▋There’s a reason New York City is dubbed “the city that never sleeps” — because it’s true. Anywhere at any time of the day or night you can find anything you want. It’s truly a city of opportunity in that way.
Which means that at all hours of the day, people are out and about doing their thing. The streets of New York are the veins for how people do things, and the bike community within NYC is like no other in the country. Brooklyn specifically has a tight-knit group that is always looking out for each other.
So it only makes sense that Brooklyn is the hub of Bikestock, New York City’s 24-hour bike repair service that operates out of vending machines.
With four machines throughout Brooklyn and another two in Boston, Bikestock has won over the bike community of NYC thanks to its dedication to being there for bikers at all hours, but also because Bikestock is part of the community as well.
Launched in 2013 by cofounders Joseph Huba and Matthew Von Ohlen, both are longtime bicyclists.
As Huba told GrindTV in a recent interview at the original 49 Bogart location at Swallow Cafe, “We try and keep ourselves really present and active within the bike community. It’s the grassroots level of us getting the word out that’s invaluable. A lot of people give us honest feedback and suggestions of what they could need or how the stuff we have works for them or doesn’t.”
The machines themselves offer a wide array of bike necessities, as well as free air pumps and tool kits to use for almost any repair imaginable. “Inner tubes do really well,” Huba says, “because the idea was really born out of the need to fix a flat 24 hours of the day. I’ve been a victim to that, ‘Oh shit, I guess I have to walk home or take a car or the subway. Or lock my bike up and come deal with it when I can.’”
That idea was born out of the need for repairs like that during hours when a bike shop would typically be closed. Huba and Von Ohlen worked at Greenpoint’s Calexico together and Von Ohlen shared a news article from his mom back in Minneapolis about a bike vending machine (Bike Fixation). Von Ohlen’s mom knew it could be a hot commodity in a city like New York and told the boys they should do it.
Huba and Von Ohlen are the only two employees of Bikestock, and while they have a few contractors they work with for regular business operations, it’s mostly all on them. “I maintain all the machines with Matt,” Huba says. “For example, this morning I had to restock a machine and it had run out of change so I had to go get dollar coins and refill it.”
Running the operations out of his own apartment, Huba notes that they like to work closely with small bike companies to specialize their offerings. “We’ve had a lot of success with local bike companies that make awesome stuff. Road Runner, those are good friends of ours and they’re based in LA and people here really like it. Another company Mer, they’re right down the street. They make stuff that all cyclists use.”
Having just launched an e-commerce store on their website, Bikestock now offers everything you can find in their machines online, as well as some larger, speciality items like backpacks from Mer.
As seen with the vending machines we’ve all observed in airports with high-end items, Huba has noticed that you can curate vending machines to sell just about anything. But he also knows that Bikestock provides an invaluable service and hopes to continue to be a utility within the bike community.
“We definitely see there is a demand for it. It’s been nothing but a positive reception from the bike community. A lot of ‘Can we get this in my city?’ ‘Can we get more in New York?’ We don’t want to be a burden to anyone, we want Bikestock to be a beacon that can help you 24 hours a day. If you just need air, to use a tool or to buy something like an inner tube, we want to be there for bicyclists.”