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Expo "The Legendary Favorit" - NTM Praha, Czech Republic

Text: author of the exposition Dr Jan Králik

The bicycle is a perfectly designed piece of sports equipment, means of transport and leisure activity. We have Karl Drais to thank for it; his two-wheeled “draisienne” was first unveiled on the 12th of June 1817. The history of the bicycle starts here, and from that point on, its designs have been as diverse as its principle is simple.

At first it was seen as a fun leisure activity, but it soon began to be used as a mode of transport, which then led, almost naturally, to racing. The first recorded velocipede race, on bikes with cranks and pedals on the shaft of the front wooden wheel (with spokes), took place in France on the 8th of December 1867. The winner completed the 17–kilometre course from Paris to Versailles in one hour. The first race to be held in the Czech lands took place in Kutná Hora on the 8th of August 1869. A race was held in Brno one week later.

Subsequent chapters in Czech cycling history were written by famous (and long forgotten) manufacturers, riders, trainers, managers, businessmen, mechanics, functionaries and journalists. The Favorit factory in Rokycany played a particularly exceptional role. Its roots, development, humble beginnings, growth, mishaps and decline is a fascinating story, but about which there are relatively few documents or written reports.  Former factory employees and racing cyclists are the main source of information, and although their memories may be clouded by time, their recollections reveal their love of the Favorit brand. Favorit was one very few companies to receive credit for both its quality and (non)availability during the era of blatant socialist experimentation.

Following the wild privatization after the fall of communism and dissolution of the company, it seemed that Favorit was condemned to slow oblivion. Only collectors breathed life into the old discarded bikes and admired the old metal frames.

But never say never. The brand has been restarted, and the manufacture of Favorit bicycles in Rokycany has come to life again.

The legend is back.

The Legendary Favorit
The Legendary Favorit
The Legendary Favorit
The Legendary Favorit
The Legendary Favorit
The Legendary Favorit

album: The Legendary Favorit

 

 Rokycany – the cradle of bikes

The spiritual father of bicycle manufacture in Rokycany was František Hering (1887–1961). He opened a facility for the repair and manufacture of velocipedes in 1912. In 1923 he merged with the Eska plant in Cheb. Together they started production of the Tripol bicycle in 1923. When the companies parted ways in 1934, Eska built a new factory in Rokycany, where it continued to manufacture the Tripol. František Hering decided to compete with his former partners with his Tudor bikes. Both brands prospered up until the Second World War – 8 thousand Tripol bikes were produced per year (1935), and 5 thousand Tudors (1936). Each factory had approximately 50 employees.

 

Tripol and Tudor
Tripol and Tudor
Tripol and Tudor

album: Tripol and Tudor

Tripol, 30ties

The catalogues offered a range of models, a variety of colours and components. The men’s bikes had a single 57 cm frame  (measured from the central axis to the top of the saddle tube) with a 52 tooth chainset.

On loan from Jiří Čížek

 

1. Tripol, 30ties
1. Tripol, 30ties
1. Tripol, 30ties

album: 1. Tripol, 30ties

Tudor, 30ties

The Tudor was originally the Achilles (1934) and was manufactured in the Northern Bohemian town of Horní Police with the Hering brand label. Only later were the bikes produced in Rokycany assembled from parts bought from Achilles. The frame for the women’s bike was more complicated to make than for the man’s bike.

On loan from the Exhibition of Cycling History in the Žireč Baroque Complex

2. Tudor, 30ties
2. Tudor, 30ties
2. Tudor, 30ties

album: 2. Tudor, 30ties

 

 Racing bikes of the 1930s – pre-Favorit

In the 1930s, racing bikes were built by specialist mechanics or small firms. The best at the time were Antonín Perič and Ludvík and Zdeněk Štantejský in Prague, who made bikes for Sparta (Perič) a Slavie (Štantejský). Rudolf Šťásek in Týniště nad Orlicí was another excellent mechanic..

After the Second World War all industry and small businesses in Czechoslovakia were nationalised and it was decided that racing bikes would be manufactured in Rokycany. This was both a technical and political assignment: the tradition of the Peace Race was born and a Mondia cycle had to be imported from Switzerland for the first year (1948) and Czechoslovak riders had to use Helyett bikes from the privately owned Štantejský workshop for the second year, all of which was considered an unacceptable solution.

