: XS, S, M, L (tested)

Frame tested: TeXtreme, Toray, Nippon Graphite, Pitch-based fiber (carbon)

Fork: DT Swiss F 232 ONE remote (110mm travel, 51mm offset)

Wheelset: Black Inc. TWENTY SEVEN (27mm inner width)

Tires: Goodyear Peak Ultimate TC, 29X2.25″

Seatpost: Black Inc. carbon two-bolt

Saddle: Selle Italia Max SLR Boost Ti316

Handlebar: Black Inc. MTB integrated bar/stem (8mm rise, 760mm)

Stem: Black Inc. MTB integrated bar/stem (70mm, -8º rise)

Grips: SRAM XX1 lock-on

Headset: CeramicSpeed SLT 1-1/2″ bearings

Brakes: SRAM Level Ultimate

Rotors: SRAM CLX (160mm)

Rear derailleur: SRAM XX1 AXS

Shifters: SRAM XX1 AXS

Crankset: SRAM XX1

Bottom bracket: CeramicSpeed T47 x 88.5 for 1x-specific

Chainrings: SRAM Xsync SL (34-tooth)

 

GEOMETRY Size Large

Head tube angle: 68.5°

Reach: 476mm (18.7″)

Stack: 633mm ( 24.9″)

Effective seat tube angle: 73.5°

Bottom bracket height: 311mm ( 12.2″)

Chainstay length: 430mm ( 16.9″)

Wheelbase: 1,184mm (46.6″)

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