The nation of Slovakia in central Europe may not come up often in general conversation this side of the Atlantic, but if you inhabit the cycling world, you’re likely to know something about three-time World Road Race Champion Peter Sagan, who hails from Slovakia. The eastern half of the former Czechoslovakia, sandwiched between Poland to the north, and Hungary to the south, is experiencing a cycling boom, thanks in part to Sagan.
Slovakia also doesn’t usually cross the mind when thinking of custom framebuilders, but Marek Parajka of Arko Bici might lift the profile of bicycle fabrication in Slovakia the same way Peter Sagan lifted it for cycling in general. The one man operation produces attention-getting custom steel frames and stems with exquisite detail and beauty. Parajka is coming to the Philly Bike Expo in November to introduce himself to the U.S. scene. It’s likely that he’ll make a big and favorable impression.
Parajka is a certified welder and metalwork technologist who together with his wife bought an old mill – water wheel and all – in the village of Hradiste pod Vratnom in western Slovakia. It serves as both their home and frame workshop. The name of the brand, Arko Bici, comes from Parajka’s dog, Arko, and Bici, the Italian word for bicycle. Parajka began operations in 2009.
Every Arko Bici frame is handcrafted using steel tubes of the client’s choice, and frames can be lugged or fillet brazed. Parajka builds frames for road, randonneur and cyclocross/gravel uses. He does all of his own painting as well, and eschews the powder coat trend – wet paint only for every Arko Bici.
Asked about his favorite part of his work as a framebuilder, Parajka said that he enjoys the three “B”s of framebuilding: brazing, brushing, and buffing, but he also really enjoys taking quality photos of his finished frames and bikes, which can be seen at his Flickr account. All frames are built to order for his customers, who come from all over Europe and soon, he hopes, from the U.S. as well.
Parajka clearly sees framebuilding as an art form – a craft in which his customers also play a role. “Framebuilding is a lifelong craft,” he says. “It’s a beautiful process and the client himself is a big part of it. He brings his ideas and perhaps dreams of what the bike is going to be like, and I bring them to life.”
As cosmopolitan as his customer base may be, Parajka has a strong commitment to sourcing local supply chains and lifting the local economy of western Slovakia. “When you consider hand made steel frames, you don’t pay only for this unique piece, but you also support the local supply chain. Tubes come from Italy or UK. Welding material, gasses, brazing rods, tools, paints, and energy I pay for. It all comes from local or EU suppliers.”