Andrei Botescu sits astride what is fast becoming one of Romania’s most iconic brands–Pegas. The bicycle company had, for all intents and purposes, expired following the revolution but Andrei breathed vital new life into it and now Pegas has arisen with 16,000 bikes sold last year alone. Approaching fast are a full Pegas production and assembly line here in Romania, an associated clothing line (so people can cycle to work without the need to change), a host of new bikes and even a race team. Added to that it’s crystal clear the affection Romanians have for their national bike brand – Pegas bikes are seen everywhere and now, with the Aperider sharing app, Pegas is aiming to radically alter the urban landscape.
OZB caught up with Andrei the softly spoken big brains behind Pegas, to talk bikes, brands and ketogenic diets to find out how it all began, how it’s going and where the 41-year-old intends to go in the future.
By Douglas Williams
So, having studied Postmodern Cultural Theory at Sweden’s University of Lund, Andrei returned to Bucharest in ‘09 with two very nice, very cool Electra bikes and some big ideas about brands and the lack of a strong Romanian brand internationally. Unfortunately the bikes were promptly stolen and this left Andrei bike-less, somewhat despondent and wondering what to do next. He remembered the beloved Pegas green chopper of his youth–the one that had allowed him to freely roam his native Bucharest–and so he set out to find and buy a new one. It wasn’t to be. His searching led only to him discovering that the Zărnești Pegas factory no longer produced bikes. The whole Romanian bike-producing thing was, in fact, effectively dead.
“So I started to think and I started asking around, asking people who really knew about bikes, and I went to trade fairs like Euro-bike in Friedrichshafen and it was there that I made some important connections that led to me to be able to produce and assemble the first of the second generation, Pegas bikes,” says Andrei, a quietly thoughtful and focused individual who has travelled widely from West Papua in Indonesia to South America. The first of the next generation of Pegas bikes began to appear on the streets eight years ago – these were the banana saddle chopper bikes, retro cool to the max. Pegas had a store on Bulevardul Magheru, sales were driven largely by social media and then bolstered by Pegas having a presence at hip events across the country. Numbers produced and sold steadily increased, models increased and the brand has gone from strength to strength with all the signs indicating that the momentum is with Pegas.
The focus of Pegas bikes is really “urban biking”–“conquer the city” is a key Pegas concept according to Andrei though there are Pegas mountain bikes, kids bikes, touring bikes and even electric bikes too. Andrei thinks big and he has a clear vision of the future and of course that future features bikes front and foremost. “By 2025 there will be no cars in most civilised cities. If things continue the way they are going then most cities will be completely gridlocked. Instead infrastructure and technology will gel to create a much more civilised urban environment where the bicycle is the primary mode of transport in most cities in the developed world at least. It will have to happen, otherwise people just won’t be able to move around their cities.”
Andrei is another classic example of the new generation of Romanians, unfettered by bitter memories of the past and increasingly shaping this country’s future. He’s proud of Romania, he’s a proud European and an internationalist with standards and vision to match. He calls himself a “singularist” and a “transhumanist” – the philosophy that the onward march of technology and science will advance and improve the quality of human life in ways that are, as yet, impossible to even imagine. In keeping with the Ape bike app Andrei sees the “sharing economy” as the economy of the future with Uber and AirBnB being prime examples. “Currently there is far too much obsolescence, there are far too many resources that are being underused and even unused but the ‘internet of things’ has the potential to eradicate this, to hugely increase efficiency in our society.” The ‘IoT’ is when everyday appliances are connected via the internet and they store and share data thus being more efficient, economic and autonomous.
The Aperider dockless bike-sharing app is a phenomenon, readers will have seen the bikes both parked and being ridden all over the city these past few weeks. At time of writing, 1000 bikes have been sprinkled around Bucharest with a further 1000 set to go out soon. In its first three weeks Aperider experienced 25,000 adopters! See www.aperider.com for more information and to register. These bikes allow folks to get around the city cheaply, easily and conveniently and without polluting and without “docking”. Remember, dear reader, that Bucharest is flat as a pancake, easy cycling, and even easier if the “authorities” expand the cycling infrastructure. “We are gathering a ton of data just now about where and how the bikes are used and this is going to be invaluable in the future, we’ll be able to fine tune Aperider. We are talking with City Hall about our findings so far and this should enable them to better upgrade the infrastructure.” Andrei is currently in discussions with mayors and city planners in Budapest, Hungary; Pula, Croatia; Venice, Italy and Brugge, Belgium about expanding Aperider to these cities.
The old Pegas factory in Zărnești is set to open next year producing high quality bikes and providing high quality jobs–up to 80. Currently frames are manufactured under licence in Taiwan.
“The tide is turning and the reality is that soon, driving a car will be useless, owning a car will be very inefficient,” says Andrei, who doesn’t own a car and follows a ketogenic diet (zero carbs). “Every time I’ve had enough money to buy a car I’ve started a business instead. Bicycles have a civilizing effect as well as being good for the health of the individual and the city. Pegas is a fashion statement and a statement of individuality for both the young and the young minded. And here in Romania I hope Pegas can be a brand that we can be really proud of.”
For more information about Pegas see: www.bicicletapegas.ro