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Festka Scout review

28 Jan 2022
Verdict:

Utterly superb gravel bike that will prove satisfying on road and thrilling off it

Cyclist Rating: 
For 
Stiff • Fast • Agile • Comfortable
Against 
Groupset

They could have called this bike the Victor Meldrew, because I don’t believe it! As I live and breathe, the Festka Scout has a Rotor Uno groupset! Rarer than a spoon-billed sandpiper on a Sumatran rhino’s back.

OK, technically this is the Rotor 1×13 groupset, the Uno’s successor, and technically this is a bike review, not a groupset review. But the groupset is attached to this, Festka’s latest gravel bike, so my jaw is dropping to the floor. Domf.

Wheel choices

According to Festka designer and founder Michael Moureček, the Scout is a natural addition to the stable, despite there already being a gravel bike in the lineup: the Rover.

‘The Rover can be used like a serious road bike and can also explore off-road, but it has limits: 40mm max tyre size, and it’s not compatible with 650b wheels because they upset the geometry.

‘The Scout does allow 650b and up to 50mm tyre clearance [42mm with 700c] and has plenty of room for mud.’

The Scout picks up the trails where the Rover drops off and, as such, is only compatible with 1× drivetrains, yet strangely there is a distinct lack of dropped or bendy stays, the hallmarks of many an adventure gravel bike.

There is a reason for this, says Moureček: ‘If you spend 12 hours on the bike, you should care about efficiency. With tube bends you always lose stiffness.’

Thus the Scout’s tubes are round and straight and its modus operandi is to be as efficient as possible. In other words, stiff. That’s quite unusual in a market obsessed with compliance, but it had some brilliantly unpredicted upshots.

Bum on seat, the Festka was firm – road bike firm – and it did a useful turn at bending tarmac to its will. I stomped, it went, whether uphill, where I largely forgot I was climbing on a gravel bike, or cornering, where the wider tyres’ larger contact patch made for excellent grip

Handling was sharp too – much faster than the Scout’s gravel-spirited slack and long geometry would suggest. This medium-ish bike (572mm top tube) has 62mm trail and a 1,045mm wheelbase.

I felt the drag of heavier tyres now and then, but in general the Scout’s road credentials were laudable. But it’s off-road where the bike shines.

‘Capable climber’ on road became ‘tractor-winch’ off it, the stiff frame boosting that feeling of efficient climbing. The stiffness played well on twisty trails too, because feedback is essential to the pursuit of fast, safe cornering, and stiffness is essential to feedback. Loungy bikes are comfy but don’t tell you much.

That said the Scout is no illusory shag-pile, and on rougher trails it paid to ride that bit looser, elbows crooked, knees bent. It took more concentration at times, but I prefer that kind of ride – it’s more involved and ultimately more rewarding.

So how has Festka done all this with no discernible bells or whistles? It’s down to harmonising several crucial things.

It’s how you make it

This build comes in at just 7.8kg, which is incredibly light for a gravel bike. The secret? A 1,000g (claimed) frame helps, but the stars here are the wheels and groupset – the Enve G27s laced to Rotor Rvolver hubs weighing a claimed 1,209g and the Rotor 1×13 at a claimed 1,735g.

Both are staggeringly light – the wheels less than some pro-level tubulars and the groupset around 800g lighter than a Shimano GRX810.

This low weight affords the Scout its road-going character, but crucially gives it a sense of zip over gravel and up punchy inclines.

Plus the rims are 27mm wide internally, which allows the 47mm tyres to spread in a U-shape profile, all the better to offer cushioning while avoiding the squirm associated when a narrower rim creates a light-bulb tyre profile.

Added to all this, Festka has specced this build with a short 100mm stem. This helps quicken up handling, which would otherwise be quite slow due to the longer, slacker geometry.

Yet this is just a clever trick; Festka’s genius lies in the frame construction. It is completely intangible, but it’s there: ride feel and feedback.

The frame is at that very sweet spot between buzz absorbing and feedback chattering. It is a sensation I find more in round-tubed bikes, but also in ones built ‘just so’, where the bike speaks to me, feeding micro-pieces of information, the kind needed to make all those near-unconscious tiny adjustments we all make when riding, be it to flow better with trails or to correct a rear wheel just at the point it begins to wash out.

It all made for a bike I struggled to give back, albeit I might just change one thing: the Rotor groupset. Yes it’s hydraulic and that appeals to the kid in me; yes it’s cool because you rarely see them, but the shifting is underwhelming – I’ve found it easier to shut doors in storms.

Still it wouldn’t stop me breaking into the Festka Czech compound one night to steal this bike. I want it.

Pick of the kit

Granite Design Stash Hidden Steerer Multitool, £49.95, windwave.co.uk

Multitools, who’d ’ave ’em? They’re chunky and heavy and somehow you’ve left it at home when you need it. Or have you? Because what’s that tucked into a tube in your steerer? Yes it’s the Granite Stash!

A nimble little tool that clicks into a special steerer-mounted sleeve, weighs just 57g (total weight including sleeve is 135g) and has eight bits plus spoke key and valve core remover.

I love it, especially as it’s anodised orange, although if black is more your thing, Granite makes a boring one too.

Festka Scout alternatives…

Festka Rover

The Rover (full build from £6,190) is Festka’s all-road gravel bike. It borrows its main triangle from the Festka Scalatore and Spectre road bikes and adds robust stays and tyre clearance up to 40mm.

Festka One

This One. The One. It’s still not cheap at £5,590, yet Festka calls it an ‘entry point’ into high-end carbon road bikes. Like all Festkas, geometry is stock or custom, angles are racy and the frame is stiff.

Festka Scout spec

Frame Festka Scout
Groupset   Rotor 1×13
Brakes Rotor 1×13
Crankset Rotor 1×13
Cassette Rotor 1×13
Bars Beast Gravel Bar
Stem Deda Super Zero
Seatpost Deda Superleggera
Saddle Selle Italia SLR Boost Superflow
Wheels Enve G27 rims on Rotor Rvolver hubs, Vittoria Terreno Zero 47mm x 650b tyres
Weight 7.8kg
Contact festka.com

All reviews are fully independent and no payments have been made by companies featured in reviews

Price: 
£4,450 (frameset); £8,990 as tested