In 2018, we faced an important decision. Two dealers from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, showed interest in working with us at the same time. One of them was an established representative of five major manufacturers and a handful of boutique brands, while the other had been running a very successful spinning studio until then, selling cycling apparel and accessories on the side. While the established dealer was rather lax in his approach, the spinning studio had an ambitious vision and drive and was ready to invest in a fleet of display bikes, so we decided to go with them ...
Five years later, Kuala Lumpur-based Cyclist Wardrobe is by far the best seller of our bikes in Asia and Malaysia is our number one market. It has become our flagship store in the region and its boss Max Ng and his team have made FESTKA an absolute leader in the handmade carbon bike category here. The choice of where to introduce the radically upgraded Spectre to the world was an easy one. Michael Moureček and Ondřej Novotný, together with Tom Hnida and our new sales director Filippo Mari, travelled to Kuala Lumpur at the end of November for an extended visit, during which the first FESTKA DAYS MALAYSIA took place at Cyclist Wardrobe on December 3-6. They brought with them a bunch of new Spectres, including Jakub Kois’ Bodies and a bike created especially for the occasion with graphics inspired by Malaysian colours and national symbols.
Cyclist Wardrobe organised the event perfectly. The guys went on several rides with the local Festka owners. It was great to see how proud they are of their bikes and how they take care of other aspects of cycling culture such as clothing, accessories or riding etiquette within a group of riders of varied abilities. Michael spoke to a packed house one day about the spirit and mission of Festka, and Tom spoke about the sources of inspiration for his graphic designs and the intricacies of the painting techniques we use. Most of the time, however, was taken up with discussions with clients interested in buying our bikes and bike fitting sessions with those who had already decided to order a Festka before or just now on the spot. And there were so many that it exceeded all our expectations. We took a number of new orders for Spectres as a confirmation that the bold radical redesign of this model was a step in the right direction.
The trip to Kuala Lumpur had another - totally unexpected - highlight: an invite to the Czech Embassy to meet our country’s ambassador.
Besides the presentation of the new model, there was another important reason to go to Malaysia. During the visit, our boys finalised the talks to make Cyclist Wardrobe FESTKA’s Asian hub. In this role, Max and his team will be helping us to develop our position in Singapore, Thailand, Indonesia, Taiwan and the Philippines.
Naturally, we were keen to hear our colleagues' insights and experiences on their return from Malaysia, so here are Michael and Ondřej’s observations.
What is cycling in Malaysia like?
It is completely different to what we are used to in Europe. Road cycling doesn't have a long tradition there and people don’t see it as a performance sport. For the locals, cycling is more than just a sport. It is a lifestyle. You rarely see anyone ride a bike alone. People love to ride in groups and every ride features a cafe break or a meal at the end. Sometimes both, because Malaysians really love food more than anything. Cycling saw a huge surge in popularity during the pandemic. People started riding at home on Zwift, connecting online, and when the quarantines ended, they started riding together outdoors. Unlike Thailand, Malaysia has the advantage of a good road network with traffic density similar to ours.How would you describe a typical Malaysian Festka owner and what is it like to go on a ride there?
They are mostly executives in the service of local and foreign companies, but there are exceptions. For example, several members of illustrious local families who were there at the birth of Malaysian independence ride our bikes. What struck us is how common it is for couples to cycle together here and that if the husband rides a Festka, so does the wife. And it's rarely their only bike. One couple gradually revealed that they had twelve bikes between them at home, more than is common even there, but three or four bikes per person was no exception. The rides are taken at ease and the faster riders wait for the slower ones without a shadow of resentment. The main purpose of riding a bike is to have fun, which has many aspects – to do some exercise, be around people, feel good about what clothes I'm wearing and what bike I’m riding, and then sit down and eat with the group.
What led us to extend our cooperation with our Malaysian partner and what do we expect from it?
In Max, the head of Cyclist Wardrobe, we have found a reliable partner. And for a small company with only hundreds of costly final products, this is perhaps the most important thing. Then come other qualities such as vision, enthusiasm, drive, business acumen and so on. In the five years we've been working together, Max has built a team of quality sales and customer care professionals in addition to the community of Festka fans. He's got good mechanics and bike fitters and even a great painter who can fix scuffs or repaint frames according to our instructions without them needing to be shipped halfway around the world. Max's other big advantage is that, as a descendant of the Malaysian Chinese community, he can communicate in Taiwan and China and, thanks to his excellent English, everywhere else.
What would you say makes FESTKA such an attractive brand for the Southeast Asian market?
It’s our ability and willingness to meet the expectations for custom solutions, originality, and imagination. Here, people see cycling as a lifestyle. They express their individuality and social standing through their bikes. FESTKA as a brand reflects the vibrant and diverse cycling culture in Southeast Asia. Exceptional performance and reliability are taken for granted at this elite level.