Veteran cyclists know they need to be prepared for breakdowns and other problems when out on the roads, a lesson that is often hard-won. Even a spin around the block can turn into a tiresome trudge pushing the bike when that tube pops at the farthest point - and that's exactly where Murphy's Law says it will emit that telltale hiss.
The little (well, not so much anymore) town of Fulshear west of Houston is on many a Bayou City cyclist's life list, for routes like the "Shear-Shire Loop" and Winner-Foster Road. Though an explosion in home-building has turned local farm-to-market roads into an obstacle course, weekends still find hundreds of cyclists taking a break and refilling water bottles at one of the downtown convenience stores. Now, thanks to Houston chain Bike Barn, you can also pick up emergency nutrition (instead of a candy bar) or a replacement tube for the one that went kerplooey thirty miles back.
No, there's not a new bike store in town: there's a bike vending machine. The Houston area's first vending machine for cyclists sells replacement tubes, cleats and CO2 cartridges plus packets of Gu and drink mixes for those who spaced out theirs before leaving home. The machine was installed in 2013 on the porch of The Sweet Tooth Shoppe at 8503 Main Street (FM 359), a little north of the stoplight with FM 1093. It's open 24/7/365, and prices seem to be the same as at Bike Barn stores - but you'd better bring cash, 'cause it doesn't take credit cards…
Bike Barn's vending machine's patterned on others around the country like this one in Seattle and others in NYC, Portland and Minneapolis. No word on whether Bike Barn (or the chain's competitors) plan on installing other machines in the Houston area, but kudos to Neil and Lee for this venture!