My name is Kyle Walter, I live in Perth, Western Australia and I’m 28 years old. According to mum and dad I’ve been riding bikes since I was 2 years old. I just got on my sisters bike, no training wheels, and took off around the garden. Legend has it the dents in the old hills hoist are still there.
From that moment on bikes have been a non-negotiable, ever-present part of my life. Bikes have brought me friends, travel, fitness, incredible experiences, memories and achievements. Even my wife and career are a by-product of being involved in bikes!
I think there are 2 major accomplishments that stand head and shoulders above everything else I’ve done so far: Racing the infamous Megavalanche race in the French Alps in 2013, and leaving behind an extremely comfortable corporate role to start a mobile bike servicing business (big change!) in 2017.
The Megavalanche is a mountain bike race held on Alpe d’Huez on the French/Swiss border. Starting at around 10,500 feet on the snow covered glacier of Pic Blanc, waves of riders set off in a mass start to descend approximately 7000 feet over 30km to the village at the foot of the mountain called Allemont. The course changes from ski runs, to rocky moonscape, to dusty singletrack, muddy grass and seemingly endless forest trails full of mud, roots, ruts and incredibly steep, difficult switchbacks. I competed in “The Mega” in 2013 with my long time MTB riding pal Brendan.
This was my first ever taste of real mountain trails. On the first day, I cooked my disc brakes just traversing a rocky access road across to a different chairlift. It was so far beyond anything I thought I could ride, I thought I’d made a huge mistake and that it was simply not possible for me ride, let alone ‘compete’ in the event. In the lead up to flying to France for the race, my ‘training’ (I laughed when I typed that) was nothing more than riding laps of a local 18km limestone loop after hours with a headlamp on, as well as the odd lap around the Kalamunda trails just to keep fit.
Fast forward 7 days of riding the mountain and a qualifying race, I’d made enormous progress and was comfortable riding the trails. From the snow, to the rocks, to the mud, dust, roots and switchbacks. The biggest problem was being able to physically hold on to the bars after 45-60 minutes of non-stop descending. The arm pump and pain in my hands was beyond ANYTHING I’d ever experienced, but I held it all together and rode a safe race to get down in 64 minutes for 65th place out of more than 1000 riders. I occasionally like to re-watch my footage from the race, specifically to see just how utterly cooked I was at the finish (legs shaking uncontrollably, I had to just sit down!)
The Megavalanche was a life-changing experience for me. I can’t wait to get back and put another 5+ years of bike handling and setup experience to good use!
My second big personal achievement to date is leaving behind an incredibly safe, comfortable co-founders role in an IT company to develop and launch a mobile bicycle servicing business I called ‘The Local Spokesman’.
At this point it’s important to understand that from the age of 10 I was stripping down my bikes and rebuilding them – then in my early teens going on to ask if I could work for free at a local bike shop where I learned how to build a bike out of the box, ready for sale. I worked in a number of bike shops from the age of 16-20, irritating bike shop owners with my unending stream of questions and suggestions to the point where half of them fired me, and the other half just stopped rostering me on. The inner workings of high-end bicycles became an obsession for me. I put myself through factory technician training with the major bike brands to learn how to properly service suspension, hydraulic brakes, electronic drivetrains and every other job that can be done on a bike.
I was married early in my 20’s and adult life brought with it responsibilities that bike shop wages didn’t really cover. I began my ‘real job’ in IT, and fixing bikes was just ‘a hobby’. My customer base consisted of my loyal followers who wanted me to be their mechanic after I’d quit (read: been fired) from every other bike shop in Perth. During the 6 years of building the IT business in the city, my hobby was growing out of control. I even extended the garage of a house I built to allow for my benches, tools and bike storage requirements! I had tools, skills, knowledge and resources that local shops just didn’t have. I was getting more and more phone calls from people who were so sick of being let down by a professional shop, they were willing to take a punt on some guy who lived in the far-flung northern suburbs, worked out of his garage, and had to frequently run inside to heat up baby bottles and change nappies – and they’ve been loyal customers ever since!
In late December 2016 I made up my mind that I needed to leave the city to pursue my dream of starting a mobile bicycle servicing business. I spent hundreds of hours making my plans whilst sitting on the train heading to and from the city. My love for bikes, working on them, improving them, and helping people get more out of their bikes than they even knew was possible just kept growing. There was no room in my head for anything else. One of the worst feelings in the world is knowing there is nothing left for you to learn in your current job, and that you don’t provide any real value to your customers. I was at that point in my ‘real job’, it was time to leave.
The rest is history I guess. I worked through to the end of April, and officially launched The Local Spokesman on May 1st, 2017. (Anyone who pays close enough attention to my logo will notice it says “since 2010” – an homage to the many long nights I worked in the garage of my first family home). Being a mobile bike mechanic has changed my life for the better in a dramatic way – to the point where it’s hard for me to talk about following my passion without sounding a bit too cliché’!
I’ve just very recently helped a regular customer set up his bike in preparation for the BC Bike Race over in Canada. Tyre choice, brake pad material and rotor size, bar height and grip/shifter/brake lever setup were all factors taken into account. It must have worked because he messaged me on the final day to let me know he’d completed the race, free from mechanicals and crashes, and that the tyres were the perfect choice. This kind of feedback brings me so much satisfaction and joy – to know that my dedication to being a better bike mechanic helped someone else have an awesome time on their bike!
That’s really it for me. Helping people get more enjoyment out of their bike. Helping people win races, beat their personal best, or just commute to work free from punctures and squeaky brakes! If I find time for a couple rides a week for myself, well, that’s just perfection.