Do you believe in bike-love at first sight? I do! Please, postpone your judgement. At least until you lay eyes on a mika amaro urban bike. The way in which the shiny details come together… these bikes have looks that could kill. In fact, when I first stumbled upon a mika amaro my heart skipped a beat; knowing I would be lusting over someday owning an urban bike with such fine qualities, I had to introduce myself and learn more. Well, after getting to know more about the brand, I’m more inspired than ever to invest in a true user-designed urban bike. But now it’s your turn to lust. With curiosity in one hand and hope in the other (hope that these bikes truly were every bit as impressive as they looked on the screen), I discussed the brand, company, and finished product with mika amaro co-founder and owner, Michael Nagler. Enjoy!
- To get acquainted with your perspective on owning a bike company, why did you start mika amaro? Or, what made you want to start the company?
In 2009, we, (Alex and Michael) founded mika amaro in Cologne. It was our goal to build beautiful, high-quality urban bikes with innovative solutions that would reflect our passion for cycling.
“For us, cycling means living.”
No other form of transportation allows us to be in such close contact with our environment: The wind in our face is a reminder of what it means to battle the elements; speed bound by our own physical capability intoxicates us and revives our pulse with the activation of every muscle. Furthermore, since we discover our cities and meet new people using the bike, it was only natural that we combine all of this purpose and passion into a business. After all, there’s sure to be a new encounter at the next traffic light.
I also strongly believe that the bicycle is the best means of transportation for daily life, especially for people who commute no more than 15 km to work. It keeps you healthy, contributes to reducing exhaust emissions, and is far more enjoyable than sitting in traffic. But most importantly, riding a bike is fun! And riding a well-designed, high quality bike is even more fun.
In other words, we find beauty elaborate details. And the ease of cycling is reflected in the design of our bikes. Of course, the design can’t lead to compromises with the materials — the use of high-quality materials is the prerequisite for enjoying longer rides. Not to mention, it’s more fun to glide through the city on a beautiful bike.
2. What advice can you provide to others with a vision for designing urban bikes? Can you share the biggest challenges you encountered?
Most importantly, passion and fun for designing and building bikes shouldn’t be taken for granted. We believe — and know — that our joy for cycling is reflected in our finished products.
“If you want to build something (it doesn’t matter what), you have to love what you do and build according to your own values.”
Building something only to earn money will never lead to great product. Always go for Passion!
Challenges: Bringing ideas to life… it’s tough! Unfortunately, tooling and prototyping is very expensive. It is very important to consider that not all ideas can be released in a first product (due to limited resources).
3. For current or future bike enthusiasts discovering your bike designs for the first time, what is a mika amaro bike? How would you summarize your bikes for someone who is interested in purchasing?
We are building well-designed, high quality urban bikes. All bikes are 100% handcrafted and tested down to the smallest detail before every delivery. As a German manufacturer, quality is our top priority.
We know that high-quality components and materials are crucial to creating a pleasurable riding experience; making exclusive use of components and materials that we would invest in for personal bikes is the mindset we live by for every mika amaro. The integration of Gates Carbon Drive is a great example.. A Gates Carbon Drive is maintenance-free, quiet, and has life-span of approx. 15.000-20.000 km. It’s ideal for the urban rider.
Furthermore mika amaro bike collections are strictly limited.
“We produce only 111 bikes per model. Each customer receives their own numbered edition.”
4. What influenced you to start mika amaro? Similarly, is there a specific mission you’ve attached to the company?
Coming from a big city (Cologne), we wanted to create a bicycle for everyday urban use. But we didn’t want to build a heavy, ugly city bike. Our goal was — and still is — to create urban bikes that are fast, light, and well-designed. Simply stated, we wanted to create a bike that delights the rider upon first sight — and never stops.
5. For your readers here in the states, can you tell us what the bike culture is like in Cologne? Are bikes a mainstay of daily life? How do they influence your current transportation habits and workspace?
Especially in German cities, people use their bikes frequently (going to office; for shopping; meeting friends in the city, etc.). Bicycles are part of life in german cities (from young to old, poor to rich — everybody has a bicycle, and they use it!).
However, the bicycle infrastructure could be better in Cologne. Bike lanes are rare or in bad conditions, so riders have to be comfortable on the road. Fortunately, drivers are used to cyclists on the road and respect their presence (most of the time). Slowly, German officials are accepting that bicycles can solve many traffic issues and are developing infrastructure for inclusion.
6. Not often seen from a bicycle builder, mika amaro is committed to sustainable practices. Can you explain how you accomplish this, and how you incorporate recycling into the process?
The most important factor is to assemble only high quality components that last. With premium materials, components don’t break as often, allowing riders to focus on having fun rather than servicing their bikes.
Our frames are made of very light steel (same weight of Aluminum frames but more robust for a longer life span). The production of our steel frames is energy efficient and ecological (in contrast to carbon and aluminum frame production). They only need a fraction of the energy required to build aluminum or carbon frames and much less chemicals are needed.
Polluting lubricants are not needed due to the use of the Gates Carbon (maintenance-free) Drive, the encapsulated gear hub and sealed industrial ball bearings. As a manufacturer, we care!
7. Does your firsthand knowledge of bicycle production, especially for user-centric urban bikes, alter your perspective on the mass market? Or, how has your experience so far changed your perspective?
We discovered that our biggest achievement is, if our customers are happy and convinced they have the best bike for them. This proves that we are doing the right thing, adding to the cycling experience. We also believe that we couldn’t accomplish our goals with a mass-market product. And to be honest, we don’t have interest in producing generic bikes.
8. Lastly, what is your vision for mika amaro? If all goes as planned, what’s the ultimate goal?
“Our goal is to build bikes that make people happy.”
This will remain our goal for the future. We want to integrate more functions into our urban bikes, like intelligent lighting systems. But if we integrate new solutions in our bikes, we are aiming to do it with a user-centric approach. New functions should never lead to usage restrictions or compromises in design. We strongly believe our ultimate goal is always to build a bicycle that provides joy for our customers. And, only bikes that function in all-weather conditions can become true daily companions.
Feeling inspired? Though so. With bike envy in full effect, it’s time to choose your mika amaro dream bike.