SLAVIA versus FESTKA SCALATORE: 120 Years of Cycling Evolution

SLAVIA versus FESTKA SCALATORE: 120 Years of Cycling Evolution

Despite the 120-year gulf between them, they will be meeting at this year's Tour de France. Take a look at how bicycles have evolved over the course of more than a hundred years.

15. 7. 2019 Lifestyle Sports

Vladimír Vidim, a cycling enthusiast from Prague, built a real replica of the SLAVIA bicycle originally made by the Czech automotive pioneers Laurin and Klement, who founded ŠKODA AUTO’s predecessor in 1895. We compared the SLAVIA to the brand new FESTKA SCALATORE, the latest model made by an ambitious high-end bicycle manufacturer based in Prague. In just a few days, FESTKA’s co-owner Michael Moureček and the SLAVIA replica-builder Vladimír Vidim are going to participate in L’Étape du Tour. This is a 135-kilometre Alpine section of the Tour de France that is open to the public. How big of a gap do you think there will be between a racing bike designed at the end of the 19th century and the latest tarmac killer?

ŠKODA Storyboard will be following the replica of the historical SLAVIA bike as it tackles the L'Étape du Tour and will release a report and video on the race.

First Sight
Despite both being designed for speed, there’s more than a hundred years separating the birth of these bikes. Although it might belong in a bicycle museum, the SLAVIA still glows with vitality and self-confidence. At first glance, we were attracted to the anthracite black finish of the frame, the unique geometry, exceptional seat post, and the retro whitewall tires. In contrast, the SCALATORE (Climber) is the epitome of the 2019 road bike world. Its appearance evokes the high aspirations of the ultimate road racer.


The frame defines the bike and is a key factor in transferring the rider’s power to the wheels. The SLAVIA’s frame was made of traditional steel tubes commonly known for their heavy weight and flexibility. The characteristics of the material used for building the frame, together with the old-world components, don’t rob the great design of anything, but definitely account for its weaker performance. In contrast, ultra-light and super-stiff carbon fibre tubes make the FESTKA SCALATORE a two-wheel racer. While lightness and stiffness deliver high performance, the material absorbs road vibrations for a comfortable ride. The entire frame weighs just 700 grams.

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Seat post
On the SLAVIA, the seat post is made of a steel tube welded to the inverted L-profile. The FESTKA uses carbon fibre and, although the result looks different, the principle is surprisingly similar. There hasn’t been much change to how the saddle is attached for decades.

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The SCALATORE is equipped with carbon fibre drop handlebars that absorb vibrations and whose shape allows for a variety of grips. Depending on whether you’re climbing up a hill or tackling a steep descent, you have perfect control. The SLAVIA has handlebars about the weight of the handrail, which allows only one stiff grip that soon becomes exhausting. The handlebars also only have one grip possibility that leaves the rider in sprinting position. The bike was originally designed to race on velodrome tracks, which explains the absence of brakes.

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While the SLAVIA has simple platform pedals suitable for riding in ordinary shoes, the FESTKA is equipped with modern clipless pedals that refine both the rider’s comfort and pedalling efficiency.

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The FESTKA is driven with an extremely thin, stiff and light chain, and that is exactly what the SLAVIA’s motorcycle-like chain is not.

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The SLAVIA has a tall frame with a bottom bracket relatively high above the ground, giving the bike an elevated centre of gravity. As soon as you have a chance ride it, you appreciate its easy handling. However, the sitting position is anything but comfortable. This is primarily due to a short top frame tube and extremely low handlebars. These qualities predestine the SLAVIA for short and intense velodrome rides, rather than long-distance races. In contrast, the FESTKA’s geometry corresponds to current trends in bicycle engineering. It is high-performance while offering a comfortable ride and perfectly dialled handling.


Gears and brakes
There’s just one fixed gear on the SLAVIA, with a ratio chosen to be suitable for both climbing and flat riding. Following the original blueprints, the SLAVIA replica does not have brakes. Instead, it relies completely on reducing speed through skidding, as NYC bike messengers did with their fixed-gear bikes in the 2000s. As a result, climbing and descents on the SLAVIA will be very exhausting and dangerous. The SCALATORE, on the other hand, has 22 gears thanks to a combination of two chainrings and 11-sprocket wheels. The Campagnolo Super Record groupset works as precisely as a Swiss watch and weighs next to nothing. The derailleurs are made of carbon and all the metal parts are titanium.


The classical steel material used on the L&K SLAVIA, compared to the carbon cranks of the Campagnolo Super Record groupset on the FESTKA SCALATORE, betray the progress made in the cycling industry. That being said, one positive feature that can’t be denied to the late 19th-century components on the SLAVIA is their durability. They were literally made to last a hundred years.


An interesting element of the original SLAVIA construction is the so-called grease nipple, through which grease is pushed to the axis without the need to disassemble the cones. The bodies of the Campagnolo hubs, on the other hand, are made of carbon and have ceramic bearings inside.


Designers have worked to create wheels as light and as tough as possible. In the past, higher stiffness was achieved by using more spokes, but at the cost of increased weight. Modern carbon spokes stay ultra-light, even in larger diameters, providing them with perfect rigidity. The FESTKA’s wheels can have fewer spokes than those on the SLAVIA, which means less weight while giving the wheels the required level of stiffness.


The SLAVIA’s head tube is decorated with an original copper badge featuring the manufacturer’s logo. The FESTKA bears a 24-karat logo inlaid in its lacquer.


The SLAVIA’s wheels are fitted with elegant whitewall tyres that look like they have come straight out of The Great Gatsby. Due to their width, they generate great rolling resistance and consume the rider’s power. The narrow tubular tyres used on the FESTKA reduce rolling resistance and increase the rider’s safety.


Rear wheel
The SLAVIA’s rear wheel is fixed with screws. In the event of a puncture, removing the rear wheel and replacing the inner tube cannot be done without proper tools. The FESTKA has a quick-release mechanism, allowing the wheel to be changed in a matter of seconds.


While a comfortable seating position on the FESTKA can be achieved by choosing handlebars of an appropriate length and width, the handlebars of the SLAVIA are fixed. The stem is missing, so the rider must adjust his position to the bike, not the other way around.


Modern clothing fits tightly to the body, like a second skin. While riding, the Lycra absorbs sweat and dries quickly. In contrast, a classic cotton jersey dries slowly and gets heavier with sweat. Especially in the rain, cotton jerseys become unbearable and make the ride torturous.


In just a few days, FESTKA’s co-owner Michael Moureček (left) and the SLAVIA replica-builder Vladimír Vidim (right) are going to participate in L’Étape du Tour. This is a 135-kilometre Alpine section of the Tour de France that is open to the public.


When comparing the old with the new, we shouldn’t forget to acknowledge the differences between the original ŠKODA 640 SUPERB, from 1936, and the current eponymous model. The 640 SUPERB was powered by a 2.5-litre, six-cylinder engine. The car was equipped with independent front and rear-wheel suspension instead of rigid axles (common at the time), which offered great interior comfort. The top version even featured an eight-cylinder petrol engine. This year’s upgraded SUPERB is powered by a plug-in hybrid engine. It is a combination of the four-cylinder 1.4 TSI petrol engine and an electric motor, giving it an added output of 160 kW. The new 2.0 TDI Evo (110 kW) four-cylinder diesel engine is also available. While only a few thousand of the original SUPERBs were produced before the outbreak and after the end of the Second World War, the production of the three latest SUPERB models has already exceeded 1.25 million units.


ŠKODA 640 SUPERB and ŠKODA SUPERB iV with plug-in hybrid drive

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