Monday, April 21, 2014

all4cycling Pit Stop Vending Machine - Part 2

Following Part 1 of this series, this week’s article profiles more of the products available in the all4Cycling Pit Stop bicycle vending machines, which have begun to appear in certain cycling hotspots around Melbourne (including Melbourne Central Shopping Centre and Café Racer in St Kilda). The vending machines provide a convenient and good value option for cyclists in need of a spare part, tool or cycling accessory.

Some may see this type of innovation as just another attack on local bike shops, who are already struggling to compete price-wise with tax-free overseas online shopping websites. But the fact is that local bike shops have business hours. And many customers are unable to get to a retail shop during these hours due to the huge amount of time already allocated to the key activities involved in being a cyclist:
  1. Editing GoPro videos of inconsiderate motorists flouting road laws.
  2. Uploading ride data to Strava.
  3. Drinking artisanal coffee.
  4. Sharing photos of artisanal coffee on social media.
It is important to carefully consider the use of certain hashtags as they can be easily misread.

You could argue that the Pit Stop vending machines, unconstrained by most of the expensive overheads and labour costs of an actual retail shop, might end up running local bike shops out of business completely. But can a vending machine really ever truly replace a good local bike shop? Surely a good bike shop is more than just a source of cycling spare parts? Isn’t it an integral member of the wider cycling community? Surely a good local bike shop supports riders, events and the culture of cycling in ways that a vending machine can never hope to despite, as claimed on that they are “…dedicated to improving the experience of all cyclists” and are bringing “…cycling to life by providing innovative and practical solutions to serve our growing cycling community.”

Surely a vending machine could never hope to offer the kind of support that an actual local bike shop can?

Well, actually, it can…

Melbourne’s Jo Hogan (professional cyclist) lists all4Cycling as a partner on her website,

And you can even purchase your very own copy of a photograph depicting Jo posing with the all4Cycling Pit Stop vending machine located at Melbourne’s recently-redeemed Café Racer, the “…hub of everything to do with cycling in Melbourne.”

This photo too, could be yours for the low, low price of only 15 cents!

Obviously, this is one piece of cycling memorabilia that I wasn’t willing to be without, however, after fiddling around on the Fotki website for the best part of an hour, I couldn’t work out how to actually pay for and order this photo, which means that, unfortunately for me, it won’t be gracing the mantlepiece of my pool room any time soon.

Jo currently rides for the Bigla Cycling Team in Europe whose title sponsor claims to be “…a strong brand from Switzerland.” Their website is unfortunately only available in French or German, but as far as I can gather they seem to be involved in the manufacture of solar panels, office furniture and designer hospital beds. Anyway, whatever they do, their commitment and support of cycling certainly sets them apart from all the other alternative energy/corporate interior/artisanal medical supplies manufacturers out there.

It is this type of important corporate support of professional cycling that is needed to continue growing the sport. And that is why all4Cycling still remains an important supporter and partner of Jo Hogan in her cycling ambitions. It is not clear exactly what form that support takes – I’m pretty sure that she’s not lugging one of those vending machines around Europe on the UCI Women’s World Cup circuit, but I could be wrong.

Anyway, the point is, that just because the all4Cycling Pit Stop vending machine is just a vending machine, doesn’t mean it can’t also be an important supporter of cycling and part of the “real” cycling community.

Perhaps you’ll find something useful in this machine that will get you out of a jam one day. Here is the second instalment in the review series.

Part 2

Zero Quick Head CO₂ Inflator by Genuine Innovations - $22
This is a handy product for inflating a flat tyre faster and with less effort than using a pump. The disposable canister comes pressurised with enough CO₂ gas to inflate the average bicycle tyre.

There is, however, a critical safety warning lacking on the Zero Quick Head Inflator and that is to make sure that you don’t get your CO₂ (carbon dioxide) canisters confused with your N₂O (nitrous oxide) canisters, which are predominantly used to produce whipped cream for cake decorating.

A secondary application of the (mostly) harmless nitrous oxide gas, also known as hippy crack or laughing gas, is that it can be inhaled and used as a recreational drug. While similar in appearance to CO₂ canisters, the N₂O canisters (also known as nangs, bulbs or whippets) must not be mixed up. You definitely won’t get the same euphoric sensations, auditive distortions or visual hallucinations by inhaling carbon dioxide…and you will also probably die.

Getting your CO₂ bulbs mixed up with your N₂O bulbs is very dangerous and could lead to death.

Nitrous oxide is most commonly known as the recreational drug of choice for most dentists (as it is readily available in their clinics) and also Demi Moore who ended up in hospital after a nitrous bender in 2012.

