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The Fixit Public Bike Repair Stand: There When You Need It (Maybe)

by Stacey Moses

Since 1995, Dero Bike Rack Co. has been positively contributing to the world of bike commuting. The company produces a host of bike parking solutions, including commercial racks and storage lockers as well as home storage products. However, I have mixed emotions about the new Fixit Public Bike Repair Stand that Dero has recently introduced.

Fixit Public Bike Repair StandDero’s pitch for the Fixit begins by saying, “You are riding home from work when you notice your bike needs some adjusting. The bike shop is closed and out of your way, so now what? Fixit to the rescue!” The Fixit is a repair stand equipped with tools and a pump (secured to the stand with stainless steel cables and tamper-proof fasteners) that appears to be marketed to bicycle-friendly businesses or communities for installation next to bicycle parking, trailheads or other high-traffic areas.

At first glance, the Fixit seems like a great idea. Who wouldn’t want a fully-stocked work stand to appear when you run over a piece of glass on your way home from the office? But, after I thought about the concept for about thirty seconds, I had some questions. One concern is the potential for these stands to give commuters a false sense of security that leads to them being unprepared for the reality of riding any substantial distance – if there is a pump and repair stand next to your bicycle parking at the office, it still isn’t a spectacular idea to commute to work without the proper equipment to repair a flat should you get one during the actual ride to work. This issue most likely wouldn’t be a problem for veteran commuters, but if the idea is to encourage new commuters to rely on the Fixit for emergency repairs, that could be problematic.

Full disclosure: I have no idea what tools the Fixit includes in its repertoire. Currently, there is no list of specifics on the Dero site, but it does say that it includes “all of the tools necessary to perform basic repairs and maintenance, from changing a flat to adjusting brakes and derailleurs.” Once again, this sounds fantastic (free tools!), but my years of experience in bicycle retail have taught me that most people have no idea what the word “derailleur” mFixit Phone Appeans, let alone how to adjust one (if you disagree with me, keep in mind that you are the type of person who reads a bike blog). The Fixit does include a convenient QR code that the user can scan with a smart phone to reveal the secrets of bicycle maintenance. Maybe I’m a cynic, but the image that I have in my head of a novice cyclist holding a phone, an unfamiliar tool and touching the delicate parts of a drivetrain makes me cringe more than a little bit.

Fixit in ActionAre there positive features of the Fixit? Absolutely. This stand could serve as a fantastic perk for the everyday commuter who wants to toss his bike up in a stand and check his tire pressure before riding home or explore that strange screeching noise that was coming from his brakes on the ride in. But the Fixit is no better suited to handle emergency repairs than the local bike shop or your home stand (unless there is one on every corner, and maybe that’s Dero’s plan). My advice?  Carry a multi-tool, a tube and a mini-pump. Take a basic maintenance and repair class. Unfortunately, disaster doesn’t always strike when you’re approaching a conveniently located Fixit stand.

 
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16 Responses to “The Fixit Public Bike Repair Stand: There When You Need It (Maybe)”

  1. BluesCat says:

    The Fixit might work at a place like The Bicycle Cellar in Tempe, Arizona. The Bicycle Cellar is a key-card, subscription membership bike commuter support facility which has lockers, showers and secure bike parking.

    I don’t care how much you attempt to vandal-proof something like Fixit, if it is out there, unattended, the only time you go to use it you’ll discover everything YOU need will be broken or stolen.

  2. Kevin Love says:

    My Pashley Roadster Sovereign came factory-equipped with Schwalbe Marathon Plus puncture-resistant tires. Result: I have never, ever got a flat.

    It also came with sealed internal hub brakes and sealed internal hub gears. Which have given me zero problems.

    This whole “fix your bicycle” thing is, in my opinion, ridiculous. Once upon a time, cars (particularly British cars) were the same way. Car owners had to do a lot of do-it-yourself roadside repairs. Guess what! Car companies (particularly in Japan) quickly figured out that this was a barrier to car use and started making cars that didn’t break down.

    Bicycles are much simpler machines and can also be made so that they don’t break down. Brands such as my Pashley or Dutch brands like Batavus and Gazelle simply do not break down.

    Unfortunately, so much of what is for sale in the USA is cheap crap. These “landfill-ready” bikes have tires with zero puncture resistence, exposed derailleur gears and exposed rim brakes. Of course they are going to break down! Buying one of them is like buying a 1950′s era British car.

