The Inspiring Story Behind Festka Bicycles: A Candid Interview With Michael Moureček and Ondřej Novotný

The Inspiring Story Behind Festka Bicycles: A Candid Interview With Michael Moureček and Ondřej Novotný
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Festka produces hand made and hand painted bicycles.  The product of a collaboration between co-founders, Michael Moureček and Ondřej Novotný, Festka has developed into a precision company where no detail is too small.  Focused on the rider and the rider’s expectations, Festka is able to capture the imagination and the spirit as well as the athletic aspirations of the rider.  The bicycles produced by Festka are deeply personal creations. Michael and Ondřej tell us about their incredible journey in creating Festka Bicycles and where they are headed next.

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Can you tell us a little about your background?

Five years ago, former pro racer Michael, and Ondřej, who used to be a manager working in publishing, decided to build themselves some bikes. Well, not just some bikes, but very personal and custom made bikes that would be the kind of bikes they couldn’t find anywhere in the world. They believed that like-minded people would get them and so they started Festka, a company that would build the right bikes. The Czech Republic has a long frame building tradition and they greatly honor that and are proud to follow in its footsteps.

What led you to create Festka, your company?

The reason is pretty simple. We spent a lot of time searching for the perfect bike and there was always something missing. Our expectations were high and we decided to build them into a frame. We thought and still think that there are other people whose expectations are not met by mass production and that these people would appreciate what we do and so we started a company for producing frames which was based in a garage and could rightfully be called a garage company. Within 5 years of its existence, Festka produces 200 frames a year and sells them around the world. The number of frames will double in 2016.

 

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You manufacture tailor made bicycles.  Why did you decide to take this route rather than for the masses?

As I mentioned earlier, the bikes that we wanted for ourselves were meant to be custom made so that is an obvious reason. Another important point is that we believe that you must love your bike to be a cyclist. Last, but not least, we believe that each rider is different and needs a different bike, so custom is really the only way for us.

Can you tell us about the various types of materials you use?

There are three materials that we use and they are all equal when it comes to the quality of the final bike yet they differ in their character and the options they open up when it comes to production and development.

Carbon lets us start with a single piece of fiber and we make the tubes ourselves. Recently we introduced high modulus carbon fiber. For steel we use Columbus tubes that are top quality. When working with titanium we buy raw tubes and shape them.

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How do you decide what materials are better for a particular rider?  Or how do you help the rider choose?

There are people who come with a specific idea in mind and we respect their wish. If the rider doesn’t know we discuss it with them until the point where they are able to make a decision. We don’t have a favorite material that we would recommend above the others. There are certain features that are typical for each material but there are no rules. Generally we could say that steel is for traditionalist, carbon for those who are weight and performance oriented and titanium is for those who like it fine and precious.

Previously we covered the beautiful bicycles you created in collaboration with several artists.  Can you tell us about that collaboration?

 We introduced our 4th Art Collection piece this summer and will continue with the edition. It happens quite organically really. The people who have so far designed our frames are talented artists, our friends and one was a cyclist who wanted to cooperate with us and enjoyed the process. We let them create and trust them. Our only concern is that everyone who cooperates with us is passionate about their part of the work and that the design respects cycling and their style. A lot of artists want to paint our frames and we are open to it, yet we always wait for the right time and the right frame to add a piece to the Art Collection.

Do you believe your bicycles are works of art?

We are glad when our clients consider our bikes to be “a piece of art”. We prefer to construct and build perfect machines with as few flaws as possible. There are manufacturers who give their bikes so much attention and artistic detail without bringing any advantage to the riding quality. Our priority is to make great cycling products rather than pieces of art.

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Festka focuses on creating “the bike of your dreams”. How do you work with people to accomplish this goal.  

We speak to the people and get to know them. We spend hours on Skype and take them out for rides. Some people are clear about what they want, some need a bit of time and advice before they decide. We make sure that the client feels comfortable speaking to us and we often stay in touch once the bike is done and delivered. We guide our clients through the whole process and send them pictures of different stages of the construction. Once they get in touch with us, we are here for them until the point when their bike is ready to ride. There are people who fly to Prague to pick up their bike and go for a ride with us. The “dream” part goes both ways. It is our dream to build bikes that people love.

Festka offers 16,000 color options, which is an incredible number of options.  Are you surprised when you see your bicycles in so many iterations? 

It is more a question of creative freedom. We are happy to have so many options but we can never show the client all of the 16.000 colors or they would never choose. Let’s see if we ever see all the colors on Festka bikes.

What is the best thing about a Festka bike for riders?

Different things for different people. But I’d say the fact that people feel that the bike fulfills their expectations. Our expectations are huge so there is a lot of joy there.

You refer to your company as a Czech technology company? Can you tell us about your decision to describe the company this way? 

Mainly because there are more people in the development teams than those who work in the actual production. We cooperate with many high ranking engineers and invest a lot of money and time into development. We don’t copy. All the inventions are our own. Recently the Czech track racers started to use our bikes. Their needs are very specific and demanding and they found what they were looking for at our company. (note: Track cycling is easier on sponsors than road racing).

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What are the benefits of Festka being headquartered out of the Czech Republic? 

It is not just the headquarters but the whole production. The Czech Republic has always been a strong manufacturer and nowadays it is a well advanced producer of carbon parts. Get this, the same machines that produce our tubes make the tubes for Tesla motors. Last but not least, it is our home country and we are Czech guys who love the Czech land.

