APR 17, 2020

Factor Bike Check: Rick Zabel’s Factor ONE

In this new series, we talk to the pros about their bikes: what they ride and why. More than just beautiful bikes, this is an insight into how the world’s best riders select their tools

Frame I ride the aero bike most of the time, the Factor ONE. I also tested the O2 VAM, but for me as a sprinter, lead-out and Classics guy, the ONE is the bike I will use the most. It’s really aerodynamic, very stiff, and just a super-good bike for me. I tested the O2 VAM for one stage at the UAE Tour, because I want to ride some Classics on it, such as Roubaix and Flanders, because it’s a bit more comfortable and lighter. In those races with the cobbles, it’s important to have a smoother bike. And, of course, in a Grand Tour on a major mountain stage, I would also take the O2 VAM because it’s just lighter. It’s the nice thing with Factor that we have a choice between two really good bikes and between them the ONE and the O2 VAM give us the best option for every sort of race.
Wheels The Black Inc Sixty wheels are definitely my favourite on the ONE, because the bike is super-stiff and aerodynamic, and they really suit it. On the days when the team counts on me – sprint days, flat stages – the deeper wheels and the ONE are my best option. I also like the Black Inc Thirty wheels, but I ride those on mountainous days when it’s only about surviving for me, and I’m in the grupetto and want the lightest option possible. An exception was the uphill sprint at Hatta Dam in the UAE Tour, when I got fifth. That day I used the ONE, the aero bike, but with the Thirty wheels. They are a good option for days with quite a lot of climbing but not so much as to drop all the sprinters. Those are days that I often really like, when you can go to the finish with quite a small bunch. For me, it’s the first time in my career that I can choose between two bikes and two wheelsets. Whatever scenario awaits me the next day, I can take a few moments to choose and know that I have the best set-up for the race.
Saddle We are sponsored by Selle Italia and I choose the Flite. I think pro cyclists are really sensitive to two things: saddles and shoes. Fortunately, Selle Italia has a very big range, so there will always be one to fit your ass, and we could all test a lot to find that one! I used to ride the Flite when I was young, so I knew I liked it. I think it’s about as old as me! [In fact, the Flite debuted in 1990, over three years before Rick was born] I try to keep things constant as much as possible to avoid problems. Shoes I ride Nimbl shoes, a quite new Italian brand. Unlike some teams, we have free choice of shoes on Israel Start-Up Nation. My management made the connection when I came to this team. It’s the first time in my career that I have free choice, so I tried a few brands and really like these shoes. For me, they look really nice, and they are super-light, super-stiff, and they fit my wide feet very well. I have never been so happy with a cycling shoe.
Position My position was set by my local bike shop 10 years ago. There is nothing strange about it, I don’t think. I’m lucky that we have such a good shop close by. Although I am quite tall, I ride a 54cm frame because I have longer limbs than body, and I use a 13cm stem and a lot of seatpost out of the frame. I could also ride a 56 but I prefer to be less stretched out, more compact. As a professional, you learn what works for you as you get older. For example, when I turned professional with BMC, whatever the team’s specialists said was like the law for me, so I would never ask to change anything. But I think that it’s really important that when you learn what works for you, you need to say. It took some years for me to gain the confidence to say this. During three years with BMC, I was always a young rider. Then I moved to Katusha, and in your first year with a new team you want to follow their guidance and not resist it too much. My first year with Katusha was quite successful – I did the Tour and other big races, I had a good season – and the more successful you get, the less you are afraid to ask for things to be how you want. It was also really important for me as a young rider to respect the older riders, soigneurs, mechanics… Respect is really important in our sport. Gearing I don’t like to change the cassette too much, so I tend to always use 11-30. When there is a climb near the finish then I tend to be in the grupetto, and I will be tired because my work will be done already, so it’s good to have that 30t sprocket. Of course, on flat days when you don’t need it then it’s still nice to have a really close cassette like 11-25. On the front, I am usually happy with 53, but sometimes if you know it will be a slightly downhill or tailwind sprint I will 54, 55 or even 56, but finishes like that don’t come up often.