In this post I would like to introduce you to my new sponsors: AZUB. It’s an unusual name until you understand that the company who it belongs to is based in the Czech Republic and that the letters come from a combination of its founders name: Ales Zemanek, and their location in the Czech Republic: Uhersky Brod. Put the two together and you have AZUB, makers of fine recumbent cycles and trikes, a company that has gained respect around the world with a name that is both short and memorable as it relates to nothing else but this company and their products.
Formed by Ales in the year 2000 after one of those eureka moments when life’s purpose becomes clear, AZUB are now well placed in the market of recumbent cycles exporting their fine products all over the world. From my early searches and reading it soon became clear that the company was driven to supply excellent quality, durable products that are aimed at those who want to travel or just ride in more comfort. I have read every review on every product I could find and they all say the same thing: AZUB make excellent recumbents that are designed to take anything you can throw at them and that they have a strong following that is growing every year including their own blog where owners and travellers tell their stories.
I wrote to AZUB quite early on and I received a positive response concerning the suitability of their products for my intended use from their international marketing manager, Honza Galla. This was placed in my memory banks for future purposes. Azub came across as both responsive and interested as well as offering a wide range of add-on products to customise your new trike. In comparison to many other subjects online, recumbent bikes and trikes are small fry. There are many personal opinions on forums and some more robust information on sites like www.bentrideronline.com but little else. It’s a niche market, but one that is growing all the time as people look at different ways of travelling under human power. The American website listed above uses reviewers from many areas including the UK and is a great source of up to date information on Bents (as the Americans insist on calling them) and all things recumbent from reviews to touring.
I wrote about my early experiences of testing various trikes and bikes here on this blog but after selling my expedition bike (which is now living in London) I felt ready to take a serious look at what I wanted from my recumbent trike and how much I could afford to spend on it.
During the time I was considering both recumbent bikes and trikes I took a trip to Bikefix while Michele and I were in London. Bikefix is the entry point for AZUB in the UK so while we were there I spent a little time looking at the AZUB bikes that they had on display. The workmanship was top drawer and thought that had gone into them was astounding. They were high quality products without a doubt and I began to understand why AZUB are proud of their products and why they atrract such positive reviews.
I followed this trip with a second email to Honza which was met with just as much enthusiasm as the first. I wrote of my situation and what I’m trying to achieve with my project: Riding2Recovery. The reply from AZUB was again both positive and encouraging, so much so that shortly after this I placed an order for two trikes. Honza even made time to talk to me on Skype concerning the type of riding I was planning to do and other aspects of their products just to make sure that they understood my requirements. Customer service doesn’t get better than that.
Last Friday, just ten minutes before I had to leave the house and go to Barnstaple, two big boxes arrived by van at my house. I stacked them in the lounge and went about my business knowing they would have to wait until Saturday before I could take a look inside.
On Saturday morning I waved Michele goodbye as she set off on a trip to see her family in the USA. Upon reaching home I felt tired and tearful. I glanced at the boxes in the lounge and retired to bed for a couple of hours well-earned rest. It had been a hectic few days with Michele leaving and Fly heading off to his new home in London and I felt exhausted and emotional with little energy as has been the way for some time.
After lunch I could resist no longer. The boxes took up a sizeable amount of space in my lounge, completely blocking the exit from downstairs to the garden. I smiled as I looked at the cartons containing our trikes. There had been a lot of research, testing and soul-searching before we settled on this pair and now they were here. We had relied on the experiences of other users in choosing these as a test ride was not possible in the UK. Careful research limited the risk as we knew exactly what we wanted from our trikes before ordering them and so did AZUB.
On ordering them I had sent all the required measurements for both Michele and I. This consisted of leg length and something called X-seam, a measurement taken from the rear of your spine to the end of your foot when seated against a wall or similar. The rest is down to those who received the trikes and built them up ready for us to use before partially disassembling them so they fitted in the boxes ready to be sent on to us.
I tentatively removed the tape that sealed the first box. Opening the substantial lid ( there were three in effect) I caught a glimpse of green. It was my trike, all wrapped neatly in sticky bubble-wrap and padded out with cardboard sections to take any impact. Inside were instructions in far better English than I could ever achieve Czech, a pair of wheels and matching mudguards, and the seat, flag, and tee shirts I ordered. That was it. It was immediately apparent that the trike had been completely assembled to our measurements.
I then did something rash. I made a cup of tea and read the instruction manual from front to back. I don’t know my way around trikes and on initial acquaintance they appear complex beasts with many quick releases and such like to aid frame folding, seat removal, seat position, seat angle, steering position etc. This is all part of AZUB’s Ideal Positioning System (IPS) and means everything can be adjusted to fit you perfectly. Reading the handbook had a calming effect and the writing had a certain tone that made it all sound easy and doable with the usual spanners.
