bike part vending machine

The bike parts vending machine was installed in front of Wildcat Wheels in Blazer Dining in October 2019. Photo by Emily Girard.

Hungry students are used to seeking out a vending machine for help, but a recent campus addition has expanded what kind of help vending machines can provide. Instead of snacks, this new vending machine dispenses bicycle parts.

The bike parts machine was installed in October and was intended to give students another option for bike repair, said Carson Clouser, a senior and student employee at Wildcat Wheels, UK’s free student-run bike repair and assistance service.

The bike parts vending machine sits in front of the Wildcat Wheels door in Blazer Dining. 

“They know it’s always here, so it’s ... just made it easier for people to have a higher quality bike,” Clouser said.

Located in the basement of Blazer Dining, the vending machine dispenses common bicycle parts in order to help cyclists quickly fix their bikes. Student employees of Wildcat Wheels say they have used the machine frequently since its installment.

“It mostly is just helpful here when we’re in the middle of a project and we’re like ‘you need this replaced,’” Clouser said. “We’re able to take care of it right away, we can keep working.”

Junior Abby Masterson said that the vending machine gives both employees and customers better access to bike parts, streamlining repairs.

“We used to send people to hit up Pedal Power to get a tube or something, but now it’s a lot faster because they can just stay right here,” said Masterson. “What used to take an hour ... can take 15 minutes.”

To stock the machine, UK works with J&B Importers, a bike wholesaler that supplies Wildcat Wheels with the necessary parts and tools. Having the vending machine stocked with parts has increased how much Wildcat Wheels can help students.

“I hate sending people away, but we’ve never been able to keep certain things in because we can’t just give them away; they’re our own stock,” said William Varney, student manager of Wildcat Wheels. “Now, we don’t have to send people away ... it’s nice to be able to actually help.”

The machine is stocked with bike tubes, brake pads, pedals, chains and other “basic necessities of a bike,” said Clouser. The machine works like a typical vending machine, with customers inserting payment before inputting a code for a certain part.

However, the machine only accepts electronic payments. According to Varney, this is to abide by university regulations prohibiting employees from selling services and merchandise on campus.

“With the vending machine, we can sell parts because we’re not actually operating it,”  said Varney. “All electronic payment is being sent to ... somewhere at UK, and it’s hands-off for us.”

Despite the convenience of not having to purchase bike supplies from other stores, Varney said that Wildcat Wheels does not want to “step on the toes of other bike shops.”

“We keep a very limited supply of stuff in there for a reason,” said Varney.

The bike parts vending machine was installed by UK Transportation Services. The vending machine is open when Blazer Dining is open, from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., and is accessible even if Wildcat Wheels is not.