A Labor of Love


A Labor


As told by Santiago Ares

Santiago Ares at his workshop. 

Images by Nathaniel Harrington

I was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, in the late 1960s. Since I was young, I’ve always been attracted to machines and motors. When I started riding bicycles, I would spend afternoons taking them apart, chopping parts and changing things.

Honda Trail 70

My mom would come to the garage and say, “Santiago, what happened to your new bike? We just got that for you!”

One summer, I got into trouble at school and as punishment, my mom sent me to work the summer at my uncle’s garage business.
It was probably one of the best summers of my life. I was 13 and I got to drive cars around, take engines apart, hang out with the regulars, eat delicious, greasy barbecue for lunch, and listen to all kinds of stories.

After that, I bought my first motorcycle, a 1979 Honda XL75. I rode that until there was nothing left of it, then bought a dirt bike, which I rode whenever I had a chance, and also did some racing.

When I was in my 20s, I moved to Los Angeles and lost interest in bikes for some reason. I started working in advertising, got busy, and moved with my wife, Naomi, to South America. After 5 years, we moved to Vero Beach, looking for a place to raise our son, Joaquin.

For nearly 15 years I was uninterested in bikes, until I found a bike that I used to have in the 1980s on Ebay. I bought it with the idea to restore it. I really enjoy doing that, so I bought more tools, set up a shop, and started buying more bikes.

One day, I sent a photo of a bike that I was working on to my good friend, Eduardo, in Buenos Aires. He asked me to restore one for him. When I shipped that bike, a friend of Eduardo’s asked me to restore another one, and another. While I was working on bikes, I created a website (32toOne.com) with a gallery of photos. Soon, I began to receive emails from all over the world, the U.K., Australia, New Zealand, France, Japan, Canada, Belgium, South Africa, and more. People like me (having a midlife crisis) were looking for bikes that they used to ride back in the day.

I have worked, built and shipped more than 60 bikes in the past five years. It’s been fun and I enjoy it, but it is a labor of love. Dealing with shipping, currency exchanges, bikes that have been sitting for years, it’s not for everybody. Every bike is an adventure; it’s like finding a treasure. Looking for bikes is fun. I’ll see a dark picture on Craigslist in the middle of the country of a bike covered. I contact the owner, send the money, and two months later, it arrives at my house. Most of the time, I’m lucky, sometimes I’m not.

I think it is very important to have a hobby in life and to learn how to x and build things. We have two hands for a reason. Handcraftsmanship is getting diluted by electronics and media, consuming a lot of time in our day.

Today, I spend most of my time working in the kitchen of my restaurant, La Tabla, here in Vero Beach. I also race vintage motocross races, and when I have time, camp in Ocala and ride the trails with friends. I try to work on a couple of bikes per year for friends and clients. 

Published in Portfolio-Vero Beach, Volume 6 Issue 2. 

Story by Santiago Ares

Photos by Nathaniel Harrington