Can you tell us the philosophy behind Festka?

Everyone leaves our shop with a bike that they needed and wanted.  It is never the same as it is defined by the type, design and price too.  Some people like to point our their social status, others are not satisfied by the regular market offer.

Personally what has the growth of Festka meant to each of you?

We agree on this one. We are on the right path and the end is still far away.

Can you tell us about the beginning of the company and its growth?

 It all started in a garage, literally. We tried to form a team similar to formla one racing where everyone on the team sees and works for the same goal. At first we hired people from the cycling industry and two years later we let all these people go because we were limited by their limits. We decided to only search for people who represent the top of their industry. These are of course people who have regular day jobs. Professors or heads of development in big and renowned companies who spend their nights working on Festka as a side kick that they enjoy. And so it goes. We are expanding by 100% each year.

Where do you think Festka is headed next?  Any new projects on the horizon?

We are working on our products. We improve through a series of continual small changes. Since we don’t mass produce in China, we are able to incorporate a new idea into the next batch directly and don’t have to wait for years to make a change. We are getting new steel tube shapes provided specifically for us by Columbus. The stream of thoughts seems to never end and that is a great vision. We are currently developing a new time trial bike.

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How do you feel when you see your bikes on the road?

Excited.

What kind of feedback do you get when a rider on the street finds out you created Festka?

Without meaning to sound stuck up, we really get great and positive feedback which we are grateful for. The latest reaction that really got us was a few weeks ago in Vienna at a Rapha race when we were told that Festka is the new Specialized J  Generally people are curious and interested and it surprises me how much people know about us.

What kind of riding do you do yourself?  Any favorite rides?

Michael: Serious riding. Once I am out, I can’t stop. I also test our frames, so I have to be serious, real and accept no compromise.

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Where do you like to ride?

The southern part of Bohemia called Šumava. Beautiful nature, amazing roads and stunning views.

What inspires you to continue with your designs?  

Life. Life stories and the world around us.

How do you start each day?

Ondřej: (laughing) Cheers to honesty – I go to the bathroom. I have breakfast with the kids.

Michael: Ideally I go for a ride.

At the showroom, which is the office as well as the workshop, we all meet at the bar/kitchen, have a cup of great coffee and on Wednesdays we start with yoga (no kidding).

Are there any artists, designers, athletes or others that inspire you?

We are inspired by architecture and art in general. Currently we are inspired by the works of Zdeněk Sykora. Check him out.

Can you tell us about new technologies and Festka bikes?

Let’s go back to carbon and elaborate a little. We said we start with a single carbon fiber and we really do. Our partner in rbon processes and development is a Czech yet world renowned and respected company called CompoTech that has a patented zero degree angle laying process which allows us to produce tubes that are 40% stiffer and 15% stronger than those that are made with just a 5 degrees difference. (The secret of carbon tube structure lies in a unique zero degree axial fiber laying process developed through ongoing research, analysis and practical application. The difference that a few degrees can make is pretty significant. We are talking about 15% in stiffness and up to 40% in strength.) We are able to influence a lot of the bike’s character and riding qualities by our meticulous testing and constant development.

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How do riders react when they see their bikes for the first time?

Speechless for most, and happy.

A little about your hometown:

Can you tell us about your favorite hometown neighborhood and why?

Michael: Part of Prague labeled as the 7th borough. It is green and full of cool places, river runs through it and it is easy to walk and ride there.

Ondrej: Liberec which is a town in the north of the country. As a child I would travel through there a lot to get to our summer house. I love to look around and watch the architecture of the early 20th century and I generally enjoy the beauty of that era. Apart from that, it is an ideal cycling area in the mountains.

What was the last great meal you had in your hometown?

Bumbo Nambo at a tiny Vietnamese food stall at the market in Prague 7 Holešovice.

Where do you go to have fun in hometown?

Ondrej: Since I spend most of the time at Festka, I enjoy the outdoors and spending time with my kids. It gets different with age and of course there are cool places to go to in Prague like the river front called Náplavka.

Michael: Rudolfinum music hall as i am a big fan of classical music and Jazz Dock boat when I feel like jazz.

What is it about your hometown that inspires you to create?

Michael: The atmosphere and people of a relatively small town that is rich in history. One of our bikes is called Doppler. The inspiration came from the Doppler effect that was proposed in Prague in 1842.

Ondřej: Inspiration comes from cycling. Seeing someone ride a frame that is too small or use a saddle that is not right or any other “small” but important aspect, not to mention Chinese bikes that are badly built. Getting people to move inspires me.

Hometown’s best kept secret?

Michael: Blanka tunel. (chuckling)

Ondřej: This tiny street where two people won’t fit next to each other so there is a traffic light. It is at Kampa by the river.

 

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More information about Festka:

www.festka.com

Instagram @festka

Twitter @festkabicycles

We decided to give up exhibitions and trade shows in 2016 and devote our time and travel to a tour of our Societies. See the web for particular towns in the world. Societies are the Festka of the world. Our clients and ambassadors are encouraged to organize rides and live the cycling life that inspires others to join in. We are pleased to see our bikes in so many foreign countries and love the pictures that are posted to social networks. We want to show our support and interest by touring the Societies next year. Go for rides and speak with the people who are our fans.

 

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