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Festka Spectre review

28 Aug 2020
Verdict:

All the gear and no idea or a bonafide super bike?

Cyclist Rating: 
Price: 
From £4,090 (frameset), plus £1,490 for Splash limited-edition design; £10,290 as tested
For 
That paint! • Incredibly responsive feel • Extremely rigid for unrelenting power transfer
Against 
Stiffness means a harsh ride feel • Weighty for the money (could be easily reduced with a different wheel choice)

‘It was 1990s skiing apparel. You know, those one-piece suits in bright contrasting colours that you still occasionally see on people who only ski once a year and don’t care about the latest trends,’ says Festka’s art director, Tom Hinda, about his inspiration for this Spectre’s lairy paint.

‘Splash’ is a new addition to what Festka calls its Edition Design line, a collection of extremely stand-out styles. The name doesn’t just refer to the loud and bold colours, it’s also a nod to the way the paint is applied, literally being splashed on by hand. And as with all the company’s paint schemes, every detail is 100% hand-painted.

‘No decals, no shortcuts,’ says Hinda. 

Hands off

Unlike other low-volume, fully custom brands, human hands are not the preferred method when it comes to Festka’s frame construction. The company automates as many processes as possible, using its partners in the European Space Agency, removing human errors and any opportunities to exploit cheap labour.

Festka also eschews any aero tube shapes, opting for round tubes only, which means its frames have a traditional yet timeless appeal.

The Spectre joined Festka’s range in 2017, described by the brand as an all-out race frame. The product description makes no secret of the fact this bike is about performance over all else.

‘Expect the feeling of being in the saddle of a thoroughbred racehorse or the seat of a supercar,’ the marketing blurb promises. ‘Instant transfer of power. No concern for comfort. You push and things happen immediately.’

Well, the only horse I’ve ever ridden was on a pony trek during a school trip to Dartmoor, but I didn’t need to spend long in the saddle of the Spectre to get the idea.

Riding this bike is like being hooked up to a mild electrical current the whole time. There’s a constant buzz, and it felt like the sensory neurons in my hands and feet were continuously firing. And I don’t mean that in a negative way.

 

Alive and kicking

This bike made me feel alive, and it provided an unmistakable sense of connection with the road surface, particularly as my test model came with super-rigid Corima 4 Spoke DX wheels with 25mm tubulars.

I couldn’t help but be taken back to the heyday of Mario Cipollini and his Saeco squad of the late 1990s. The Spectre’s oversized round tubes are reminiscent of the classic aluminium Cannondale CAAD3 that Cipollini raced, especially with the Corima wheels being visually so similar to those iconic Spinergy Rev-X wheels the team used.

As a teenager I idolised the riders on that team, which is perhaps why I was prepared to forgive the Spectre for making me aware of every ripple in the tarmac, with bigger hits even bouncing me clean off the saddle.

Every ride was a bruising affair, but never once did I think, ‘This bike could do with more comfort.’ If you ride a bike like this, you’re not going to be ambling to the local shops. You want performance, and the Spectre doesn’t disappoint.

Hitting one of my local 25% hills, the frame didn’t seem to flex by so much as a millimetre as I stomped on the pedals and hauled on the bars.

At least I knew that not a single ounce of effort was being squandered, even if this Spectre’s overall weight of 7.7kg meant that it didn’t skip up hills with the flighty feel of a climber’s bike.

The wheels are a significant contributor to the weight. At 1,775g (and a few pennies shy of £2k), there are sub-£400 alloy wheelsets that weigh less, and despite appearances they are probably behind the curve on aero performance compared to the latest crop of super-wide rim profiles. But who cares? They look, and sound, awesome. The swoosh-whoosh-swoosh as I sprinted up to full speed just kept egging me on.

 

Riding this bike is like being in a tempestuous relationship with someone who is outrageous fun but a little unhinged and not liked by your parents. It’s edgy and unapologetic, but I couldn’t help but be smitten.

One thing’s for certain, your legs need to be able to deliver a performance to match this bike’s persona – no one wants to be dropped out the back of the group riding the most conspicuous bike on the road. But coronavirus meant I never needed to worry; I was always riding the Spectre alone, which gave me more time to focus on pretending to be Cipollini.

Pick of the kit

M20 Stripe Crew Plus socks, £11.99, extrauk.co.uk

I’ve always known that one day the perfect moment would come to wear these socks, and this was definitely it. It’s almost as if Festka and M20 Industries collaborated on the design.

But colours aside, M20’s Crew Plus is a superb set of technical cycling socks, with moisture-wicking fabrics and antibacterial yarns combined with a supportive but non-compressive fit and feel. Sock doping is real.

Alternatively…

Go wild with a Rover

 

If you feel the inclination to explore beyond the tarmac, Festka’s Rover is a gravel bike defined by the same stiff and racy attributes at its core as Festka’s road models.

Mix carbon and ti

 

The Festka Doppler mixes carbon at the main joints for stiffness, with a titanium top tube, down tube and seatstays to provide a little more forgiveness. And it looks amazing.

Spec

Frame Festka Spectre
Groupset Shimano Dura-Ace Di2 Disc
Brakes Shimano Dura-Ace Di2 Disc
Chainset CeramicSpeed Oversize pulley wheel system
Cassette Shimano Dura-Ace Di2 Disc
Bars Enve SES V2 
Stem Enve SES Aero
Seatpost Enve SES Aero
Saddle Selle Italia SP01 Boost Tekno SuperFlow
Wheels Corima 4 spoke DX, Vittoria Corsa 25mm tubular tyres
Weight 7.70kg
Contact festka.com

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

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