Since they’d had no experience with racing bike construction at the former Tripol and Tudor factories, experts were drafted in - Zdeněk Štantejský and two mechanics who had trained under Perič (František Pospíšil and František Hašek), as well as Rudolf Šťásek. They all joined after the new communist regime had abolished their right to self-employment. We can only conclude from this that they must have really loved bicycles and their craft.

Racing bikes of the 1930s
Racing bikes of the 1930s
Racing bikes of the 1930s

album: Racing bikes of the 1930s

Helyett Grand Prix/Štantejský, 1938

The company was founded by the Picard brothers in Sully-sur-Loire in 1919. Heylett bicycles were considered to be one of the best racing models. Ludvík Štantejský (1909–1945) would buy tube fittings and components from them and assemble his bikes on Purkyne street in Prague. When they allowed derailleur gears at the Tour de France in 1937 they chose the Super Champion model. Depending on the components, the price of one of these bikes was up to 2200 Crowns, which was the equivalent of three to four months’ wages.

 On loan from Jan Králík

3. Helyett Grand Prix/Štantejský, 1938
3. Helyett Grand Prix/Štantejský, 1938
3. Helyett Grand Prix/Štantejský, 1938

album: 3. Helyett Grand Prix/Štantejský, 1938

  

Perič, 1947

Antonín Perič (1896–1980) was one of the best Czech cyclists of the 1920s (6x national champion), before becoming a trainer, and then, from 1933, a bike maker in his workshop on Perner Street in Prague’s Karlín district. His bikes were made using Reynolds tubeset frames or from whatever the client managed to supply. His cycles – both road and track – were considered the best in the country. He built the famous bike that Jan Veselý rode to victory on in the inaugural Peace Race in 1948. He also made a bike for his son Milan (1928–1967), who was also a member of the national team and later national team trainer.

On loan from Gabriel Šíp

4. Perič, 1947
4. Perič, 1947
4. Perič, 1947

album: 4. Perič, 1947

 

RST, 30ties

The RST brand stands for Rudolf Šťásek of Týniště nad Orlicí. His father, Karel Šťásek, had started building the Orlice bike in Týniště nad Orlicí in 1902. His sons Jaroslav and Rudolf inherited the factory. The featured components of RST racing bikes were all manufactured by RST, including brakes and derailleur gears. If a part was damaged it could not be replaced with a standard replacement part. Competitors spread the saying “Don’t come into my shop with an RST!”. However, Rudolf Šťásek proved to be more than a capable designer at Favorit. He worked there until 1955.

On loan from Robert Štěrba

5. RST, 30ties
5. RST, 30ties
5. RST, 30ties

album: 5. RST, 30ties

   

Favorit – the beginnings

The two small competing Tripol and Tudor factories were nationalised on the 21st of June, 1948 and forced to officially merge. The resulting factory was affiliated under Česká zbrojovka Strakonice (ČZ) – the Strakonice Czech Armament Works.

Both Tripol and Tudor leisure bicycles continued to be manufactured in Rokycany – 20,000 were produced in 1949. This was also the beginnings of the manufacture of sports bikes, the Ministry of Industry suggested naming these sports bikes “Borec” (also a slang term for a good athlete). The ČZ group already manufactured “Favorit” chains and the managing director, Václav Skala, suggested this was a more fitting name for bicycles. So we must thank him for the brand name. The well-known film and book illustrator František Freiwillig (known for his train engine tales) designed the Favorit logo.

The first racing bike to be made at the Rokycany plant to enter the Peace Race was completed in March 1950. It weighed 9.5 Kg. Eighteen were made in a month.

         In addition to these Reynolds framed specials a further 100 bicycles were made for distribution to stores. However, as noted in Cyclist Magazine’s third edition of 1950 due to complications: “they will be available in May 1950 without gears”. They continued to make the Tripol and Tudor leisure bikes up until 1951. From then on the Rokycany factory exclusively manufactured sports, racing and specialised cycles.

Favorit – the beginnings
Favorit – the beginnings
Favorit – the beginnings

album: Favorit – the beginnings

 

Favorit, 1952

The Ministry of Light Industry dictated that a Central Design Office for the entire branch of the domestic cycle industry was to be set up in Rokycany (1952). Infrastructure was installed there for the manufacture of specialised road bikes for the national team as well as for bikes for cycleball and artistic cycling. The Favorit bike on display is one of the earliest preserved examples in its original state.

