Choose your steed
Posted on January 20 2015
We sell three core frames at Factory Five and the question we get asked the most is ‘what’s the difference?’
It’s definitely not a question limited to the first time rider. Unless you’ve ridden a range of bikes for a fair while it’s likely the nuances of steel, aluminum, geometry and componentry aren’t going to have imprinted in a way that is natural to express.
Which is where most of us are at – and since the frame is the most important part of the bike – it’s where most people start the conversation.
So let us straighten a few things out; Yes there are differences. Probably a particular model is right for you. Choosing one is not a life sentence, so unless you really know what you want, it is worth trying the one which makes the most sense first.
Here are a few ways to think about which frame is right for you:
Classic or modern? This is the easiest distinction. An F550 frame with it’s larger tubing and industrial welding is going to to build into a more modern looking bike. The F550s has smoother, more professional welds and a bladed fork which gives it a performance edge. The F5pista has thinner tubes, more traditional connecting lugs and an overall more elegant feeling. Sure, an F550 can be built with a vintage twist and an F5Pista can be customized with a modern edge but in general…
- Modern: F550
- Performance: F550s
- Classic: F5Pista
One bike for one riding style is our golden rule. This is why keen cyclists end up with a growing collection. Fixed gear bikes can be definitely multipurpose and we’ve been racing, touring and wheelie-ing on ours… but at the end of the day we really do one thing the most. Buy it for that. The F550 is aluminum, stiff and springy and quick off the traffic lights. It’s an all-round bike with a commuter edge. The F550s is all this but lighter and more nimble. The F5Pista is steel which has a more dampening quality, making it comfortable over longer distances.
- Commuting: F550
- Racing: F550s
- Longer excursions: F5Pista
Care and attention
Nothing sings better than a well maintained bike. Honestly, a generally maintained bike does a pretty good job too. If you’re one of those kinds of people who waits for things to fall off before fixing them and locks it to the nearest pole then go aluminum, F550 in raw. This frame doesn’t rust, it’s a lightweight workhorse and the clearcoat over aluminum absorbs scuffs and scrapes into it’s industrial appeal. The F5Pista has more elegance. Unless you’re going for shabby chic (many do) then it should be maintained fully, wiped down when it gets wet and shackled with care.
Ride it anywhere: F550
- Kept under covers: F550s
Maintained with attention: F5Pista
Here’s a good distinction and one of the strongest appealing factors for steel – it lasts a long time. Most probably, and through the nature of care and attention, you’ll be riding an F5Pista for decades. The F550 is only slightly less durable and this is due to the nature of aluminum. Under pressure it cracks. Steel will bend. People who’ve gotten into a prang with an F5Pista can often get it heated, treated and repaired. An F550 or F550s will perhaps need to be replaced. These are by no means short term bikes though, treated right they will outperform you and your tastes!
- Mid-Long: F550
- Mid-Long: F550s
- Long: F5Pista
Money is the first and easiest differentiator, yet from our experience is always a grey area when it comes to making the final decision. The frame is only one part out of 10 key component groups which go into a build. Which many people rationalize as a blend of investment, expression and reward. If utility alone is taken into consideration, spread across the lifetime of a bike (at the base level think of your typical journey cost without vs with a bike) then the 1.5x price difference between our F550 and F5Pista is virtually insignificant. If you’re wondering, the price is mostly in the craftsmanship – hand brazing lugs and smooth welding is harder and takes longer than flat or TIG welding. In our experience, the frame accounts for around a third of the total bike price so if you’re on a tight budget, an F550 build will be cheaper than just the price difference between the two frames. Keep in mind though, these are not carbon road bikes. Our bikes go from the mid range to high end of
- Â¥1.840 ($299) F550
- Â¥3,540 ($575) F550s
- Â¥3,310 ($539) F5Pista
We’ve saved the easiest to last. The weight difference in our frames is there but not incredible. If you want or need a light frame then it’s obvious, go with the F550s which is lightweight aluminium and a carbon fork. We have races using it on a daily basis at the track and in criteriums. If weight is something which appeals to you then don’t worry about it because they’re all light. Depending on which components you choose, a bike with any frame will normally be in the 7-9kg range.
- Very light: F550
- Superlight: F550s
- Light: F5Pista
So that’s it. We know what you’re going through. We’ve been there ourselves and with a few hundred customers through the years. The decisions are easy, making them is harder and there’s a few moving parts to think about. In summary: break it down, find out what your real priorities are, match them against your budget and build something beautiful. Our expertise at F5 comes from having only the right pieces. It’s very hard to go wrong.