    By the way, I don’t take any tools with me on my Pashley. Just like most car drivers don’t take tools with them in their car. And for the same reason: I have confidence that my Pashley is not going to break down.

  3. Jay Swift says:

    Here Here Kevin!

    I commute 15 miles one way every day through the streets of DC on an 1971 Schwinn Voyageur. I’ve equipped it with marathon tires, and even though it still has a rear cassette and front derailleur, I haven’t touched the gears to shift since I bought the thing a year ago. I still have to perform a little maintenance, like cleaning the chain or swapping out brake pads… but nothing ever out on the road.

    So if the average commuter were to buy a bullit-proof bike, then these stands would be useless. But what about all of the racer bikes out there? Most recreational riders I see outside have skinny-tire road bikes. Just like high-performance race cars, these bikes will jump at an opportunity to get out of true. However, a roadie should know how to change a tire in a couple of minutes on the side of the road. And derailleur adjustments on the fly? If there is something that serious, you find a gear the works, limp home and fix it there.

    Before I bought a home stand, I would work on my bike outside. I would walk about a block away where there was thing amazing thing called a tree. And it had these things called branches. And don,t you know, one of these branches was about 5 ft off the ground, the perfect height for me to hang my bike from. I simply wrapped the saddle in a rag, hung the bike on the branch and went to work. Viola! I’m sure finding a tree in a truly urban city like NYC is more difficult than here in DC (You are never more than a single city block from a tree in DC), but artificial trees? Its so weird.

    Here is my statement. If your bike is going to brake often enough that you need a repair stand on the side of the road, get a more reliable bike. If your bike requires weekly maintenance in order to keep it in tip-top tune, buy a $100 home repair stand and fix the bike while you watch the latest episode of your favorite reality tv.

  4. Dano says:

    Those tools are going to be gone in a heart beat.

    If someone doesn’t know what the word derailer means then I doubt they would know how to use a bike stand. They are nice but not necessary for bike maintenance.

    It would be better if the companies that would put one of these outside would just give you a corner and some tools from behind the desk to work on your bike.

    I agree with you Ted, I would put this in the “makes things more complicated then they need to be” bucket.

  5. BluesCat says:

    Kevin – I think you’re right about the quality of the bike: if you have a $200 Wally*Mart bike, you’ll definitely have more on-the-road maintenance issues than you would have with a $1,300 Sovereign. I haven’t had an mechanical problems with my $1,000, derailleur-equipped recumbent, either.

    However, even if I invested in Schwalbe Marathon’s with puncture resistant tubes, I STILL would have had the three flats I’ve had since 2008. Even Marathon’s won’t help you against Arizona cactus spines!

  6. raf952 says:

    Stuff happens.

    Yesterday during my snow/sleet/wind plagued ride into work I both got a flat tire and a funny noise when a broken branch blew into my path.

    My workplace has a good set of bike racks and even provides loaner bicycles once the snows have less likely. I changed the tire at my desk but had to balance the bike on the bike rack to improvise a repair stand so I could adjust the derailleur that got knocked out-of-whack.

    I would have definitely appreciated having the Fixit stand at the workplace. I can’t see anything bad having one at service stations, along bike trails, and any destinations that encourage bike commuting.

  7. Patrick says:

    I still don’t understand all the negativity for these stands, especially full articles rejecting their purpose. As someone who has personally helped install 4 of these stands around my city, I have mostly fantastic things to say about them.

    A-The air pump alone, since our stands are conveniently spaced around town, has saved myself and many others that sporadic squishy ride home from a neglected tire running low on air.

    B-The tools are not theft-proof, but they’re secured with nice thick braided steel cables and I have yet to have a single one stolen off a rack. Is it possible? You betcha. Are people stealing all the tools and pawning them for a living? Hardly.

    C-People keep referring to this false sense of confidence it might give novice mechanics. If you’re not sure what the majority of the tools do, the chance that you’ll actual attempt to use one of them is also pretty rare.

    Quite the contrary to all this huffing and puffing, I’ve also had numerous random citizens take the time to email me and thank me for the racks, saying it saved them when they needed air or a quick allen wrench. Is is perfect? No. Is it a massive convenience and positive step in the right direction for many local governments and businesses? You better believe it.