On loan from Jiří Svoboda

6. Favorit, 1952
6. Favorit, 1952
6. Favorit, 1952

album: 6. Favorit, 1952

 

Favorit, 1953

One of the first in the Favorit series (although “series” does not refer to the number of bikes produced but rather to the standardised components). They never produced enough sports cycles for “ordinary consumers” that they were readily available to buy. The production of derailleur gears began in Rokycany at the beginning of 1954. Owners of older Favorit models tried to upgrade their bikes, which was probably true in this case.

On loan from Marek Oliva

7. Favorit, 1953
7. Favorit, 1953
7. Favorit, 1953

album: 7. Favorit, 1953

 

Favorit F11

A completely Czech made racing bike that was occasionally available in shops. It had a four-wheeled Czech made “Union” derailleur gears (infamous for if the litz wire broke it would fly into the spokes) and a gear-changing lever. It is worth mentioning that Rudolf Šťásek originally designed the front derailleur with a lever on the lower tube of the frame. But he didn’t push for this design change, reasoning that nobody would use it. Favorit could have been the first manufacturer with this design. Rudolf Šťásek left the company in 1955.

8. Favorit F11, 1956
8. Favorit F11, 1956
8. Favorit F11, 1956

album: 8. Favorit F11, 1956

 

Favorit for everyone – how we remember them

The Favorit brand established a good name for itself over the years. The bike itself was attractive, particularly for young people. The joy brought from a speedy ride, a feeling of freedom, association with the winners of big races and the quality workmanship of the Rokycany bikes all counted to put Favorit up on a pedestal. Think back to similarly cherished domestic brands of the time…… Prim watches, Botas trainers, Zeta typewriters etc?

In addition to racing and specialised bikes, they also built trekking and recreational bikes, and even bikes with women’s frames, in other words “cycles for everyone”. Except, of course, that they were not. Most of the bicycles were exported, particularly to Canada, the USA and West Germany. Foreign exchange earnings were considered a priority. As František Pelikán, the managing director of Favorit, noted "in France, our bike costs 1100 francs, while our Škoda 1000 MB cars cost 6800 francs".

Favorit – how we remember them
Favorit – how we remember them
Favorit – how we remember them
Favorit – how we remember them
Favorit – how we remember them
Favorit – how we remember them

album: Favorit – how we remember them

 

Favorit recreational tandem bike, 1956

The bike on display belonged to the legendary cyclist Ladislav Brůžek, 4-times national champion (between 1927 and 1930), and Olympian from 1928, also later the national cycle coach. Brůžek had it especially commissioned in the mid-1950s for himself and his much smaller wife.

On loan from Stanislav Kalina

9. Favorit recreational tandem bike, 1956
9. Favorit recreational tandem bike, 1956
9. Favorit recreational tandem bike, 1956

album: 9. Favorit recreational tandem bike, 1956

The Favorit F20, 1958

The recreational tour model was added to the factory’s catalogue in 1951. An improved F20 model was introduced in 1957 complete with saddlebags and mountain bike gears. A choice of three types of handlebars were offered and it weighed 13 Kg.

On loan from the History of Cycling Exhibition in the Žireč baroque complex.

 

10. The Favorit F20, 1958
10. The Favorit F20, 1958
10. The Favorit F20, 1958

album: 10. The Favorit F20, 1958

 

The lady’s Favorit, 1964

Favorit first introduced a woman’s frame in 1956, which exceptionally included derailleur gears and drop handlebars as in the F14 model. The years 1953-1958 were good for Favorit because it was given the status of an “independent national enterprise”. But in 1958 Favorit was demoted to an affiliated branch of the Eska factory in Cheb. This is a simple lady’s Favorit with one pinion and "swallow" handlebars. It weighed 16.5 kg, and cost 550 crowns.

On loan from the History of Cycling Exhibition in the Žireč baroque complex

11. The lady’s Favorit, 1964
11. The lady’s Favorit, 1964
11. The lady’s Favorit, 1964

album: 11. The lady’s Favorit, 1964

 

The millionth bike: a Favorit F26, 1978

Favorit produced its millionth bicycle in Rokycany on the 24th of August, 1978. The serial number 78 f 38693 is embossed on the underside of the central frame, indicating the both the year and the production number for the given year. That year 60,502 bicycles were manufactured in the factory, which employed 313 people. 

On loan from Jan Barna from the František Babický collection 

12. The millionth bike: a Favorit F26, 1978
12. The millionth bike: a Favorit F26, 1978
12. The millionth bike: a Favorit F26, 1978

album: 12. The millionth bike: a Favorit F26, 1978

 

Favorit F12, 1965

The best mass produced model had a fine-grained steel frame. Production was started in 1964 as the standard sales model (although it turned out not to be that common). It was fitted exclusively with Czech made components and was suited for junior cyclists who had just started racing for their clubs.

