Aleš Zemánek - founder and CEO of AZUB

Aleš Zemánek

The boss, owner, founder and the soul of the whole company – founded AZUB in 2000

Back in 2000, when Aleš was founding AZUB at the age of twenty three, he had two basic motivations. Very soon though, he realized that they had been pretty naive. The first was to have more money and the second to have more time for his biggest hobby, travelling. When he discovered things were not so simple, two more motivations appeared. One of them was to prove to sceptics, including officials at the Labour Office, that one can make it with recumbent bikes even on the Czech market, and the second was a desire to further improve his own recumbents. When Aleš took part in a TEDx event in Brno in 2011, he amused the listeners when he compared a new bicycle model to his three-month-old son. He said that he had to go and have a peek at him too in the night and let his heart fill with pride. You see, in the early years of the business, Aleš kept the new models from AZUB in his bedroom because he often had the urge to look at them at night, feel tremendous joy and go back to sleep again.

Today, at first glance, Aleš’s work seems to be a lot less fun. It revolves around numbers, exchange rates, calculations, planning and day-to-day operations. However, he is still very much involved in the organization of the production and especially in the development and testing of new technical solutions and new models. Although they are not kept next his bed anymore, they still are his big driving force. And he also loves showing Czech and Slovak cyclists that besides all the mountain bikes, trekking bikes and road bikes, there is another kind of cycling world, that there also are folding bikes, child trailers, hub dynamos, crankset gearboxes and plenty of other beautiful cycling ideas. Many of these were first introduced on the Czech market by AZUB anyway and it was AZUB again that helped many of them to be transformed from products largely unknown to almost mainstream products. This is true for both modern folding bicycles and child trailers, as we were the first company which started importing them to the Czech Republic in larger quantities.

However, Aleš’s chief motivation is the joy his products bring people, whether they are weekend riders or adventurers on a trip round the world, whether they are parents with kiddies in trailers, people using folding bikes on holidays, electric bike owners on challenging hills which they would not be able to ride up otherwise, or cheerful recumbenters who are happy just because they ride recumbent.

Aleš still loves travelling, with a special penchant for Syria, Israel and Spain, his other big hobby is music by different Czech bands, and nowadays, his biggest hobby are two boys, Jakub (2011) and Šimon (2015) who easily take up all his free time.

Aleš’s bike: AZUB MAX and Larry vs. Harry Bullitt with a child s.eats and canopy

What do you enjoy most about your work?
Recently, it has been the rhythm that keeps the company buzzing. It is important for everyone in the team to have some solid points, some anchorage in the daily, weekly and annual life cycles. Our work will always be associated with searching for non-standard solutions, escaping from the daily grind. In fact, it is good for the health of the company not to do things blindly, not to do the same things over and over again, but to move forward, to find better solutions. And the rhythm represents the fixed points each of us returns to after such a “trip”.

And, of course, I enjoy the process of development when on one autumn evening we start planning a new model, an improvement or a change in the technology process, and after several months (or rather years in case of new models), we are able to physically test it. As I said somewhere before, it is the same feeling like the birth of another child.

And what do you really hate?
Dealing with interpersonal clashes within the company. There is nothing more frustrating.

Do you remember your first encounter with a recumbent bike?
Sure I do. July 1997, Norway, the village of Trofors. All it took was a second. I was sitting in a bus that had broken down and “something passed” by ME and the image got burnt in my memory. About a month later, I discovered that it had been a recumbent bike.

 

Which AZUB model do you like the best and why?
AZUB SIX – its great-great-great-grandfather was the AZUB 1, the forerunner of all AZUBs. AZUB SIX keeps with the SWB 20/26″ concept and with every upgrade it grows more and more beautiful. But in the whole portfolio there is not a model that I would not like. We strive to create something we can identify with both technically, functionally and in terms of design.

When you are not in AZUB, what do you do?
Above all, I spend time with my family – with my wife and two sons. We try to be outdoors a lot, we work in the garden…

My big hobby is travelling, which was the original reason why I started making recumbents. In order to be my own boss and have more time for travelling than I would have had had I been employed. Pretty soon though, I saw on how naïve those ideas had been. 🙂

I love music, I am not indifferent to current affairs, I am interested in philosophy, religious studies and last but not least, I do enjoy a nice a football game with my friends. That definitely helps me to switch off completely.

Which bike do you use the most?
Regarding recumbents, it is “the boss’s” AZUB MAX whose colour was finalized with my wife’s help, and for the daily commute and taking kids to preschool, I have the legendary Bullitt.

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