News travels fast on two wheels: Since Trek, Wisconsin's Waterloo-based bicycle brand, established its prototype Trek Stop facility outside Machinery Row Bicycles on the last day of June, word of the 24-hour bike convenience station has been racing online.
The prototype consists of a vending machine that dispenses spare tubes, bike lube, CO2 cartridges and other accessories, along with a selection of energy bars, gels and beverages; a sheltered and lighted repair stand with free use of an air-compression hose and video tutorials to coach visitors through repairs; and an information center with notice board and area bike-route map.
It bears a resemblance to something imported from Japan, where vending machines have proliferated throughout that country's commercial arteries. But the Trek Stop was conceived by the bicycle manufacturer's Advanced Concepts Group and fabricated by Madison-based Hoffman Manufacturing Corp.
Michael Hammond led the Trek Stop design team. He notes that when he pitched the prototype to the manager at Machinery Row Bicycles, they first settled on a month-long tryout at the shop. But he adds that the trial period may be extended. "Trek has its annual dealer show in August," Hammond explains during an email exchange, "and the Trek Stop will draw a lot of attention to the shop."
Hammond says beverages have accounted for most of the vending sales so far, adding that this was an anticipated outcome. "The air hose gets used a lot as well," he continues. And while he has observed only a handful of people using the work stand, he believes even less experienced cyclists will use it.
"Really, the Trek Stop is intended to be an expansion of the bike shop," Hammond observes. It serves three purposes for Trek itself, he adds. First, it represents the firm's commitment to conceiving new methods of supporting cyclists. Second, it is intended to prompt people to view the concept as an addition to the larger cycling infrastructure. Third, it stands as a market research tool, with Trek monitoring customer feedback to assess response to the convenience station.
Rebecca Anderson, director of advocacy for Trek's "One World, Two Wheels" campaign, notes that while the Trek Stop is not the world's first convenience cycling center, "it is probably the most visible because of Trek's reach." She adds that current plans include gathering more information about what the public likes -- and doesn't like -- about the Trek Stop, and gauging how many Trek retailers might be interested in siting one outside their shops.
So far, Anderson adds, "Feedback has been nothing short of 'that's incredible,' and 'how can we get one?'"