Just off the busy cycling routes of Hawthorne Boulevard and Ladd Circle in southeast Portland, modern-day cobbler Matt Menely and his staff at Mountain Soles are hard at work keeping cyclist’s expensive gear in tip-top shape.
At first glance, the shop may not seem like it has anything to do with bicycles. There are no bike stands, or even bike parts anywhere. Instead of pedal wrenches and truing stands, this shop works its magic with high-tech adhesives and sewing machines.
For cyclists in the know — like U.S. Cyclocross team member Erik Tonkin — the shop has become a life saver. Racers and commuters alike turn to Matt and his two trusty employees to help them repair everything from ripped spandex shorts to broken buckles on expensive Italian shoes; busted Burley trailer snaps and tears in panniers and messenger bags.
Back in 2002, Menely moved the shop from a garage in Sellwood to its current location on SE 12th. Most of the shop’s business comes from rock and mountain climbing gear, but Menely says they get about six pieces of bike gear in the shop every week,
“It’s really a year-round thing, when it starts raining in the fall, all the commuters need help with their jackets and rain gear, in the summer we get a lot of shorts from racers, and during cross season we’re especially busy with shoe repairs…cross racers are very hard on their shoes.”
Menely also has an expertise in orthopedic shoe alterations. Back in 2001, bike fit specialist and bio-mechanics expert Michael Sylvester asked if he could help with one of his clients. Sylvester had a client with unequal leg lengths and wondered if Menely could re-sole one of her shoes to balance out her pedal stroke.
Photo: Matt Menely
Now, Menely says he does about 12-18 orthopedic shoe alterations every year.
Menely’s business has picked up in recent months after he sent out a flyer to local shops. He also finds that many clothing manufacturer’s warranties don’t cover everything,
“A lot of people spend good money on a jacket or a jersey and are shocked when the manufacturer won’t replace it for them. They’ll come in here pretty mad and they’re happy to know we can help.”
With some chamois-lined, spandex shorts costing well over $200 bucks, more folks are opting to spend $10-12 bucks on an expert repair. You might try and do it yourself, but when the patch needs to go near your rear, you want it to be as smooth as possible.
As a dedicated bike commuter, employee Corey Cowles knows how important it is to be comfortable. During my visit, she demonstrated how she patches a pair of spandex shorts.
First, she measures the hole and cuts out a piece of spandex from a pair of shorts that looks like it belonged to Edward Scissorhands. Then, she takes the customer’s shorts and the patch to the sewing machine and sews them together with a nice, tight, “jump-stitch”. The result is a smoothly patched pair of shorts with a new lease on life.
When he’s not running the shop, Menely likes to go climbing with his wife Sarah and three year-old son Miles. A third-generation Portlander, he’s also active with bike issues in Milwaukie.
Next time your gear is in need of some TLC, stop by and let Mountain Soles get you back up and running.
- Mountain Soles
1623 SE 12th (1.5 blocks S. of Hawthorne)
11am-6pm Tuesday – Friday
*You can also drop-off your repairs at various REI stores and other retailers throughout Portland.
[For more photos of my visit, check out the Mountain Soles photo gallery.]