As I worked slowly around the trike I identified all the different parts and possible adjustments as I went. I wanted to understand how it all operates so when the time comes I would be happy to pull it apart. All the extras were already fitted, the Sturmey Archer drum brakes and shimano gears adjusted. As I slowly unfolded the rear section that takes the wheel from flat between the bars to upright and rideable I marvelled at the design and quality. Moving the lightweight, locking quick release (QR) as instructed to allow the bracket to close there was a clunk as the holding pin slid into place. I tightened the QR and there it was.
Using the box as a bench I carefully greased the axles and put the wheels in place, remembering the internal washers before tightening the bolts that hold them in place. The axles screws into the kingpin assembly and are held by a chunky 19mm nyloc nuts, just perfect and easy to remove. There is a QR version available but this one will do just fine for our intended use taking a couple of minutes to remove should you wish. That just left the mudguards to fit and a check to make sure that the wheels had the correct alignment. The mudguard bracket holders were in place and it’s just a matter of slipping them onto these and tightening the Allen bolt to hold them in place.
Placing trike on the floor I fitted the seat and the flag in the holder in the seat frame. The pre-set distance to the pedals (I used my own clip-in, SPD pedals) was perfect, needing no adjustment, so I moved the handlebars to where I wanted them, tightened the QR’s and that was it. I was ready for a test ride around the small estate where I live. I then realised I couldn’t get the trike out of the kitchen without re-folding it. Oh well, practise makes perfect. Off with the seat and unlock the handlebars before gently folding the thing in half. Just doing this is amazing and the flat fold makes transport so much easier.
I took pictures as I went, most of which are scattered through this article but I didn’t photograph the huge grin I had as I sat down for the first time and set off. Even the mirror was perfectly placed I just folded it out and set off. A few circuits and I decided to adjust the seat angle down a little. Being more laid back felt better straight away and the simple, but robust and effective adjusters, made it easy to do.
Round and round I rode happy as Larry as we say in the UK. I knew I would go riding tomorrow so I folded the trike and went back indoors to build Michele’s trike. The mellow-yellow of her trike is a lovely smiley sort of colour. AZUB use flat finish powder coating which is durable and attractive. Michele’s trike needed less building than mine as the rear wheel had been left in place. I had it together in less than an hour after a little consternation because I thought something was missing. In actual fact it was already in place from the build-up phase. Until Michele returns from the USA I cannot do any more than I already have, but what an exciting thing to come home to?
Recumbents use your muscles differently so you need to take your time and ride gently for a while which allows your body and neurology to make this adjustment. Short rides with as few hills as possible are the order of the day for new recumbent riders. I’m lucky to have the Tarka Trail and the Granite Way on my doorstep so those will see plenty of use over the next few weeks. AZUB have a wonderful description of what they call the three phases of recumbent riding. When you receive your trike you will be passionate and wanting to ride everywhere. Then you ride hills for the first time and enter a deep depression. Finally your body adapts to requirements of recumbent riding and you gain the normal recumbent feeling of joy.
Sunday arrived dry and breezy. I groped around in the kitchen fixing coffee and breakfast, something I have to force down in the mornings. I was excited but tired from yesterdays efforts so it felt pleasing to easily load the folded trike into the little Ford KA along with my other gear and drive to Okehampton. Parking at the station I had the immediate attention of another cyclist who seemed fascinated by this shiny new beasty. We chatted as I worked slowly and methodically, double checking everything I did before setting off.
Setting off I felt instantly at home despite the gentle uphill drag of the trail. My legs wondered what was going on. What had changed? Selecting a low gear and spinning the pedals I soon found a rhythm and began to enjoy my surroundings. From the armchair like seat I had a panoramic view that was quite different from the one I see on this trail while riding my upright bike. My arms and shoulders remained relaxed and my neck thought it was in heaven.
The steering seemed neutral and relaxed as well and nothing felt unusual apart from remembering to check the mirror as it’s difficult to turn and look back on a recumbent. I rode to Lydford and back and around a mile from the car I got a puncture. Pulling out the spare I realised that I’d brought the wrong one, one that would fit the trailer and of no use at all on the trike. I took the tube out but the high wind and traffic noise from the A38, which runs close by at this point, meant I couldn’t find the puncture. So followed a series of stops where I would pump the tyre up as hard as I could and then ride until it softened whereby I would repeat the process. Not the perfect end to my first ride by that’s the way it goes sometimes.
Since then I’ve ridden twice more and each time I feel more comfortable and a little more natural. I’m sticking to the flat for now and dreaming of June when Michele and I will set off on a tour of Brittany in France. I’ve changed the rear tyre for a fatter Big Apple balloon tyre and this has made a big difference to comfort and shock absorbtion. Whether or not I’ll change the front tyres as well remains to be seen. I’m sure there will plenty more written about Kermit and our burgeoning adventures. I’m hoping that the better weather and getting out riding will help redress the balance of my mental health for the summer. Until then I want to say thank you to AZUB for producing such high quality trikes. Do take look at their website at www.azub.eu There are lots to explore, especially on their blog where you will find video’s of some amazing trips along with articles from those enjoying their products.
Until next time…………….