On loan from Jiří Svoboda

13. Favorit F12, 1965
13. Favorit F12, 1965
13. Favorit F12, 1965

album: 13. Favorit F12, 1965

 

The Favorit trekking F11, 1973

This is how we remember them - the common Favorit bike for trips for the more sedate cyclist was also the cheapest road model, stripped of all accessories. You had to turn the handlebars up and give it your all on any conceivable and unthinkable routes.

On loan from Jiří Svoboda

14. The Favorit trekking F11, 1973
14. The Favorit trekking F11, 1973
14. The Favorit trekking F11, 1973

album: 14. The Favorit trekking F11, 1973

 

The Favorit F8 road bike, 1985

On loan from Ondřej Huleš 

15. The Favorit F8 road bike, 1985
15. The Favorit F8 road bike, 1985
15. The Favorit F8 road bike, 1985

album: 15. The Favorit F8 road bike, 1985

 

Favorits for the chosen

Cycling enthusiasts revered the Favorit F1 road bike. It was a well-made bike with great components, also hard to come by and intended for performance cyclists. The next level in the series, the F1 S (Special) models, were practically unavailable to buy. Each one of these bikes was assembled individually in a specialised workshop, where they produced only 60 to 80 per month. The ultimate Favorit from this era was the F1 SS (Super Special) for national team riders. They were tailor made for each individual cyclist and only about 80 were assembled each year – depending on the schedule for the season (whether there was the world championships, an Olympic games or whether there were any riders in any of the major European races).

With a lot of luck (and often with a bribe) the ordinary customer could possibly get their hands on an F12 model. This bike was the best production line model available from 1963 onwards. They were nicknamed “the V” in the factory (“v” for “výrobní” or “production line”). They were offered in three frame sizes 560, 580 or 600 mm. They were continually improved upon over time, for example with the introduction of central braking, better braking, better saddles, improved wheel hubs and other components with gradual innovations. The problem was that the Favorit F12 sold well in "foreign exchange" markets abroad, which, of course (understandably?) was more attractive than domestic sales.

Favorit 11a 1956

The mid-1950s Favorit 11a No. 17 (1956) was the most expensive model available at the time.  It had a five-wheeled cogset, a double chainset and tubular tyres. However, the bicycle on display has clincher tyres. Did the owner change the tyres because clincher tyres offer a more comfortable ride? Or did they rather put the original tubular tyres onto another bike later on? This is a perfect example of how difficult it is sometimes with the passing of time to accurately determine the precise model.

On loan from Marek Odehnal

17. Favorit F 11a, 1956
17. Favorit F 11a, 1956
17. Favorit F 11a, 1956

album: 17. Favorit F 11a, 1956

 

Favorit F12 1967

The F12 No. 21 (1967) has a sticker “Montreal” commemorating Czechoslovak success at the Expo 67 World Fair in Canada. The trio of F12s on display is completed by No. 22 (1963) with the P-W-B sticker (the initials of the capital cities of the Peace Race). The Czech welded frame of the F12 was fitted with the best Czech Favorit components. The head tube had beads instead of wreaths and the down shaft was a lighter mid gauge frame. The factory was occasionally supplied with parts from the Remak factory in East Germany due to a shortage of domestic parts. Favorit took their derailleurs, which in turn were then no longer available to the East Germans.

On loan from Marek Odehnal

21. Favorit F 12, 1967
21. Favorit F 12, 1967
21. Favorit F 12, 1967

album: 21. Favorit F 12, 1967

 

Favorit F12 1963    

This cycle No. 22 (1963) is one of the earliest F12 models. The sticker on the bike commemorates the 80th anniversary of the founding of the Czech Central Organisation of Velocipedists (ČÚJV) in 1883. 

