A couple of weeks ago we gave you a first look at this spectacular £12k custom bike from Festka in the Czech Republic. Then its builder, the UK agent for Festka, Prestige Cycles in Brighton, asked if we’d like to ride it. Well, duh…
- Festka's One is your dream road bike... for £12,000
- Gallery: the weird and wonderful bikes of NAHBS 2017
We went into some tech detail in the First Look, and there’s masses on Festka’s website, so we’ll keep it brief here. The One is the flagship road frame, made from ‘Rocket Tubes’, Festka’s own carbon tubing made for them by local specialist CompoTech and using top grade Japanese carbon fibre.
It uses a layering system that Festka claims is unique, with one layer of material arranged with the fibres all running along the length of the tube to give very high stiffness.
The drop-outs, including the rear mech hanger, are CNC machined titanium for durability and snappier shifting. The fork is an Enve Composites Road 1.5 with a choice of rake, here with a keen 43mm.
The bar, stem and seatpost are also by Enve, and are just the start of a very high-end build for this flashy demo bike. The drivetrain is the rarely seen (because it’s insanely expensive) Campagnolo Super Record EPS and the wheels are the even lesser spotted Tune Schwarzbrenner 60mm aero carbon clinchers, claimed to weigh just 1,540g. A superlight San Marco Regale Carbon FX saddle tops it off.
The custom paint shows off the clever and unusual carbon construction beautifully, with the seat cluster especially eye-catching as it’s in clear coat to reveal the change from 3k to unidirectional carbon fibre material.
The colour of this bike was inspired by a BMW i8, not only because Festka likes the deep red but because it also sees parallels between its own push for technological advancement and the car maker’s efforts with its petrol-electric hybrid supercar.
That may sound a little far fetched but it’s a darn sight more interesting than black-on-black ‘stealth’ drudgery, so I like it.
The One’s attitude is immediately obvious upon your first acceleration. It’s stiff, responsive and changes direction like a polo pony, requiring similar skill and attention from its rider.
The steering geometry is aggressive, with a fairly steep head angle paired to a short rake to give exceptional agility. The downside is that this comes at the cost of neutrality and as lean angle increases so does the sensation of the front wheel wanting to tuck under you.
Professional road and track riders — Festka co-founder Michael Moureček was both — are often happy to make this trade-off. Personally, whether for crits or mountain descents, I prefer to have a bike that gives me the confidence to lean it deep into a turn and carry speed.
The immense pedalling stiffness also fits Moureček’s background; the One is as unyielding as anything I’ve ever tested. The Campagnolo Super Record carbon cranks play a part in that and the Tune Schwarzbrenner 60mm carbon clinchers even more so.
Their low weight boosts acceleration yet doesn’t seem to compromise lateral rigidity at all — they feel taught and brake rub is entirely absent. When you do want the pads to contact the rim, they do so with vigour in both the dry and, after the usual hiatus, in the wet.
Sprinting on the One, as you can imagine, is a joy. It really rewards your efforts and always feels lighter than its 7.37kg. The Enve Aero Road handlebar, my absolute favourite bar, provides a rock solid connection along with huge wrist clearance thanks to its flared shape.
When you sit down, drop your elbows and move your hands to the horns of the levers, which are 5cm inboard thanks to that flare, you find a really aero position and the ergonomic Campagnolo horns make it all the more enjoyable to use.
Campag’s EPS really is the forgotten electronic groupset. The internal battery came late and it’s so incredibly expensive that you never see it as OE spec. Even most rich buyers of custom builds now want SRAM Red eTap because it’s the hot, new thing.
It’s a shame, because EPS is fantastic. The buttons are more distinct and have a more positive click than Di2 and the shifts are much faster than eTap, though it has its quirks, too, most obviously the thumb lever which is never quite in the ideal place regardless of hand position.
While the steering characteristics are subject to preference, three other issues are more clear cut shortcomings.
First, the Tune wheels, in spite of their fat profile, do not feel especially stable in the wind. They aren’t bad but they get pushed around significantly more than the likes of HED and Enve.
Second, the stout 30.8mm seatpost and 23mm tyres do nothing to flatter what is a rather firm ride. All frequencies of impact — from surface vibration to big hits — are transmitted in higher than expected fidelity. Spec a 27.2mm post and 25mm tyres (the biggest size that clears) and it would be much better.
And third, 7.37kg isn’t very light for a £12k bike with a dream spec. Lightness isn’t everything, just as power isn’t in a supercar, but equally in both cases there is rightfully some expectation. You don’t want your supercar to be out-dragged by a hot hatch and you don’t want your ultra-exotic handmade bike to feel porky next to your pal’s £4k Canyon Ultimate CF SLX, but this would.
While the Protonic One left me with mixed feelings, on further inspection, and with the exception of the weight, all the things I liked less can be addressed in the customisation phase and the aspects of the bike that are more fundamental — the performance, the finish — I really loved.
If you’re considering a custom bike, the takeaway here is to really do your homework first so that you know exactly what you want. I can easily imagine that, were it built around my dimensions and preferences, this would be a mind-blowing bike that would be truly special to own.