Bikestock: A vending machine for broken-down NY cyclists

Cycling in New York can be tough enough, but breaking down there? Brooklyn-based Bikestock hopes 24-hour vending machines, plus local businesses, will add up to the right help for stranded bikers.

Anthony Domanico
CNET freelancer Anthony Domanico is passionate about all kinds of gadgets and apps. When not making words for the Internet, he can be found watching Star Wars or "Doctor Who" for like the zillionth time. His other car is a Tardis.
Anthony Domanico
3 min read
Biking in New York City: Not always the smoothest ride... Global Jet/Flickr

Riding a bike through the streets of New York can be a risky proposition. Cyclists have to dodge cars, pedestrians, and the occasional police horse as they make their way through the city. Even bikes with an impeccable tuneup record suffer flat tires, faulty chains, or other issues that can leave riders stranded in rain, snow -- or worse, hipster-saturated Brooklyn.

And as with cars, bike breakdowns tend to happen at the most inopportune moments, when repair shops are either closed or too far away to reasonably reach on foot.

Enter Bikestock, a 'round-the-clock bike repair solution for New York cyclists. Bikestock has placed a vending machine for bike parts; tools; locks; food (not pizza, spaghetti, or Cronuts, but healthy choices like Clif Bars and Vitamin Water); and other emergency supplies in Brooklyn's Bushwick neighborhood so stranded cyclists can get their bikes back up and running quickly. The machine takes cash, and ATM and credit cards.

The service plans to expand with additional locations in Brooklyn and Lower Manhattan over the next several months, aiming for six more units by the end of summer. Though Bikestock co-founder Matthew von Ohlen wouldn't give exact numbers, he told Crave that sales thus far have been modest at the company's flagship vending machine at 49 Bogart Street. He says he's optimistic they'll pick up as more locations come online.

Bikestock isn't the only service to offer 24/7 bike repair vending machines in Brooklyn; the borough has had them since 2010, as have other cities. Bikestock aims to set itself apart, however, by bringing local businesses into the mix.

In addition to the vending machines, Bikestock offers a $249 toolkit local businesses can purchase and make available to customers around the city. The toolkit contains chains, chain breakers, wrenches, multiple kinds of inner tubes, and folding tires, as well as patch kits and ponchos that can be sold for a modest price so businesses can achieve a positive return. Each toolkit has everything a biker needs to get back on the road quickly and safely in all weather conditions; window decals alert riders to toolkit-toting businesses.

von Ohlen noted that the toolkit targets businesses that provide bike deliveries and/or businesses that have a regular crowd of cyclists. To date, only one business on Brooklyn's Manhattan Avenue has purchased a toolkit -- the Calexico Greenpoint restaurant where von Ohlen works. von Ohlen noted that several other locations in Brooklyn have expressed interest in the product and said more toolkits should be available soon.

As a regular bike commuter, I'm no stranger to the occasional flat tire or broken chain, and services like Minneapolis' Bike Fixtation -- which runs two always-open vending machines along the popular Midtown Greenway bike trail -- have saved my ride on numerous occasions. These services have proliferated in major metropolitan areas over the last few years, and for the sake of my biking brothers and sisters in New York, I hope Bikestock's model won't come up flat.

Bumps on the biking road? Here's vending-machine help for New York cyclists. Bikestock