My name is Aimar Fraga Angoitia, I was born in Bilbao (Spain) in 1976. Can't remember much of childhood, just long summers on the countryside with grandparents in an isolated house at the mountains, riding a small bike around the house all morning long and some time on the land during afternoons.
Years went by just going to school, studying music/violin, playing soccer, skateboarding... till the 90's arrived with all the MTB craze, ending up with a white K2 MTB. That's probably the beginning of my conscious cycling life. First came simple weekend rides with friends, then some popular races and that was it, a number placed on my jersey and it was point of no return. By this time, in Spain any serious competitive cyclist should be on the road, so jump into a road bike and got fatally hooked by the road racing rituals.
Some time later I ended up violin professor studies and had to decide on university, which finally happened to be computer engineering. University time was time for Sub-23 racing, which meant a loop of morning training and afternoon classes, together with suffering and pain weekends where chasing the group was almost a state of mind. Even if those crazy days where cool as you were racing close to such people as Freire, Mayo, Möller, Etxebarria, etc, it was like getting invited to a VIP room where you're not allowed to talk, so after four years on the sub-23/Elite VIP room, I had enough of going nowhere and hanged the bike not even wanting to see it again any time soon. Training/Racing gone, there's a huge void and many hours to fill‚ so apart from university I worked at my father's die-manufacturing factory where I helped out drawing plans, tolerance measuring, etc. During this time I was also very keen into motorcycles and classic/sport cars, having the chance to have some nice ones to learn that owning something usually does feel incredibly weak and meaningless comparing with the "dreaming about it" process. The poison of possession...
Anyway, computer engineer studies finished I extended another year with a virtual reality master degree, together with the work at my father's place.
Once all computer related studies finished, I just had clear I didn't want to work with them. I was more attracted to the conceptual questions involved on the language process systems, Turing's universal machine, or any of the other "machine which understands itself" questions, rather than the actual reality of databases or "consultancy" jobs where to inflate nothingness into a graphic presentation for big companies.
I finally managed to work at Iberia's "Foreign airport's quality service department", which basically involved two big deals:
-Moving to Madrid and emancipate
-Traveling as much as ever wanted, both due to work and free flight tickets.
By this time, I got back to cycling in some different ways, like gravity bikes or commuting.
During the Madrid years, I got to know many people and many places, which completely redefined my perspectives on things and life, and sent up in a "less is more" mind to an obsessive way, even tried experiments as how small can you make your belongings, to a total of 50. But after any peak, you reach a balance. Why am I going through all this boring thing? because pretty much it's the first seed on what Amaro is now: I had an old MTB which I used to commute, and dreamed of a similar look to the gravity bike I used before, influenced by John Tomac's MTB road bar subconscious image, and resulted as a fixed gear fat slicked mutant I called "Supermotard". I never thought of fixed gear bikes before, but I liked the idea of no cables or any unnecessary thing on the bike. It attracted some attention from magazines and many random people, so I begun to think about making some of those transformations for others, just for the fun of it, not as a business. But this new seed was already growing inside and wanting to improve the supermotard design, but I didn't know how to build bikes.
Oh boy, now this is going to get really controversial!
Yes‚ I found a Chinese factory! :o
Anyway, this factory built in titanium any design you wanted for a good price, and I begun doing some tests and see what happens. I was enjoying this process, so after a while I offered this "service" to anyone who would like to have a frame made to measure, but without charging for it, just to enjoy designing while they payed the manufacturing. Obviously, almost no one came around ;)
By this time, I went to an Italian friend's family house, close to Bari, to enjoy eastern holidays in pure Italian style. They were not able to say my name, so I was renamed as "Amaro". Then, after an infinite meal and at Limoncino time, the bicycle designing idea was on the table and talking about how could it be and what would be a good name for the bikes, and the father said an impossible to avoid "Gina Lollobrigida". That was it, utterly perfection. The "supermotard" bike had her name.
Parallel to this, too much traveling with the free flights fried my brain and couldn't cope with the idea of seeing life passing by seated in an office, so I quid and applied for an English over-landing company (Dragoman). After 3 months training at their place on truck mechanics during, customer service and trouble solving situations, I was sent to South America for 18 months, driving an all terrain truck full of passengers looking for "adventure", ending up with 4 full SA loops. Hard job, but so many inputs that you'll never be the same: put the "less is more" background together with living 18 months with all your belongings in a backpack, sleeping in a 70's truck cabin, knowing how people live with even less than that in crazy places at 5000m altitude, etc, and the resulting cocktail is multidimensional.
During this over-landing period, I suddenly begun to receive emails about the bike designing. I even did some frame designs while on the road having them shipped directly from the Chinese factory, crazy world, so once back "home" after the 18 month contract, I went seriously on the Amaro thing and see what happens. This time was about designing bikes, sponsoring some road riders (even Continental Pro), going to Chinese factories, doing some "stupid" things as racing through the desert with the fixed gear brake-less "supermotard", etc. This time ended up with 73 bikes and many lessons on customer service, wrong designs, running a business on your own, etc. But it was also dreadful as never got real control of the manufacturing process, any mistake was all up to you and more than nothing I was not feeling right about all it, first of all because I had total dependency on the factory, and I was not comfortable with this way of doing things, with such surrealistic situation as having to order something to the other end of the world to do something which is supposed to be "artisanal", and realized I was actually helping the global craziness where nothing cares anymore as soon as you can "think" something which someone, somewhere, will do it for any price, like a "closed box", a "blind" decision, no matter conditions or future consequences, creating "Thinking countries" vs "manufacturing countries". So I ended up in a "that's enough" point and decided to stop accepting orders and try to be honest with myself.
I tried to learn as much as I could (books, videos, WWW), do TIG homologation courses and got somehow the general basics. Then I spend 1 year's weekends with a former framebuilder of my town, who taught me the real thing. But there's nothing else than practice and practice, so most of those 2 years were cutting/mitering tubes, welding and trying to understand the materials. One of my main objectives was to keep all as small and handmade as possible, for example no hole saws for mitering. This meant much more time consumed and lots of things to learn, but I'm convinced of it being the right way for me and also helped out to keep investment low. Then first prototypes were made for me and some friends, and tested so to find failures, reliability, etc. After those two years, I "opened" doors again to accept orders. Many people still thought I was doing titanium or subcontracting in China, and some questioned why keep the same name "Amaro" as could get customers into doubts, but I thought what Amaro is today comes defined by what it was before and even if they're so different, they're like the person behind, no today's Aimar would exist without all the previous Aimars.
TODAY, I build TIG welded steel bikes, trying to mount them as complete as possible so to create a coherent and consistent bike, and whenever is possible using components produced as local as possible or somehow related with the artisanal or in-house perspective. I do also like to receive order applications hand written by postal service, as I do not only think is a good way of making sure people take a quality time to think what they want, but also like the feeling of the written paper and "real" physical world away from "share" or "like" new culture where it's too cheap or easy to "say" things without a true meaning on it. I'm finally happy with the way I'm doing all this and feel coherent with myself, still a huge ton left to learn (this week ending up the 57th) but really looking forward to the future as each bike I made is the best lesson learned and every new one is the rewarding pleasure of facing your own skills to improve your previous best. I do sometimes have mirror self-questions about all the superfluousness of all this "special" bicycles thing, but I guess it's a personal endless and continuous confrontation with the absolute zero.
Hopes for future? Exactly so, being able to be in that future.
Meanwhile, here is this Smoked Out section, open for any questions, criticisms, or whatever you would like to say.
My pleasure if I can just give back a half of what I've received from Vsalonistas.