Matt Hoyne first tackled bicycle repairs in fifth grade, waging a clandestine quest to escape parental ire.
At the time, Jim Hoyne, a contractor, and Cathy Hoyne, a nurse, owned mountain bikes. The family lived near a popular mountain-biking spot in Phoenix, Arizona. Matt sometimes sneaked off with one of his parents’ bikes for a ride. And if something broke?
“I learned how to do a lot of things then by trial and error,” Matt Hoyne said.
Today, Hoyne, 36, owns Flathead Bike Fix, a mobile bike-repair shop he operates out of a 2018 Dodge Ram van he bought used in Las Vegas.
The van is the company’s primary overhead. There’s no brick-and-mortar lease or mortgage. There’s no inventory of pricey new bikes to hawk. He completes some repair work in his garage but 80 percent of his business is mobile.
Customer Derek Milner, 48, is an avid cyclist in Kalispell and an enthusiastic fan of Hoyne’s work and his mobile approach.
“He’s bailed me out of many last-minute mechanical crises, like before races and such,” Milner said. “Matt’s been able to work on anything, regardless of the type of bike or its age.”
Meanwhile, Hoyne just might have one of the most eclectic backgrounds among Flathead Valley bike mechanics.
After college, he enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps and served five years. He spent most of his tour at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina, but also deployed to the city of Ramadi in central Iraq.
“It was nerve-wracking at times,” Hoyne said.
He left the Marine Corps as a captain and then returned to school, receiving a law degree from what was then the Phoenix School of Law.
Through all these twists and turns Hoyne worked on bicycles.
“I started taking it more seriously when I was in the Marine Corps and no one around Camp Lejeune knew how to fix bikes,” he said.
During law school, his labor as a bike-shop mechanic helped pay the bills. The pursuit began to feel more like a profession than a side job, Hoyne said.
“I found it was a lot more fun to do this, especially on your own, than to be an attorney,” he said, smiling.
Hoyne did not strike out on his own until February of this year.
Four years ago, he and his wife, Marisa, a graduate of Flathead High School, moved from Phoenix to Kalispell. Winter was nigh. Hoyne discovered that regional bike shops weren’t inclined to add workers at that time of year.
Eventually, he landed a job at Wheaton’s, a bike shop with 100 years of history in downtown Kalispell. He worked three summers for Wheaton’s.
“I am grateful for the opportunity they gave me to learn and develop my mechanical aptitude,” Hoyne said.
Initially, he envisioned a part-time specialty focused on working at home on bicycle suspension, overhauling shocks on mountain bikes.
But then Hoyne decided to embrace the mobile-repair approach.
“It’s beginning to become pretty popular in cities where there is a big bike culture,” he said. “You can really add a lot of value to what you’re offering customers by coming to them.”
On the plus side, Hoyne is his own boss and has the flexibility to spend time during the week with his and Marisa’s two daughters, ages 4 and 2.
“Being in charge of your own schedule, that’s huge,” he said.
Hoyne said he is better able to ensure a quick turnaround on bike repairs.
“I can be a lot more responsive to individual customers,” he said.
Milner said the convenience of Hoyne’s mobile service allows him to spend more time riding and less time fretting about transporting one of his family’s eight bicycles to and from a conventional shop.
“It’s really easy and mellow, and I like that,” he said. “I thought there might be a premium you’d pay for the convenience factor, but I haven’t noticed that.”
Hoyne said his “showing up” fee is $35. If all a customer needs is a flat repair, Hoyne said he will also inspect the bicycle and make minor adjustments, as needed, to cover the full $35.
Otherwise, his “standard pricing is the same as it is at any bike shop.”
And the down sides of working as a mobile bicycle repairman?
Hoyne said he does not have the same at-the-ready support from dealers and brands that sell bikes to bike shops. And there isn’t the sort of camaraderie and collegial consultation one can experience in a shop.
“When you’re in the back of a shop with three mechanics, that’s a lot of knowledge to share,” he said.
Hoyne anticipates his work will drop off as winter approaches. He plans to offer repair clinics, classes and sales of accessories to help support Flathead Bike Fix until spring. And as Christmas approaches there might be a few frantic parents confronted with assembling a bike in a box.
Milner said he is glad Hoyne’s business provides the region’s cycling aficionados with new repair options.
“It’s been a great addition to the community,” he said.
Reporter Duncan Adams may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 758-4407.