Tomáš Zejda is a Czech professional biker and a passionate traveler who prefers to go barefoot everywhere. During his 18-year bike career so far, he has participated in countless major world competitions and shows, including the prestigious Redbull Rampage. You will learn more about his career, but also his personal life in the following interview!
You like to be barefoot most of the time. What's your problem with the shoes, haha?
It's nothing personal, but I've loved standing out for quite some time. And the most important thing is that it's healthy and I enjoy it. Of course, we live where we live, so in winter it's a little harder. In public, people sometimes look at it strangely and it doesn't make a good impression on them. But I have to say that I meet like-minded people on the street more and more. Which, of course, makes me happy. After winter, I can't wait for the first sunny days, when I will be able to take off my shoes. Of course, I still spend a lot of time in shoes, I ride a bike, so I can't do that without the shoes. And after a few tries, I've found that when a person goes to the grocery store barefoot, they usually take him out, haha. There is always a debate about why I don't have shoes and that it's unhygienic. So I try to avoid the problems and I usually bring them to the shops.
"I like that cyclo world has a wide range. Saying that you ride a bike does not mean that you ride only one discipline or that you are oriented in only one direction. It's been 18 years since I started to ride a bike. That's quite a lot, haha."
- Tomáš Zejda
It can be said, that you're a really passionate biker. What are all the bike disciplines that you do?
There are a few. In cycling, I like that it has a wide range. Saying that you ride a bike does not mean that you ride only one discipline or that you are oriented in only one direction. It's been 18 years since I started to ride a bike. That's a lot, haha. Almost my whole life. When I was 13, I started with dual slalom. I had a bike for jumping at the time, but more or less I didn't know what I wanted to do. All I knew was that I wanted to jump on that bike. When freestyle mountain biking started in the world, it was the discipline that engulfed me the most and that lasted my whole career. I'm actually doing that even now. Of course, with age and with the time that has come now, freestyle is not as possible as we would like it to be. All races and contracted shows are canceled or postponed. So I'm also looking for some new paths. Of course, I know that at this age, I can't learn a new trick every other week and keep pace with young guys from all over the world. So now I'm even pedaling on the bike, which is quite enjoyable after all these years. I still do city downhills, for example in South America, and currently my biggest project in progress is the hike up and downhill of Kilimanjaro in Africa. So I'm going to focus on that now. I'm still posting new vlogs on Youtube as well. So would say, I call myself a freestyle freeride rider. I think that specifies what I ride the most and what I do the most.
The Kilimanjaro project sounds interesting. That downhill will definitely be worth it.
Everyone thinks that the downhill will be such a reward, but I wonder if I will have any strength at all to get down, haha. I think that I will really reach the bottom of my strength there and that it will be something like the next stage in my career, as well as in my personal life. It will definitely move me mentally, it will not be purely about the bike, but again another milestone in my life.
Do you bike profesionally or do you have any other job?
Most of all the income I have is from the bike, whether from sponsors, but mainly from those shows and competitions. The competition is high and the level of riding rises so fast that it gets harder and harder. I must say that I am glad that I am no longer one of those 17-year-old boys who are now being put on a lot of demands, both physically and mentally. When I was their age, I mainly rode for fun. With the results and successes, of course, it started to move more into that professional direction, but now, in my opinion, most of those guys spend more time in the gym and with mental coaches than on the bike itself. I think they may never even experience the kind of fun and punk we experienced. Due to the current situation, I have now started building asphalt pumptracks for one of my friends in Germany. It's great, because it's an activity that I can connect with the professional life of an athlete and it still revolves around the bike. So I'm happy, and even though I enjoy it, I hope that we will all return to normal soon and be able to attend events and shows again and entertain people.
If I'm right, you were the first Czech to get to the Red Bull Rampage, which is a very prestigious competition in Utah, USA. Please tell us more about this experience.
Just to clarify, I was the third Czech. Michal Marosi and Richard Gasperotti were the first two Czechs at Red Bull Rampage to experience the era when it was more about freeriding, the tricks weren't done there much yet, it was more about who can ride all the way down and survive, haha. The one who succeeded mostly won it. But that has changed a lot in recent years. A lot of people from the freestyle industry flocked there and started to do really huge tricks. It has moved somewhere else entirely. Every year I say to myself that it's really the most that can be done, that it can't move anywhere, and in a year I just look at what those riders can do again.
I was there in 2015, it was probably the best bike year for me in my whole career. I got to Red Bull Rampage through freestyle racing. I collected points all year on the FMB tour and finally I got an invitation to Red Bull Rampage. But it was terribly on edge. It was very risky to choose someone who has not done it all his life and does not ride in such conditions. In the end, I couldn't stand not going there when I found an invitation in the mail. I got the downhill bike only 2 weeks before the competition itself, so I did not only fight there with the track, but also with the bike, and with the surface that is there. It is located in the desert, with 45 degrees. It is also important to say that when a person comes there, he has a week to build his own track, and after that week he should ride it somehow twice to get to the finals. After that week, I was in such a state that I was nearly no longer able to walk and, in fact, not to ride much anymore. I was really at the bottom of my strength. But of course I don't regret it. I completed one ride. On the second one, I broke my arm. But it was really a lifelong experience and I'm very happy that I experienced it, because I already knew back then that it would never happen again. This competition is so mentally and physically demanding and specific that it was probably enough for me to do it once. But I'm glad that I was there.
What do you consider your greatest bike success? Was it the participation in Red Bull Rampage or is it something else?
Red Bull Rampage was probably the biggest highlight, such a dream come true. A lot of people consider it one of the most extreme and craziest races. It's even one of the most watched online broadcasts from Red Bull. It is the complete highlight of everything. Everything a person can achieve in the cycling world.
