Avid bicyclist Chad DeBaker was on a group ride for his bachelor party when one of the riders got a flat tire. No one was carrying the right size inner tube, and because it was after 9 p.m., the nearby bike repair shops were closed.
"What we need," DeBaker said to business partner Alex Anderson, "is a vending machine for inner tubes."
Now, thanks to the two of them, we have one: Bike Fixtation. It's a self-service kiosk that they set up in the Uptown Transit Station near the Midtown Greenway. In addition to dispensing a dozen sizes of inner tubes, it includes other oft-needed parts, including reflectors and lights.
There's a repair stand to hold the bike while the work is done and a collection of tools, from screwdrivers to hex-key wrenches (they're attached to steel cables to keep them from being, ah, appropriated), as well as an electric air pump.
Saying that they don't want to gouge stranded bikers, they've kept their prices -- $4.75 for a inner tube -- in line with those in bike stores. If the machine catches on with riders, they'd like to install more of them along bike paths in both Minneapolis and St. Paul.
"We didn't come up with the concept," DeBaker said, noting that bike-part vending machines have cropped up in other cities. "But we did put a lot of thought into refining the idea so that ours is unique."
When they say that they tried to think of everything a cyclist might need, they mean it. In addition to parts, the vending machine also dispenses snacks, cold drinks and even sunscreen.