After a quite successful year of growth, we sat down with Festka founders Ondrěj Novotný and Michael Moureček, and new team partner Svatopluk Zatloukal over coffee to catch up with all that has happened in the last year, to talk about their progression at NAHBS, and to see where they are going in the next year. What started out as a quick road to NAHBS feature grew into a pretty deep extended interview, especially about their new projects.
Festka’s made-in-the-Czech-Republic bicycle lines are growing and the company is rapidly expanding into components and clothing. Last year they seemed focused on some extreme eye-catching (or even retina-burning) builds, but let’s take a look at what new things we’ll see from them at this year’s show. Like a new ti ‘cross bike…
BIKERUMOR: What are your main building materials?
FESTKA: Well, our company first started with steel, then expanded into stainless steel, then found some people who could help us do some interesting things with carbon fiber, and now we have a new partner in the company who we like to call the Master of Titan, so we are excited to be expanding into titanium as well. So now we offer all of those: steel, carbon, and ti.
BIKERUMOR: What’s new with your company since NAHBS last year?
FESTKA: The first time we came to NAHBS a few years ago, we just came to look and get ideas, the next year we brought a bike, then last year we brought a couple of bikes, and this year we got the biggest space we could. We are bringing a full set of show bikes, new clothes from our High Voltage line, and carbon wheels from our in-house Rocket Wheels division. A lot of things are very new for us with big expansion for Festka in the last year.
BIKERUMOR: Any killer custom bike builds in that time?
FESTKA: Well yeah, that’s been pretty much all we’ve been doing in the last year. We’ve been developing the bikes we had that came out of our crowdfunded custom carbon Zero, and building a bunch of unique bikes. Probably some of our most fun bikes have been an ‘animal’ series of more simple steel 29ers we have recently built around a Rohloff wheel/Gates combo, and did a custom theme finish for each customer. Maybe a favorite would be a rigid bike we call the Lizard that has red and black lizard skin paint with Tune and 3T components.
BIKERUMOR: Say a customer gives you free reign, where do you draw your inspiration for the best projects?
FESTKA: I don’t know, an idea comes to one of our heads, and we talk about it in our group. I go walking in the city and riding my bike and watching things. After I return I can visualize an idea that will become something good. For example our Pablo designs; I’m a big fan of cubism – Picasso’s style – and I was in a gallery and looking at some painting and I was thinking that this is a good direction for a Czech company like ours. People know Picasso, and might know this style’s roots in France, but second would be the Czech Republic where we have great cubist art and architecture. I think this is a good presentation of our brand and our country on our frames. This way we can do something really unique and special.
We are doing some more work this year with young Czech illustrators Tomski & Polanski who are really well-known here and do great work. We are growing this cooperation into an Art series of bikes that we will keep expanding every year. We will also work with our clothing line to produce each season a unique matching limited edition Art jersey and shorts complementing the bike designs.
BIKERUMOR: What are you building this year that’ll draw a crowd?
FESTKA: I hope it’ll be our titanium cyclocross bike. It’s not our most flashy bike, like our chrome finish, but we spent almost a year for preparation of this frame. We put in a lot of energy; we created a big new team; we’ve done some complex mathematical design and testing. We’re very invested in it emotionally. I hope people will be able to see that in it, but what draws a crowd in the end will be a surprise to us.
And of course we have the flashy Zero Chrome. A lot of people look at it (and Festka) just for the paint, which is also good since it draws people in who don’t really know us. It is a really unique finish and takes an unbelievable amount of time and effort, so we are really happy to have customers for that too.
BIKERUMOR: Scenario: NAHBS introduces a new category called Mashups, pairing two completely different builders to make one bike. Who’s the yin to your yang, and what kind of bike do you think you’d build?
FESTKA: Haha, I don’t know, we try to develop our bikes independently. For me, I love cooperation with other people outside of the cycling business, like with artists and graphic designers.
But mashups are how we ended up with the ti bikes. We wanted to do it, so we went to the guy who made the best titanium bikes in Europe, and we not only cooperated with him, but we made him a partner in our company. Our master mechanic Dlouhan worked with him and his company over ten years ago with several pro teams, and Morati had developed several bikes ahead of their time, winning several world cyclocross and mountain bike championships, before the company was bought out and the cycling production shut down. But there hasn’t been any innovation in ti bikes in Europe in the last 10 years here, so we wanted to show we could still build something unique and exceptional with titanium. That’s our way of beginning new ideas. We build the team, and bring the knowledge and expertise in-house. We want to grow step-by-step like this.
But for example, I really like English bikes. They are perfect, lots of imagination. The bikes become a great looking and clever machine, but it’s not the practical, raceable bike, let’s say. But maybe with him it would be a good cooperation, because he could bring this imagination and finishing side, and we could bring our modern materials and solutions. I spend a lot of time thinking about the track and TT bikes, as an ex-pro track rider. With these kind of bikes to race against the clock, there really aren’t any good modern alternatives to the big companies’ bikes; at least not what I want to race.