Local cycling enthusiasts are encouraged by signs that Billings is becoming a more bicycle-friendly community.
Miles of bike trails have been added to the city’s infrastructure in recent years. And, the Magic City now has a bicycle repair business that makes house calls. It’s the type of business that one would expect in Portland, Ore., Boulder and other more established bike-friendly communities.
Don Cole launched his business, Out of Category Bikes, last year. He started his career as a bike mechanic more than 15 years ago, when he went to work at the Spoke Shop at age 16.
Cole’s extensive background in cycling even includes what many consider the ultimate accomplishment of a bike mechanic: frame building.
Cole continued to help cyclists keep their pedals turning after leaving the Spoke Shop. But instead of a brick-and-mortar storefront, he takes his services directly to the clients. He markets the service by word of mouth, through his Facebook page, or by phone, 406-861-1263.
Here, Cole talks about a unique service in the Billings bike industry.
Where does the name come from?
It’s based on the official climbing scales used in races like the Tour de France. For any climb to be rated it must be at least 500 meters long with an average grade of 3 percent or more. Climb scores are based on distance and elevation changes. Out of category climbs (Hors Categorie in French) are the toughest to climb and beyond categorization.
Do you do all repairs at your customers’ homes?
A lot of times I’ll pick up their bike and take it back to my place, then we pick a time for me to get it back to them, usually in one or two days.
Are you a self-taught mechanic or did you attend any schools for bike mechanics?
I was mostly self-taught before I started working at The Spoke Shop, where I worked for 15 years. I also attended a few workshops by companies like Specialized and Park Tools.
Who are your core customers?
Most of them are pretty into biking and they own more than one bike.
What kinds of repairs do you do most frequently?
Flat tires and broken spokes are probably the most frequent problems, followed by derailleur adjustments and general tuneups.
How many miles do you ride in a year?
I ride about 5,000 to 6,000 miles per year on the road bike, and about 1,000 miles on the mountain bike. I ride the trainer a lot in the winter.
Many people get excited about biking but give it up quickly and their bikes end up hanging in the garage gathering dust. Have you run into any rare or unusual bikes during your travels?
Sometimes I’ll run across a tandem, and some people still have some old road bikes with sew-up tires, but nothing too unusual.