Rides: Tale of Two Festkas

It's not uncommon to be asked to shoot more than one bike at a time. It's not so common when those bikes are super bikes. But it's a real challenge when the bikes are as similar to each other as they are different. That's the kind of dilemma I was recently faced with.

Blacksmith Cycle was just about to put the finishing touches on two very different Festkas and Mike asked me if they'd be able to get the in the studio and have me shoot them. Who says no to that kind of request? Not me, and here's the story of two truly remarkable super bikes.

This isn't the first time I've shot and featured one of Ali's bikes. I was first introduced to Ali when I shot his jaw dropping Cherubim R2. The thing you need to know about Ali is, he might be the greatest ambassador to the sport of cycling. His passion for cycling is infectious and his spirit is inspiringly positive. I may have been introduced to Ali through shooting his first bike but he's become a friend. I joke that when I grow up, I want to be Ali.

If anyone deserves to ride the best, it's got to be Ali and it's no surprise that Ali and Mike are back with another stunner.  For this one they've pulled no punches in dressing up a Festka Doppler. The frame is custom built carbon/Titanium (Ti) blend from the Czech based powerhouse, Festka.  There are a few other Carbon/Ti combo frames on the market (No. 22 Reactor, Bastion, Firefly Ti-Carbon), but Festka take a really unique approach. Where others put Ti at the junctions or lugs, Festka uses Ti in the tubes and uses carbon at the junctions in a tube to tube style.

The Doppler Ti tubes are crafted from Reynolds 2000 Grade 9 titanium (may be listed as 3Al/2.5V) fwhich is an alloy containing 3% aluminium and 2.5% vanadium). As I covered in part 3 of The Perfect Project, The addition of 3% aluminum and 2.5% vanadium creates and idyllic blend between the easier to weld pure grade titanium and the higher strength grade 5. 

Titanium as a frame material is a really special alloy. Aside from being anticorrosive, it has a hard to beat strength to weight ratio and it can be used in varying thickness and ovality in order to shape and mold its riding characteristics. This is what Festka do with the Doppler. The top tube has an interesting shape to it. Its profile changes throughout its length and you can see this most in the side profile and top down views of Ali's Doppler. To my eye it almost has a sort of hourglass shape to it.

The carbon portions of the frame have also had attention keenly paid to them. And it's more than just the distinctive woven outer layer. The tubes are comprised of a 3 layer construction. The base layer produces stability while the middle Unidirectional fiber layer creates bending strength and the roboticaly woven outer layer creates torsional strength. A unique feature of the Festka Doppler is the Ti dropouts. The Ti dropouts while not only matching the Ti tubes in the frame they help keep the weight down compared to steel or aluminum dropouts. And they are more resistant to damage than carbon dropouts. 

The Doppler is truly an incredible bike and Ali has pulled no punches in building this out. Word from Ali is that this has met and surpassed all of his wildest dreams. It rides flies uphill and powers through the sprints. Below is a full build list and gallery.

The ying to Ali's yang is Alex's Festka One. Where Ali's bike is exceptional in its subtly, Alex's bike makes no apologies for its boldness. It's really hard to not take immediate notice of the paint job. I'm not entirely sure where Alex got the palette for his paint scheme but it's spot on (pun intended.)

There's a lot going on with this bike and while I'll get into the details, I'll start with the paint. Because it's the most obvious. It's been painted in house by Festka with a 4 color palette that elegantly combines both stripes and polka dots. The main base is a semi muted pale blue and the front end has been adorned with a polka dot fade in lighter blue. The concentration of polka dots spreads and fades in intensity as it moves towards the tail end. The first set of contrasting stripes appear at the seat tube, again in lighter blue. But it's on the chain stay and seat stays where the lines transition between light blue to white as the rear triangle finishes in white. An accent red stipe is placed at the end stripe. This of course is carried over to the painted seat post where again you find the red, light blue, and white. But the lower half is painted black. They are not in the paint, but Alex set off the paint with a pair of chubby bobcat die cuts from Team Dream Bicycling Team. The little cherry on top of it all has to be that Silca Impero Ultimate frame pump that's been painted to match. Ooph. I kind of what to get a flat just so I have an excuse to use that pump.

But what's under that paint? The 'One' is Festka's custom all carbon frame. By their estimations the One is about 200 grams lighter than it's Carbon/Tirival. The stock geometries have a clear favouring for a racy feeling. The steeper head tubes and seat tubes, tall head tubes, and shorter chain stays are all indicators of a racier personality. Not only is the head tube taller but it also used a 44mm diameter head tube which translates to confidence inspiring stiffness. The tail end also features the Ti dropouts and derailleur hanger. Although heavier than carbon, they are much more durable and forgiving in unfortunate situations - that you don't want to find yourself in.

Being an all carbon fiber frame, it's important note that not all carbon fiber is created equal. Although Festka doesn't specify exactly which carbon fiber product they use, their website does mention PAN Ultra High Modulus fibers that are used in both the tubes and junctions. The very popular T1000D from Toray Industries is an example of a Pan Ultra High Modular fiber. But like with the Doppler, Festka work with CompoTech to build their main tubes from a carbon thread which is robotically woven around a metal form to create the tubes rather than just subsequent layers of prepeg carbon sheets laid out in a mold.

The Festka One is actually an evolution of their previous model, the Zero. How much better is the performance of the One? Hard for me to say but they quantify a difference in stiffness. Festka claim the One is 60% stiffer than its predecessor.

When you're building a super bike, setting off a top end frameset with striking paint is a good start. But it's also about how you kit it out. I must admit that when I look at the build list it strikes all the right notes in my heart. Mike and Alex have picked a winning package with Schmolke wheels, bars, post, ENVE fork and stem, and Tune bits sprinkled throughout. What really sets it off for me is that brand new matte slate Chris King component set with the bottom bracket, Inset headset, and matching R45 hubs.  A full build list is below.

We were lucky enough to work out the timing to have Alex bring the bike into the studio to shoot it cause I know he's been out riding it and enjoying. Can't say I blame him.