  8. Jay Swift says:

    Patrick-

    I didn’t intend to offend and I’m sure that the stands are useful. I mean, hand me a bike stand and a wrench and I’ll find a bike to fix.

    My point was more geared towards a confusion about the market. Those who don’t know how to fix their bikes won’t use the stand because they don’t know how to fix their bikes! Those who can fix their bikes tend to keep them in working order… which means there is no need for a stand outside since they do their repairs at home.

    I can understand a ‘rainy-day’ fix. ie, for some reason a chain jams in a derailleur, throwing it out of adjustment and requiring a stand to elevate the rear wheel so that adjustments can be made. I get that s**t happens. But how many people need to ride by a stand in order to make it economically feasible? What is the market logic? Is it just assumed to be a sunk cost that just adds to the overall aura of a neighborhood, like repainting parking meters? Or is it valued like an art installation, bringing unknown value to an unknown crowd? What makes it pay?

    I’m not trying to be cynical, but I live in a bigger city (DC). Here, if you forget to lock up a part of your bike chances are it will be gone when you come back to retrieve your bike. And anything secured with cables gets stolen. It seems like all thieves in this city carry a pair of dikes with them at all times.

    Again, if you have found a positive and beneficial market for these stands, awesome! I’m all for promoting cycling! But if you wouldn’t mind elaborating on your market, it would help to understand the application.

  9. Kevin Love says:

    Thank you, everyone, for your kind comments.

    The sort of people who comment here fall into the category of “enthusiast” who have no problem with DIY bike repairs.

    However, the 99% of the population who just want to get from A to B as fast as possible don’t want to do bike repairs. They don’t want to learn how to do bike repairs, don’t want to be late to work because their bike broke down and DEFINATELY do not want to get their nice work clothes dirty by having to do roadside repairs to their bike.

  10. BluesCat says:

    Patrick – I’ll echo Jay: Didn’t mean to offend, just can’t figure out how it would work on the mean streets of Phoenix.

    I mean, you leave the Fixit unattended, overnight on a couple of the MUP’s I ride to work in the morning, and not only will the gang-bangers — just for grins — cut every tool and cable off of it, but they’ll break out the rattle cans and TAG it to boot!

  11. Rider says:

    I dunno about the controversy, but I’ll say this … I like the way Dero Bike Rack came up with an all-purpose way to hold the bike.

    The slip-the-seatpost-between-two-sticks setup looks like a winner to me.

    Maybe a few handy cyclists can make something like that for their own use at home.

  12. Kevin Love says:

    I’ll also echo BluesCat and Jay. I don’t have anything against people who like DIY bike repairs. It is just that this will only ever appeal to a very tiny minority of enthusiasts.

    The goal of cycle advocates should be to advocate for infrastructure and other facilities that benefit everyone else – not just the enthusiast. To create a world where almost all cyclists are NOT enthusiasts and a large number of them don’t even really like cycling. They cycle because it is the fastest, easiest and most convenient way of getting from A to B. And driving cars is the slowest, hardest and most inconvenient way of getting around, so only the tiniest of hard-core die-hard car enthusiasts would ever drive one.

  13. Chimpy says:

    Seems to me most of the places I’ve seen posts about these stands are in the context of college campuses, which is probably the ideal location – lots of “non-enthusiast” bikers who you know don’t all carry their own tools around, riding crappy bikes, not wearing business attire, and all within in a pretty contained area. From what I’ve seen students seem to really appreciate them.

  14. Brad Lee says:

    Of course, those bike repair stands are bad idea…until you need one.

  15. Skib says:

    I could have used of of those today as I forgot my tire levers in my garage. Figures.

  16. MDF says:

    There’s a stand similar to this at my college. (NB: different manufacturer, same idea — hang up your bike on the hooks, have various simple hand tools handy, along with a pump.)
    It’s been there for about a year. Granted, it’s right outside Public Safety’s office (read: cops coming and going regularly) but it’s not been at all vandalized.

    Students often indeed have the ability to perform quite a few repairs, but many don’t have the extra scratch to afford fancy multi-tools, frame-mounted pumps, and the like. No-one I know has near the amount of spare coin to be able to afford to even look at the kinds of “maintenance free” bikes you’ve listed, forget actually buying one.

    tl;dr: It’s nice to live in a world where you don’t have to fear roadside maintenance, but for the rest of us who can’t afford that rarefied air, these stands are pretty keen.

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