Service at A7 Cycles

A new bike shop focusing primarily on service opened in Whitefish to address the high demand for bike maintenance in the Flathead Valley

By Maggie Dresser
Founder and co-owner Travis Coleman and co-owner Lynn Foster at A7 Cycles bicycle and e-bike repair shop in Whitefish on Aug. 25, 2021. Hunter D’Antuono | Flathead Beacon

About three years ago, former engineer Travis Coleman worked at Glacier Cyclery and Nordic for a summer where he noticed the staff couldn’t keep up with the demand for bike maintenance and services.

“It was crazy busy,” Coleman said. “Last year during the pandemic I was seeing that there was a bike shortage and everybody was riding and the shops were backed up for two months, it was crazy.”

Since Coleman was already working on side bicycle projects for friends, he decided to start his own service shop out of his home focusing on maintenance and repairs and A7 Cycles was born in April 2020, named after the Alpine Trail #7 ridgeline trail stretching from Columbia Mountain down the Swan Range.

In November 2020, Coleman transitioned the business from his property and now he’s renting a space off of U.S. Highway 93 just south of Whitefish.

As Coleman began to get stretched thin with work, he brought on his friend Lynn Foster, who he coaches with at the National Interscholastic Cycling Association (NICA), a youth mountain bike team with a local chapter in the Flathead.

Ready for a change, Foster left her job in Columbia Falls to work with Coleman, where she handles the business side of A7, like website building and marketing, while also working on mechanics, learning much of the trade from Coleman.

Coleman and Foster thought about expanding the business into retail, but they decided to keep things simple and focus on service ranging from flat tire repair to full tune-ups to bike flights, where customers send bike parts to the shop to be assembled.

“You can’t buy service on the internet,” Coleman said. “The service is really where the need was and we were seeing shops backed up and our summers are so short. It seems kind of silly to be waiting for your bike for six weeks when you only have 12 or 18 weeks in the summer.”

Supply chain disruptions also influenced Coleman and Foster’s decision to not go into retail since there wasn’t much inventory available to sell. A lack of bike parts, however, has still managed to impact the maintenance side.

“A big challenge this year was parts,” Coleman said. “We had to get creative to try and find stuff at times to complete repairs. It’s actually amazing how much time we wasted trying to find parts where in a normal time it would be a three-minute task.”

To address the parts shortage, they stockpiled inventory when it became available, like spending $2,000 on one purchase of chains alone.

Coleman is also certified to work on Bosch motors, a common brand used for e-bikes that are gaining popularity. Other companies like Shimano and Yamaha are also expanding into the e-bike parts realm.

Unbranded e-bike parts hailing from China also find their way into the A7 shop, which is where Coleman’s engineering background comes in handy to diagnose problems and figure out how to solve them.

This winter, Coleman and Foster will keep busy working on fat bikes while also working on Glacier Outfitter’s fleet of bicycles and preparing them for next season along with offering ski tuning services.

Since Coleman and Foster originally worked together coaching, there are tentative plans in the works to offer mountain bike clinics through A7 in the future.

Entering the cycling community later in life, Foster started mountain biking at age 41 and she’s been heavily involved ever since, coaching for the past three years, becoming the Flathead Cuttie’s team director for Montana Interscholastic Cycling League and now regularly riding the rugged Alpine Trail #7.

While Foster has lived in the Flathead for the past few decades, Coleman relocated here in 2017 partially because of his attraction to the backcountry trails like the Alpine 7.

“Alpine 7 is one of my favorite trail systems and I named the shop after that,” Coleman said. “The access is really difficult, it’s stunning when you get up the ridgeline … The fact that you have to work to get there and it’s a big time commitment and it takes energy to make it happen, it’s special.”

“It’s rugged,” Foster added. “You feel like you’ve done something at the end of it.”

A7 Cycles is located at 120 Meadows Road in Whitefish.

For more information, visit www.a7cycles.com.

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