On loan from Radim Klým

22. Favorit F12 1963
22. Favorit F12 1963
22. Favorit F12 1963

album: 22. Favorit F12 1963

 

Favorit F1 1962

These bicycles No. 18 (1962) and 19 (1974) had seamless Czech L-Roll frames that were constructed in a special workshop. They were fitted with Czech made parts. New innovations such as newly-developed Centric brakes with a central pull or upgraded saddles were first mounted on these bikes. Cycle 

 

On loan from Martin Šindelář

18. Favorit F1, 1962
18. Favorit F1, 1962
18. Favorit F1, 1962

album: 18. Favorit F1, 1962

 

Favorit F1, 1974

On loan from Ondřej Huleš

19. Favorit F1, 1974
19. Favorit F1, 1974
19. Favorit F1, 1974

album: 19. Favorit F1, 1974

 

Favorit F 1 Walter, 1990     

Cycle No. 23/1990 is fitted with the highest quality Czech Walter components. It cost 3130 Crowns in 1990. It was designed for junior riders and those in category III, i.e. the lowest performance class.

On loan from Jiří Svoboda

23. Favorit F 1, 1990
23. Favorit F 1, 1990
23. Favorit F 1, 1990

album: 23. Favorit F 1, 1990

Favorit F1 Special

These bikes also had the seamless L-Roll frames manufactured in Chomutov. They had a double front derailleur, gear changer a five-wheeled rear derailleur, a Campagnolo saddle with a Brooks seat, Czech Sprint pedals, Favorit’s Centric brakes, and Favorit handlebars. However, it must be emphasised that not every bike had these components, often parts were fitted according to which parts were available at the time. 

Favorit F1 Super Special 1974

These bikes were tailor made for individual cyclists. The frames were Reynolds 531s. All of the components for the Peace Race No. 16 (1974) bike were from the Italian manufacturer Campagnolo.  

 

On loan from Jiří Svoboda

16. Favorit F1 SS, 1974
16. Favorit F1 SS, 1974
16. Favorit F1 SS, 1974

album: 16. Favorit F1 SS, 1974

 

Favorit F1 Super Special 1975

BicyclesF1 Super Special  sometimes had Shimano Dura Ace components (No. 20, 1975), but never for the Peace Race bikes. This bike costed 4.400,- Crowns in 1976.

On loan from Ing. Jan Klimeš

20. Favorit F1 SS, 1975
20. Favorit F1 SS, 1975
20. Favorit F1 SS, 1975

album: 20. Favorit F1 SS, 1975

 

The cyclocross Favorit

In the past Cyclocross was not such a popular discipline, so the bikes were manufactured in a separate specialised workshop. A number of Czech riders have been very successful over the years, Miloš Fišer was World Champion in 1981 and 1982, Radomír Šimůnek was a four-times World Champion (1980, 1983, 1984 and 1991) and Zdeněk Štybar, five time World Champion (2005, 2006, 2010, 2011 and 2014). The cyclocross frame is shorter so as to be more agile over uneven surfaces. It is essential that their terrain tubular tyres work well in mud, which is why the wheels are wider and there is a larger gap between the tyre and the fork. They also have cantilever brakes for the same reason (Nos. 24 and 25/1985).

On loan from Ing. Jan Klimeš

24. Cyclocross Favorit 1985
24. Cyclocross Favorit 1985
24. Cyclocross Favorit 1985

album: 24. Cyclocross Favorit 1985

Specialised workshop

Cycles made in the specialised workshop had serial numbers just like the production line bikes: the first two numbers indicated the year of manufacture, then there came an “f  ” followed by the series number for the given year. There was usually a letter embossed above the serial number to indicate the name of the mechanic that assembled the bike: F for František Babický, 0 for Bohumil Kasl and 1 for Jaroslav Kozler. It is not yet known which mechanics had the other letters. In 1990 the Favorit F1 SS cost 24,000 Crowns, when the average monthly salary was 3,286 Crowns.

 

The Hutyra story

Ivan Medek announced Robert Hutyra’s story on Voice of America. It was an astonishing tale that gripped the world’s imagination. Hutyra and his wife stitched a hot air balloon together at home and managed to sail it to freedom across the Austrian border on the 7th of September, 1983. They flew across with their two children and one piece of luggage – Robert Hutyra’s Favorit racing bike. Do you know of any other bike that was shown so much love and gratitude? Apparently the bike no longer exists, but it takes pride of place in cycling heaven.

 

Favorits for indoor halls

The Favorit cycles for indoor disciplines were also assembled in a specialised workshop. Fewer than one hundred were made per year. They started making cycle ballet bikes in Rokycany in 1949 due to the enthusiasm of several employees who were trying to encourage the sport in Czechoslovakia. They started making bikes for cycle ball (Radball) soon after. It is worth mentioning that the cycleball bikes have hardly changed at all over the years. Their frames are still the same and there has been no need to alter them. However, each bicycle ballet bike needs to be made to measure, every centimetre here and there counts. Indoor hall bicycles have to have a robust construction to resist frequent collisions (cycleball) and to sustain the weight of two riders (Bicycle ballet).

