Monday, March 31, 2014

all4cycling Pit Stop Vending Machine

As a cyclist, having to walk your bike home after a mechanical problem for which you are ill-equipped to deal with is an incredibly humbling experience. And being humble is not a strong-point for many of us (you).

Finding yourself stranded without a tube, pump or tool, after the local bike shop has closed and in some unsettling and dangerous location can be very unpleasant. Thankfully though, those days are now over thanks to the innovative all4cycling Pit Stop vending machines which are popping up in a number of different locations around Melbourne.

According to their website, the Pit Stop vending machines are located at Southern Cross Station, Melbourne Central, Masters Home Improvement in Hawthorn East and Café Racer in St Kilda. At the time of going to print (or screen? ), the machine at Southern Cross Station seems to have been removed and after equiring at the station’s Information Desk, I was informed that “We used to have one but it didn’t make any money so it got taken away.”

I can’t confirm the presence of the Masters Home Improvement machine in Hawthorn East either as I am unfortunately unable to enter a “discount home improvement warehouse super-centre” without being immediately overcome by nausea and dizziness that is caused, my doctor tells me, by “mighty helpful” customer service,  “best price guarantees” and “lowest prices (that) are just the beginning”.

I am also unable to confirm the machine at Café Racer in St Kilda, as I had to stop going there after learning (in October 2012) that it is no longer “…the hub of everything to do with cycling in Melbourne…”.
Apparently this ruling has recently been overturned, but unfortunately I have not had an opportunity to stop by, mostly due to it being on the wrong side of two rivers from my home – if you live in Melbourne, you know how adverse Melbournians are to crossing rivers.

What I can confirm, and what you can take comfort in knowing, is that the machine at Melbourne Central does indeed exist and is dispensing practical bicycle spares for cyclists who arrive deflated, unstuck, unglued, derailed or unprepared in close proximity of this shopping centre in Melbourne’s CBD.

Melbourne Central is famous for its Shot Tower enclosed by a distinctive glass cone, a giant marionette fob watch that opens up every hour for the (mild) amusement of shoppers in the main atrium and the Parent’s Retreat, which looks like some sort of colourful jail for small children.
It is also home to “The Little Library”, which displays how Melbourne Central is “…committed to supporting the community around them”. It’s mission is “…to promote literacy and the love of reading by offering a free book exchange.” Lofty goals indeed.
The shopping centre itself is a bit of a rabbit warren with entrances on all 4 streets in the block that it takes up, but you can find the all4cycling Pit Stop vending machine in the alleyway off Swanston Street, just north of Little Lonsdale – the one with the fake street art, just past Lord of the Fries and Boost Juice.
The machine contains a range of seemingly quite good value cycling items ranging from rain jackets, to tools, to spare tubes…to jewellery. I’m not exactly sure what would compel someone to purchase a bicycle-themed “crystal” necklace from a vending machine, but I try not to judge, after all, this machine is "bringing cycling to life" as its tagline proudly boasts.

There are 45 individual items in the Pit Stop vending machine and purchasing them all was not a simple matter.

It took quite some time, a lot of button pushing and a great deal of rummaging around for spare change in order to finalise each of the 45 transactions required. But once I got started there was no turning back, even when faced with an increasingly irate line of disgruntled and impatient all4cycling Pit Stop customers.
The reviews presented here over the next few weeks will include a comprehensive evaluation of the quality, value-for-money and performance aspects of every single item.

Part 1

Lezyne Sport Drive HP Pump - $20
Lezyne make great quality accessories and this pump is no exception. It has a thread-on hose that allows for a secure connection with your tube valve and can easily inflate your road or MTB tyre to an acceptable pressure in order to get you home safely.

This pump is very reasonably priced at $20. Obviously, you could purchase it online a bit cheaper, but you’d have to wait at least a day or two for it to arrive – which is not going to help you get home in time for Everybody Loves Raymond. That said, even if you do purchase this pump immediately, you probably still won’t get home in time if you need to inflate these.

A lot of vigorous pumping would be required to inflate all these tyres.

all4cycling Rain Jacket - $12
Unfortunately no inclement weather materialised during the testing period for this jacket. However, I can confirm that, at least from the inside, this jacket is most certainly water proof. I was sweating up a storm and got to the end of each ride (even very short ones) with a very sticky back.

Sizing on the jacket is of the “one size fits most” variety and given that there is no change room available for the vending machine products, I’m not exactly sure what the return policy is on this garment if it happens not to fit.
It packs away in to a very compact zip-lock pouch, or more accurately, it comes out of the machine in a very compact zip-lock pouch. Initial testing suggests that a degree in Polyethylene Origami would be required to ever get it back in there.
At $12 it seems like very good value when compared with something like the Rapha City Rain Jacket ($325), but not that great value when compared with a garbage bag (that costs about $0.09 in a bulk purchase), and which would deliver most of the same functionality (once you tear a few holes in it).
The all4cycling Rain Jacket sits somewhere in between the Rapha City Jacket and the Garbage Bag in terms of both price and smugness.

all4cycling Hi-Visibility Cycling Vest - $20
While seemingly on the expensive side, at least when compared with the $12 rain jacket, you can’t really put a price on good visibility. A quality hi-vis vest like this might save your life one day although it may also cause people to mistake you for a security guard and can make you uncomfortably noticeable at No Lights No Lycra.

This sort of behaviour does not go down well at No Lights No Lycra.

Compared with some other vests that are available inside Melbourne Central, it was both cheaper and more visible, especially when set amongst a backdrop of vibrant plaid.
The all4cycling Hi-Visibility Cycling Vest certainly stands out.

Vital ID Emergency Helmet & Wallet I.D. System - $15
This is another great safety accessory for any cyclists‘ inventory. What it does is provide a simple and effective way of identifying you in the event of an accident. So, rather than having to get your next of kin down to the morgue to confirm the identity of the mess of tangled body parts recently scraped off the road, the Vital ID allows your remains to be easily identified without all the emotional torment.
Sure, you might not have left them anything in your will, but $15 spent on the Vital ID Emergency Helmet & Wallet System means that your frustrated next of kin won't have to see your smug face any more than necessary.

Over the next few weeks I will be reviewing each and every product available from the Pit Stop vending machine. At the end of the review series, the items will be sold in a charity auction to raise money for The Private Cyclist operations budget, which has been put under some serious pressure for this series of articles.

These auctions will also provide a good indication of the resale value of the items on review.

Hopefully you find these reviews unbiased and informative and perhaps one day, the Pit Stop vending machine might come to your rescue if you suddenly find yourself stranded in the heart of Melbourne’s retail shopping precinct in need of a bicycle spare.


  1. I stumbled across your blog in search for an image of cycling vending machines. I designed the all4cycling logo and vending machines. It was a fun process - but it's even better seeing them in blogs! Funny stuff in this one.. good work


    1. Thanks for the kind words Mark. Let's hope, for both of our sakes, that the all4cycling vending machines don't become extinct!