For anyone planning a solid nitrous binge, there are some great articles that provide detailed instructions on how to correctly (and safely) get on the nangs. This one explains everything from “Preparing thy stash” to recycling all those spent whipped-cream bulbs in the morning.

And if you’re looking for something a little more streamlined than a soda siphon to huff your bulbs through, then there are plenty of other options.

Rig up your own nitrous oxide inhaler or purchase an N₂O “Metal Cracker” available on Amazon.

If all4Cycling ever decides to branch out, then perhaps they could offer nitrous inhalers in place of the CO₂ inflators in vending machines strategically located at psychedelic trance parties. Although it’s unlikely that Jo Hogan, a.k.a. The Healthy Cyclist, would ever put her hand up to represent the brand at these types of events, there’s certainly already some crossover between cycling and the dance-party scene.

All4Cycling Combination Lock - $18
There’s nothing more frustrating than arriving at the Cinema Nova in Carlton on a Monday night only to realise that you’ve left your bike lock at home. This would usually mean either leaving your bike unattended for 2 hours at the mercy of Melbourne’s rather unsavoury university crowd or begging a stranger to let you lock your bike up to theirs – which is a tremendous exercise in trust for both parties.

Carlton is full of students, and students love riding bikes…almost as much as they love cheap movies on a Monday night.

But thanks to the handy combination lock available in the all4Cycling Pit Stop vending machine, you’ll never be faced with this stressful choice again. The lock features a 4-digit rotating combination mechanism, meaning that even if you forget the code, it shouldn’t take you too long to run through the 10,000 possible combinations in order to free your bike. And thankfully, with the combination lock, you aren’t limited to just 3 guesses like with those pesky ATM Machines*.

*Astute readers and Acronym Aficionados will have picked up on the tautological grammar fault, “ATM Machines.” This is caused by a rather severe case of RAS Syndrome (Redundant Acronym Syndrome Syndrome), a common symptom of late-onset ASD (Acronym Saturation Disorder), which can develop after prolonged exposure to TLAs (Three Letter Acronyms). By donating to the WADA Association (World Acronym Disorder Association Association), you can contribute to research that one day hopes to find a cure for this debilitating illness.

Why not donate some of the money you saved by shopping online to this worthy foundation?

Lezyne RAP 13 Multi Tool - $25
A good multi-tool is something that can turn a ride-ending mechanical problem into just a minor inconvenience. The RAP 13 from Lezyne is a high-quality product that, as the name cleverly implies, includes 13 separate tools. At only 149 grams, carrying a tool like this won’t significantly weigh you down, but it might help get you home if you suffer some unfortunate mechanical problem. The RAP 13 includes all the common hex keys, two torx bits, a Phillips-head screwdriver, spoke wrenches and a chain breaker.

Along with the combination lock described above, a tool like this can make a significant improvement to your bike security. It allows you to remove all the non-lockable components from your bike when parked in public, making it much less attractive to potential bike thieves. Once you’ve locked your bike to the rack, use the RAP 13 to remove your seatpost, stem, handlebars, gear & brake levers, pedals, brakes, derailleurs and chain. Unfortunately you probably won’t be able to get your cranks off without another specific tool that will vary depending on the brand and model.

Although this process will add a few minutes to your door-to-door commute time, it really is the only sure way to keep your valuable components secure.

For maximum security, remove all the valuable components from your bike when locking up in public.

Nite Ize HandleBand - $30
The HandleBand is a product that was invented and funded on Kickstarter – in the same manner as the sexy “Double O” light set featured a few weeks ago. It is a universal smartphone mount for the bicycle handlebar developed “…to help people use their technology to be more active.”

While this is a slightly contentious issue, it could easily be argued that a device that encourages people to use their smartphones while cycling is actually not a very clever or safe idea, particularly in light of recent incidents involving cyclists and texting car drivers. Surely the dangers of being distracted by your phone as a cyclist are just as real as those for a car driver, although possibly with less severe outcomes.

But if you’re the type of person who likes to live dangerously then you’ll be pleased to know that the HandleBand also doubles as a convenient bottle opener, allowing you to add alcohol to this already hazardous scenario.

I can only presume that the folks at Nite Ize must have a cracking legal department!

It’s clear that the All4Cycling Pit Stop vending machine offers a great range of practical cycling products to get you out of trouble. I encourage you to give it a try next time you find yourself stranded, the local bike shop is shut or the Internet is closed.

Part 3 in the all4Cycling Pit Stop vending machine product review series is coming soon. Stay tuned.

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