Favorit - a special cycles
Favorit - a special cycles
Favorit - a special cycles

album: Favorit - a special cycles

Favorit K2, 1955

Bicycle ballet has a long tradition in the Czech Republic, reaching back to the 1880s and Petr Kohout (one of five brothers). More recently there have been successes for Anna Matoušková (5× world champion 1974–1977, 1979), Martina Štěpánková (3× world champion in 1998, 1999 and 2002) and Arnošt Pokorný (world champion in 2004). The bikes were produced in either a limited run or individually for the top athletes. The bike weighs 14.3 Kg. Under current competition rules, each rider must perform 30 moves in 5 minutes.

From the NTM collection

27. Favorit K2, 1955
27. Favorit K2, 1955
27. Favorit K2, 1955

album: 27. Favorit K2, 1955

Favorit K2, 1958

From the NTM collection

28. Favorit K2, 1958
28. Favorit K2, 1958
28. Favorit K2, 1958

album: 28. Favorit K2, 1958

Favorit B2, 1978

The first ever cycleball game to be played before a crowd was an exhibition match played in Prague’s Lucerna Ballroom on the 3rd of May, 1924. The main draw was the former bicycle ballet rider František Kundert. The Pospíšil brothers are international renown, they were crowned world cycleball champions 20 times. Jan was 43 and Jindřich was 46 when they won their final world title and retired in 1988. Cycle ball is played with a ball that is stuffed with deer hair and that weighs 600 g. The bike on display weighs 14.3 Kg.

On loan from the Exhibition of Cycling History in the Žireč Baroque Complex

29. Favorit B2, 1978
29. Favorit B2, 1978
29. Favorit B2, 1978

album: 29. Favorit B2, 1978

Favorits in the Velodrome

Track cycle racing is the oldest cycling discipline in the Czech Republic. The Czech Club of Velocipedists 1880 built the first velodrome near Invalidovna in Prague in 1883. Before the Second World War, the most highly regarded cycle mechanics (Perič, Štantejský, Kubricht and Szekuj) were working on track cycle design. Track bikes were also some of the first bikes to be made at Favorit. This was in part due to both Zdeněk Štantejský and to František Hašek and František Pospíšil (who had served apprentices under Perič).

There are a number of track disciplines and each one requires a slightly different bike design. Track races were far more popular between the 1950s and the 1970s. A number of new velodromes were built, the most popular of which was in Brno, where the World Championships were held in 1969 and 1981.

The peak of track bike design was the construction of a track tandem that was subject to contradictory demands - it had to be light and at the same time hard so as not to twist because the forces on it were immense. A top tandem team could reach speeds of 70 km/h almost immediately from the start. The Favorit tandems met the strictest demands and Czech riders fared well in international competitions.

Favorits for track
Favorits for track
Favorits for track
Favorits for track
Favorits for track
Favorits for track

album: Favorits for track

Favorit, 1964

Jiří Daler had remarkable success in winning a gold medal at the Tokyo Olympic Games in 1964 in the individual pursuit. All the Favorit bikes for the Tokyo games had a gold finish except for Daler’s. His bike was blue because it was assembled almost at the last minute and they had run out of gold paint. Daler’s gold medal is on display in a cabinet in the entrance hall.

The bike is from the NTM collection, the medal is on loan from Jiří Daler

30. Favorit, 1964
30. Favorit, 1964
30. Favorit, 1964

album: 30. Favorit, 1964

Tokyo 1964 and a gold medal for Jiří Daler, here seated on his bike above the heads of members of the Czechoslovak Olympic team and the first Olympic gold medal for Czech track cycle racing.

Jiří Daler
Jiří Daler
Jiří Daler

album: Jiří Daler

Favorit tandem, 1980

The Favorit racing tandems were designed by the in-house engineer Otto Šaman. The bike on display was built for the pair Ivan Kučírek and Pavel Martínek for the World Championships of 1980. Kučírek was the oldest rider to enter at 34, Martínek at 18 was the youngest, and a shock occurred, they beat all comers to win the title. They won again to retain the title in 1981 and won a third title in 1982. Though this bike is silver, it really is a golden cycle.

