A proper bike company must start in a garage. Period. Well, actually Festka started in Ondrej’s living room but the mess we were making soon resulted in us being chased out to a garage.

A garage in South Town, an enormous concrete block housing estate on the outskirts of Prague, became our home for the first three years. It was this windowless space where we - meaning Ondřej Novotný, Tomáš Hnida and myself - largely through trial and error - gained most of the basic knowledge needed to build bike frames.

Prague’s South Town is a legendary place where many subcultures saw the light of day and grew. It didn’t take long for a group of (not only but mainly) fixed gear bike enthusiasts to form and congregate around our garage, forming the first Festka community. Although making road bikes was our masterplan from the very beginning, the first few years everything revolved around fixies. But it was more than just a testing ground. We did get properly hooked for a while and it was a great ride.

The garage became a total fixie lair: a spare part shop, office, workshop - all in one. But it was there where we gradually started drawing plans for road bikes.

Dust began to settle on our fixie past. The garage doubled as a bike-fitting studio and a drafting room. We used a bunch of independent welders to weld the first frames for us but other than that we did everything ourselves. One minute the garage was a workshop with the floor strewn with metal shavings, the next it had to be transformed into a paint booth which meant putting everything away and covering it with plastic sheets. We put on overalls and masks and started to learn another craft. After the painting, there were two more garage transformations to do: a photo studio to take good pictures and a showroom we could bring the client to.

As time went on, we adapted the furniture in such a way that each transformation became a matter of minutes. The last remaining problem was the noise of the compressor we used to power our spray gun. But eventually we found a solution for that, too, by shutting it inside a car parked next to the garage.

As our confidence and ambitions grew, we came up with the idea for Project 200 - our first run of carbon frames, financed through a daring pre-sell scheme. And that was the moment we knew we had to move on. Out of the garage and into the world of carbon fiber bikes.

The nearby lake was not only a nice place to go eat your lunch and relax. Thanks to the light reflected off the water surface it served us as a natural photo studio in the early days before we set up a "proper" studio inside the garage.

What’s with the garage now?, I hear you ask. It’s still there under the same ownership and back to its original purpose which is - rather than protecting a car from the elements and dodgy individuals - storing stuff Ondřej and his family don’t want in the house but are too soft to throw away. And even today, those who remember it as Festka’s principal place of business will be able to pick out traces of its past employment easily. 

This period TV program is in Czech only and there are no subtitles but since it was the first time Festka appeared on the screen, it may be of interest to even those who can't understand the language. You'll get a pretty good idea of what it's about.


written by: Michael Moureček
photo: Festka's archive

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