You by Festka

Festka, the boutique Czech brand known best for its wound carbon tube technology, is also known for its astounding paint and design work. The brand just released images and details on it’s latest bike to come from its You by Festka design service which is limited to only twelve slots per year, and it’s a real looker. I’m off for a PowerBall ticket…

You by Festka is the new name for our top level of graphic design. Formerly called Festka Prime, we wanted to emphasize the personal aspect of the service. Limited to only twelve slots per year due to the extremely complex and demanding nature of the projects undertaken in this category, You by Festka offers the level of personalisation that goes far beyond anything available in the industry.

It is amazing to see the range of clients who opt for YbF. Although every case is different, they could be split into three main categories. The first one includes clients who want the best money can buy and who leave everything up to our skills and creativity. Some of them enjoy becoming a part of the creative process while others put all their trust into our hands and wait for a surprise. The clients in the second group have a more or less shareable idea of what they would like and they’re often keen on participating in the whole process. The projects in the second group are the most likely candidates for collabs with artists like the widely publicised Festka Porcelain frame made in 2019.

And then there is a tiny group of clients who know exactly what they want and who want to be right in the centre of the goings on. We have just finished one such project and would love to share it with you in detail. And since we have so much detail courtesy of Antti, the client, let’s give him the space to describe his motivation and thought process.

So here’s the story…

Central Finland is known across the world for its gravel roads. And we are not talking about cycling here, but WRC rallying instead. Rally Finland is one of the most legendary races in the annual race calendar, because of its smooth and fast gravel roads with big jumps. It is the fastest event in the World Rally Championship and has been dubbed the “Grand Prix of Rallying” and the “Grand Prix on Gravel”. Many of my hometown gravel roads are previous or current rally special stage roads, and as a kid, I was there watching the race. My earliest memories from Rally Finland are from 1985, the Group B days, and that’s when the cars were the most powerful and impressive, only to be toned down in 1987 after Group B was banned. As a seven-year-old kid, I was blown away by the sheer insanity of the driving of rally drivers like Hannu Mikkola, Markku Alen, Timo Salonen, and Henri Toivonen. Especially the Audi Quattros left a permanent memory in the mind of a small kid, with the unmistakable sound of the five-cylinder turbo engine and biggest wings. Although I don’t consider myself a die-hard rally fan and the cars nowadays don’t impress that much, the golden days of rallying are still something I think with warm feelings.

Nowadays when I’m riding on those special stage roads, I often think about those days. During my gravel rides, I’m also often thinking about what would be the most optimal bike for my local roads. The ultimate dream bike. For the smooth gravel rollercoaster roads of central Finland, I don’t want an overbuilt bikepacking rig, but a nimble and responsive bike that is more like a road bike with big tire clearance. I hear people often comparing their bikes to cars when they describe how they handle. “This thing is like a Ferrari” or “This bike is like an SUV”. And like Festka describes the Rover – a rally machine – that’s how I like my gravel bike to feel.

In 2017 during a gravel ride, I had an idea of making a “Group B” style gravel bike after reading about a guy in Finland building a perfect replica of the 1986 Audi Sport Quattro S1 E2 . “Why don’t I build a bike that way, with similar attention to detail and with an uncompromising approach”. So I started playing around with the design, and transforming the look and feel of the Audi rally car to a bicycle as closely as possible. Equating group B rally cars with gravel bikes felt like a good idea because that’s how I want my bike to feel. Fast, lightweight, aggressive and responsive. As someone having a graphic designer background, I like playing with transferring the visual appearance of one object to something else, and simultaneously transferring stories, meanings, and emotions. And transforming the most legendary Group B rally car into the form of a bicycle, and connecting it to my memories from my local roads felt just the perfect thing to do.

You can’t build a “Group B” -level gravel bike from any other material than carbon, so Festka felt like a natural choice with their durable and lightweight robot-woven high-tech tubing and flawless paint finishes. I immediately made some sketches and showed them to Festka Art Director Tom Hnida, with enthusiasm but still afraid would he get the concept at all, or would it be something that Festka would put their down tube logo on. To my luck, the guys at Festka were feeling the concept, but the project still was left in hibernation. I had just gotten another gravel bike and I felt like there was no gravel groupset available at that time I would like to equip that build with.

Fast forward to 2020, when Campagnolo released their new Ekar 1x gravel groupset. I immediately felt now is the time to turn that project into reality. As a long-time Campagnolo user and 1x convert, Ekar was something I had wished for. Also, the comeback of the legendary Shamal name, in the form of a carbon tubeless all-road wheelset felt like a perfect match for this build. Campagnolo also has a long history in motorsports, and they have made wheels for race and sports cars for decades. Considering that, Campagnolo was an obvious choice. 

With other components choices in the bike, I wanted to capture that Group B spirit as closely as possible. The Audi S1 E2 was built mostly of German handmade carbon and kevlar parts, so Schmolke was a natural choice and their components are like a cherry on a cake in this project. Although super light, Schmolke parts are still very robust and also comfortable. Especially the TLO “The Lightest One” seat post together with Berk Composites Lupina saddle adds to the overall comfort level of the bike. Michelin gravel tires were also a natural choice, since Michelin was also the tire sponsor of Audi Rally Team.

The geometry of the bike was planned to maintain the nimble handling of a road bike, but with some added stability. Slight differences in contact point locations compared to my road bike fit were planned carefully. Correct tube lengths and angles were chosen for the frame to achieve my preferred fork trail figure with 35-40mm gravel tires, and to achieve balanced weight distribution on the bike. Visually pleasing proportions were also a must.

The frame was painted in exact HB Audi Team colors from the eighties. At first glance the colors are just plain white, red, black, grey and yellow. But when inspecting more closely, you notice the off-white nature of Audi Alpinweiss color, and how it forms a harmonious combination together with the really dark Audi Rally Brown, warm tinted Audi Rally Grey, HB Cigarettes yellow and gold, and fiery Audi Rally Red. Someone did a good job in choosing the colors back in the early eighties! A rally-car themed bike is nothing without “sponsor” logos of course. On the drive side are the real companies, and on the non-drive side are tongue-in-cheek modified versions of HB Audi Team sponsors from 1985. “Sora” means “gravel” in Finnish, SKF transforms to WTF, and so on. Many gravel bikes nowadays look similar, meaning subtle earth tones, matte finish, toned down graphics, etc… So I wanted something different. Something not so serious and maybe a bit over the top, and definitely LOUD and FAST like an Audi S1 E2. 

The paint job that turned out to be perfect and also the handling of the bike was just as I had imagined. When all the pieces in the puzzle finally come together perfectly, the feeling is something that compared to anything else. For me, this is what a custom bicycle project is at its finest, and Festka really redeemed their Dream Bike Factory promise with this project. This summer I’m riding my local gravel roads like it’s 1985 and I’m Hannu Mikkola!

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