On loan from Bořivoj Nakládal

31. Favorit tandem, 1980
31. Favorit tandem, 1980
31. Favorit tandem, 1980

album: 31. Favorit tandem, 1980

 

Favorit - Aero special, 1980

The track bike for the Moscow Olympics of 1980 has a flattened tube frame, in an attempt make it more aerodynamic. The typical seamless tubes were first pressed to the required cross section and then, to achieve the lowest possible weight, the frame was welded without any joints at a specialised workshop at the Škoda plant in Plzeň.

On loan from Robert Štěrba 

 

32. Favorit, 1980
32. Favorit, 1980
32. Favorit, 1980

album: 32. Favorit, 1980

Favorit “goat”, 1982

Track cycles with forward-pointing handlebars, which reduced aerodynamic drag, began to appear in the late 1970s/early 1980s.

Better times were being achieved with these bikes that were nicknamed “goats”. This design had been submitted in 1965 by the Favorit engineer Otto Šaman, and had been tested in Plzeň by the track cyclist Karel Brandner. However, at the time, Favorit claimed that nobody would ride on that type of bike and so rejected the design. They were right. Everybody in the world would start riding on this kind of bike 15 years later.

On loan from Jiří Svoboda 

33. Favorit “goat”, 1982
33. Favorit “goat”, 1982
33. Favorit “goat”, 1982

album: 33. Favorit “goat”, 1982

Favorit, 1968

A track cycle for the Mexico Olympic Games of 1968. It was taken for granted that these specials would have Campagnolo components and Brooks saddles. It was to little effect, the sprint team failed to reach the semi-finals.

On loan from Jiří Svoboda

34. Favorit, 1968
34. Favorit, 1968
34. Favorit, 1968

album: 34. Favorit, 1968

Favorit, 1963

Without gears, brakes or any other extras, the track bike is the ultimate design in the field. Unique results can be achieved through maximum simplicity and reduced weight. A cyclist’s performance of only a couple of hundred watts (similar to several lightbulbs) enables an average speed of roughly 50 Km/h.

On loan from Jan Barna from the František Babický collection 

35. Favorit, 1963
35. Favorit, 1963
35. Favorit, 1963

album: 35. Favorit, 1963

Favorit, 1987

This track model was a variation on the classic “goat”, having a smaller 26-inch front wheel. However, the International Cycling Union (the UCI), the sport’s governing body, soon outlawed it. It was a functional way of further reducing aerodynamic drag, but failed to meet technical legal specifications.

On loan from Jiří Svoboda

36. Favorit, 1987
36. Favorit, 1987
36. Favorit, 1987

album: 36. Favorit, 1987

Favorit, 1989

A further advancement in reducing aerodynamic drag was to increase the length of the seat tube. With a shortened frame this allows the rider to lie even more across the handlebars.

On loan from Jiří Svoboda

37. Favorit, 1989
37. Favorit, 1989
37. Favorit, 1989

album: 37. Favorit, 1989

 

  1. Favorit and motor-paced cycling, 1967

Motor-paced cycling (where the riders sprint for victory after a start where the speed is controlled by a motorised pacer) is the quickest track discipline. The first such race in the Czech Republic was on the Bubeneč track in 1903 with Rudolf Vejtruba (on the bike) and his brother Josef (on a L&K motorbike). The dimensions of the motorcycle and the rear-wheel construction are governed by UCI technical regulations, as are the motorcyclist’s clothing, so that the conditions for aerodynamic resistance are the same for all competitors. The bicycles are also aerodynamically designed with negative front fork geometry, an elongated front set and an extremely short frame. The interaction between the motorcyclist and the cyclists is key for success. The pair can reach average speeds of up to 70 km/h.

On loan from Bořivoj Nakládal

 

  1. A pacing motorcycle, 1961

The pacing motorcycles had special frames and high-torque engines. This is a rear-wheel propelled bike without gears so that the ride is smooth without jerking during gear changes. The petrol handle has several turns between the extreme positions so that the acceleration is as smooth as possible. Prague’s golden era for motor-paced cycling races was from 1922-1930, on the 1125m long Letná track. The Favorit Brno team focused on this discipline after the war. In 1961 they assembled a pacing motorbike using the 1200 cm3 engine from a 1930s Harley-Davidson (thanks to the determination of former sprint rider Otto Šmerda). Its record top speed was 66.8 km/h.

