By Lauren Backenstose
Filippo, owner and inventor of BIKO Adventures, Prague’s first mountain bike tour company, immediately greets me with a big smile and warm handshake. Before getting coffee we head straight away to his office. “Welcome to my hipster studio,” he says. Located in the basement of the famous TRIBO Tattoo and Piercing studios in Prague, I am surrounded by bikes, bikes and more bikes. Against one wall there is a cluster of GIANT mountain bikes. “I am going to sell some of these to get the latest models for next summer season,” he explains as he sees me eyeing the bikes. (Later, I learn that he only uses the latest models in order to assure the highest quality for the tourists). On another wall, there are eight vintage bikes that are being restored. A white one with wide-set handlebars and a big wicker-basket over the back wheel catches my eye. “These will be used for the hipster bike tour that will launch next spring,” he explains. Simply listening and observing I find myself thinking ‘…hipster bike tour, mountain bikes galore, office in a tattoo parlor… how cool is this guy?!" And then set apart from every other bike on an elevated stand is a 1989 white Bianchi. This is Fillipo’s first serious bike that he is fixing up and I feel its mixture of vintage and style represents him perfectly.
Across the street we grab two cappuccinos and two Czech pastries at a small café. Authenticity and honesty flow from this guy. Sitting across from me in a dark-blue-n-green flannel and blue jeans you would expect him to be from somewhere in the North based on his relaxed style. However, this levelheaded Italian is far from resembling the stereotypical Gucci-wearing, espresso sipping, Vespa-riding persona that may come to mind. After travelling around Australia back in 2004-2005, he moved back to Italy, landing a job with Phillip Morris to try his hand at his marketing degree. After five years of hard work, climbing the ladder and traveling business class all over Europe, he was burned out. In 2010 he quit his job and then took a year to decompress. With his Czech girlfriend (now wife), he bought an unfurnished flat in Prague and put his hands to use. “I never built anything before so I just started going around to all the carpenters in Prague and Tabor (where she is from), with my girlfriend translating, while I asked the questions…'ok so how do you put this together?'…and then I just did it. I bought wood slats and I made our bed, then our chairs and then our kitchen table…until finally I had made our home.” He goes on, “Then I thought, ‘what can I do now?’” This is when Filippo, already an avid cycler, a natural-born marketer, photographer and all-around creative soul, came up with BIKO Adventures.
As a tour guide myself I am highly impressed with what Filippo has done with BIKO in providing a service that does not already exist in Prague. The company is just one year old and already provides tourists with an exceptional service. Guests can choose from easy or advanced mountain bike tours that take you everywhere from a beautiful day spent cycling in Prague’s parks to a free-range-single-track ride in the hills around Prague. He has mapped out and spent a lot of time on each of the various trails that compose his tours, making him a very knowledgeable guide. With each tour there is always a chance to stop for food, water or beer. In addition to the bike tours, Filippo created two hiking tours, a cross-country skiing tour for the winter and is almost finished with a Prague-running tour. You can do the tours with your own bike or you can choose from one of three types of mountain bikes that are all the latest models and suitable for your needs. To enhance your experience you can also rent the ‘Go Pro Hero H2’ head camera to record your tour. Tours are offered in English, Czech, Polish, Norwegian and Italian. The price of the tour varies depending on the number of people, whether you need to rent a bike and the level of the tour. Prague’s city center does not have the “biker-friendly” culture that you would find in places like Germany or Holland. (In fact, if you are an experienced biker, riding in Prague’s Old Town is comparable to entering any level of Dante’s Inferno, depending on the time of year, how many tourists you have to maneuver around and those blasted cobblestones!). So compared to other bike companies in Prague where fifteen people are taken around by one guide dodging the million tourists per day that come to the city center, why not just opt for getting more for your money by seeing an extension of this timeless, awe-inspiring city with one of BIKO’s tours that not only caters to your needs, provides you with a high-quality guide and photos, but for heaven's sake, gives you a lil’ exercise along the way!
Having been on one of Fillipo’s tours, I can tell you that he goes above and beyond what he offers. After our first meeting, I expressed interest in wanting to go on a tour. A lover of all things beer and all things Prague I asked him if we could do the “Beer & Bike tour.” The tour goes to the Uneticke Brewery about twenty kilometers outside of Prague’s city-centre. On the website the tour was “under construction” as it is new, but Filippo said I could be his guinea pig as it would help him work out the kinks. I was stoked!
We went on a gray Thursday morning, yet the day was anything but gray. The leaves of the surrounding trees were a bright-gold and yellow tone making the scenery vibrant. We did a combination of the advanced and easy trail, more fitted to my level. Filippo is incredibly fun and easy to chat with along the way, making the ride even more enjoyable. He indulges in his love of photography by wearing his high-end digi-camera around his neck, taking photos of you along the way. A few days later he sent me the pictures free of charge (a service which he does not have to do, but does for all of his guests). The photos are great quality, giving you a nice memory of the day and leaving guests with a literal lasting impression. We made it to the brewery where we stopped for lunch (in which all the food was local from the town’s farms and gardens, talk about sustainability!) and to drink the crisp, unfiltered, Uneticke beer. For the way home, he asked me if I would like to bike back to Prague or take the train. I opted to bike back, wanting to make the most of my day. Since I'm not an experienced cycler I did get a bit tired on the way home, but I just let Filippo know what pace I needed. He reminded me kindly, “no problem…you are in charge, just let me know how you feel.” Accommodating and patient the whole tour, this is easily recognizable to anyone who signs up for one of the BIKO tours. Filippo’s genuine nature is already at the heart of his company and is what will play into his success in the coming years.
It is this easy: with BIKO and Filippo you are getting quality over quantity. “I am a pioneer,” he says. Yet these words are said humbly, coming from a man who put everything he had into BIKO. This is a guy that offers a service that he truly believes in. “If I wanted the money…the commissions…I would go back to Phillip Morris,” he tells me as we finish our coffee. “I am not counting crowns (crowns, or koruna, is the Czech currency). If the guests are thirsty, I buy them water. No, it is not on the website, it doesn’t matter. I buy it because I want to, because I care. If we bike to Karlsteijn and they are hungry I don’t tell them ‘just keep going we will eat in twenty kilometers…’ no, we stop right then and there.” And that is Filippo; 110% bona-fide, warm-hearted and experienced in everything he does. If you are headed to Prague anytime soon I cannot recommend the tour enough! Head over to the website today to book your tour – www.bikoadventures.com - not only for a great experience in Prague but also to support and meet a truly awesome guy!