A vending machine in Bushwick, via Ana Andjelic:
I think this is a great, great idea. But I suspect that for most cyclists, it doesn't actually eliminate a pain point - which presumably, in this case, is having a flat tire and not being able to fix it.
That's because access to supplies isn't really the issue with that pain point. For the vast majority of cyclists, the issue is not knowing how or not wanting to fix it yourself.
Take the issue of knowing which tube to buy. QBP (the most ubiquitous of all bicycle parts distributors, and the manufacturer of most of the tubes shown in this photo) sells literally dozens of SKUs of just inner tubes. Knowing which one to use requires a bit of knowledge, especially when you consider that many cyclists (a disproportionate number of whom probably live in Bushwick) are riding mostly obsolete tire sizes, e.g. 26x1-3/8" (an old Raleigh variant), which can easily be confused with incompatible alternatives (e.g. 26"x1.375").
But there are other possible issues here - being late for work and needing the service to be done as quickly as possible. Wearing clothing that isn't conducive to kneeling on the sidewalk. Maybe the issue isn't in the tube but in the tire itself - a blown sidewall, say.
Now, I'm *not* a booster of bike shops - I think that they provide pretty poor value to the vast majority of customers. But the way to fix that isn't through direct-to-consumer sales, whether online or via unmanned kiosks. Instead, we need a new way to provide customers with the information and service they need. We need to empower cyclists to choose between a variety of good options, for example:
- Affordable repair parts + clear & detailed education on how to perform basic services
- A basic way to store, access & understand information about your bike and its specs/requirements (e.g. tire size, brake pad style, etc)
- On-demand Uber-style repair service, anywhere/anytime
- The ability to lock your bike up wherever you are, and queue a mechanic to come by, unlock it, perform the service and drop the bike off at your home/work
Without a complete transformation of the way we think of bicycle repairs, I worry that services like the one in the photo will be wasting sidewalk space. I like the idea, but I need more execution to get behind it.
Also: Rim strips? Really? No regular consumer is buying those.