You are also a passionate traveler and thanks to biking you had the opportunity to visit various interesting places around the world while being on competitions, shows and so on. What was the top place you got to visit thanks to the bike?
Definitely Alaska. Alaska was more like a reward holiday. I was in Canada for a competition and after two weeks I received an invitation to another competition, which took place in a month. So I thought about returning home in the meantime, but in the end I decided to rebook my ticket and rather go to see some new place while I was there. I rented a car and went to see Alaska. In the end, I drove about 11,000 km back and forth, so it was pretty crazy. I only had 2 weeks to do it, so it was based on some 1,000 km a day. I slept in the car, so I thought it would probably be difficult and maybe it wouldn't be such a well-deserved vacation, but in the end it was great. There was beautiful weather, all those mirror lakes, mountains. I actually drove all the time, I saw beautiful places and I really enjoyed it. Alaska is one of the biggest highlights, because the nature there is still really amazing and unruined. In addition, I still have a very long list of countries that I would like to visit.
You are also having this vanlife lifestyle, what was the last covid year like for you? Were you at least on some van trips?
I try to travel as much as possible even now. The last year and a half has been the most transformational for me in all aspects. I moved, my son was born, I finished my van, and even my career some things changed due to the covid situation. But thanks to that, we certainly understood a lot of things, for example, the fact that we also have a beautiful nature here in the Czech Republic or Slovakia. Maybe even more beautiful than anywhere else in the world. I really enjoy the vanlife, whether as a lifestyle or a form of travel, but the fact that it is currently experiencing such a boom is a little bit annoying. Many people on the vans do not behave completely correctly, whether it is garbage or noise, and this creates a negative impression of vanlife. I often prefer to go somewhere in the woods, where it is quiet. People on vans are currently everywhere.
You wrote a cookbook called "Travel Kukbuk". How did it happen? Do you have any behind story?
There are more behind stories, haha. The idea of writing a book has been here for a long time. It was one of my life goals. I just never wanted to write about myself. My good friend is a great chef who works in Michelin-starred restaurants. I mentioned to him that I would like to write a book, but I don't know about what, and he said he got it the same. I actually have a van and a story with a bike and he can cook. So we put it together. We came up with it in a classic punk way and we made the decision in about 7 minutes. So we decided to take a few trips during the year to cook, eat, take pictures and see how it will go. Every time we got somewhere, we called all our friends from that locality to come to eat, because David can't cook just one portion for the photo we needed, he usually always made a huge pot full of food. It was quite fun when we decided to make pizza in a pan on the fire. I had to roll out the dough with a bottle of wine on the side of the car, but in the end it turned out perfectly. So in final we had a story and photos, so we decided to release it. And there were great responses to that. We sold a lot of books, and thanks to that, we had the chance to support charity, one non-profit organization, for which I was very happy. We both actually achieved our goal of writing a book, and thanks to that we were able to support someone who needs it. So that was great. But I definitely don't plan another book, haha.
This year you also became a fresh father. What is it like, are you enjoying it? Did it change your life in terms of biking?
It's perfect. I've wanted to have a baby for a long time. But being a professional athlete and having a family is always challenging to combine. As well as going to normal work and combine it. But I expected it to be a little easier, haha. Especially the first months are quite a mess, but I have a great girlfriend, so we can always manage it the way that I can spend enough time on the bike. And with the little one, it's getting more and more fun. I'm really looking forward to when we will be able to ride a bike together in a bike seat and engage him in active life. The fact that the baby was born has definitely changed my point of view, it is a commitment, but I certainly did not relinquish my training. But I still have in my head that I have to be careful to be here for the family. It's not just about me anymore.
As part of the collaboration with Horsefeathers, do you have any favorite pieces from the new spring collection that you love to ride in? And which ones do you like the most for example to the city or for walks with your son?
I really like fashion and clothes overall. I've always been known among bikers for spending more time in stores than girls, haha. I started attending races when I was about 16 years old and nobody really understood what I looked like because I had gelled hair, zircon earrings in my ears and white moccasins, haha. But despite those fashion fads, I fortunately earn some respect with my performances and results.
In terms of the new HF spring collection, I had to regulate myself, because I liked a lot of things there. But if I had to choose, it would definitely be blue Tie Dye T-shirts. These are perfect. I wear them often on a bicycle, but also normally to the city. Furthermore, through this weather, there are great new spring HF jackets, in which I am not cold in the morning and then not so warm during the day. I really enjoy them. The designs are great. There are significant things that strike at first sight, but also things that are decent. And I am already looking forward to a few new products that will be added to the collection, because they will be best combined with my active life. These will be technical stuff that I have only had the opportunity to try so far, but I'm already looking forward to riding a bike in them. Horsefeathers also pleasantly surprised me with how it handles recycling, recycled packaging and a bunch of other things that need to be considered at this time. I am glad that I can cooperate with the HF brand and spread awareness about it in the cycling world as well.
In the end, do you have something you would like to refer?
Definitely to all athletes: do it because you enjoy it. I often get messages with how to get sponsorship, how to get to big competitions. Everyone is trying to get, for me, to the last phase of the sport. I never had it the way, that I would ride to get a new sponsor who would give me something for free. That usually doesn't even work like that. Competition and career advancement is a very fleeting thing, whether it is due to age, injury, circumstances. So you really need to just enjoy it for yourself. One should do it for pleasure, do everything with forethought, not underestimate anything, wear protectors and a helmet, pay attention to safety and do not ride alone. And especially to think positively, everything will return to normal. The sun is finally out, so let's all go outside and enjoy it!
Follow Tomáš on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/tomaszejda/