On loan from the Favorit Brno team

 

Favorits for road racing and the Peace Race

The Peace Race is largely responsible for the production programme at the Rokycany plant. It has long been held as fact that the Peace race was initiated by the Rudé právo, and Glos ludu newspaper, though this is untrue. At the closing party following a track race in Poland in the autumn of 1947, Miroslav Jung suggested it would be a nice idea to organise a race between Warsaw and Prague. The Polish race officials were taken with the idea and approached the Czechoslovak cycling association about it. They replied that they were not ready for such a venture. But then came the communist coup and the situation changed because the idea took on an ideological drive. It was then that the editors of the communist newspapers from both countries “came up” with the idea, definitely an idea “from on high”. The first race took place in May 1948. The Neues Deutschland newspaper of the East German communists joined the organising committee in 1952. 

The ideological slant given to the race was a pity. The Peace Race became the world’s biggest amateur multiple-stage road race and was both well organised and had a high standard of racing. Over the years a number of riders who took part would later go on to become famous professional riders. For the Czech cycling fan the race held a unique importance – it was only because of the race that Favorit started to produced road cycles, that many (often in vain) longed to get hold of. 

The atmosphere 1948 - 1993

Závod Míru - Peace Race
Závod Míru - Peace Race
Závod Míru - Peace Race
Závod Míru - Peace Race
Závod Míru - Peace Race
Závod Míru - Peace Race

album: Závod Míru - Peace Race

 

Favorit the sad decline

The situation towards the end of the 1980s led to Favorit’s progressive decline. There was a rapid changeover in management but very few of the new managers had any experience. None of them had any awareness of current trends in bicycles, and there was certainly no vision. By 1989 the factory was producing bikes that were already outdated and out of fashion. Then, due to the wild unregulated privatisation of the early 1990s, either dreamers or conmen took over. When Josef Kozumplík, owner of the JOKO company, expanded to take over Velamos and then Favorit in Rokycany, he announced: “We want to produce up to 350,000 bikes per year and be the Czech market leaders”. However, by 2001 the regional court in Plzen had declared Favorit bankrupt with debts of nearly 200 million Czech crowns. Not long before the judgement the company had sold a substantial part of its production technology, including machines to JOKO, which did not pay. There was only one outcome from the lengthy court proceedings and attempts at recovering the debt: bicycle production in Rokycany ended.

 

 

Favorit re-cycling

For those in the 40+-age group, the Favorit would have been their first “grown-up” bike. However, in the early 1990s the cycling scene was dominated by MTB and the attraction of a classic (simple) mass-produced “touring” Favorit seemed in terminal decline. Its fortunes began to be revived with urban cyclists in the late “noughties” through a wave of American and European fixed gear cyclists with roots in the cycle courier community. This was aided by nostalgia, a very low price, and cellars and attics full of old bikes. They became more attractive to the more creative rider because of: the comfort of a long soft steel frame, the elegance of the hand-brazed frame construction, the wide gauge of the rear structure and the adjustable components – i.e. a simplified ride for singlespeed. The old communist parts were generally removed leaving only the original frame. Then city tyres were mounted and sturdier re-cycled parts from either road or mountain bikes were fitted. The front fork was replaced with one from either a road bike or MTB. The cranks received a square shaft and the brakes combined the road bike teeth and the v-brake system. The result was a cheap, relatively hardy, comfortable – and original – urban bike.

 

The recycling wave didn’t last long though. Those that tried the fixed gear variations realised that a long frame would never be trendy. Those that swore by singlespeed bikes started turning to specialised bikes: track, road, CX or MTB. Those that believed in recycling discovered that there were a large number of solid frames on the market. Favorit recycling was a dead end. However the future careers of top urban cyclists were kick-started thanks to many cyclists from that time.

 

 

 

Favorit lives!

With years of experience behind him, Richard Galovič decided to pursue a meaningful project. He became interested in Favorit in 2010. It was a good brand in a desolate state. He bought Favorit when it was in insolvency and began to revive the brand in 2012. The goals were as follows: a reliable bike, low/no maintenance, lightweight, beautiful design, well-made in the Czech Republic, easy to use. This led to research and development of carbon, aviation aluminium, titanium, leatherwork and the search for a carbon “chain”. The company introduced the Aviatior, BigBoss and Diamante bicycles in 2015. They sold 50 bikes online in the first three months when they still had no shop or showroom. To return to the original Rokycany roots, the company leased parts of the original Favorit factory. As of the end of 2017 they have sold 500 bikes in the Czech Republic as well as exporting more to Swizterland, The Netherlands, Great Britain, Germany, Sweeden and the USA.

Favorit lives.

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