The bicycle is a utilitarian machine. It is easy and fun to ride, low cost to operate, and relatively easy to repair. Are you tired of paying for what seems like something you could do yourself? Interested in giving it a go? Well then let’s start right here and I’ll help you on your way to understanding what it takes to make basic repairs to the machine you love.
Like me, you probably started out spraying wd40 on everything. You probably started out by turning your bike upside down to remove your wheels. You definitely got road grease all over your hands and Saturday shirts. When you are tired of straining your back bending over and having your friends hold your bike still while you torque down that bottom bracket let me know and I’ll help you choose a stand.
Phew….that was quick. So glad you came to your senses.
Bike Repair Stands: There seems to be so many to choose from. How on Earth would anyone be able to sort through all the different telescoping or adjustable clamp features to know what they really need? I happen to think it is actually very simple. As a professional mechanic I am here to walk you through the relatively simple process of picking the perfect repair stand to work on your bikes at home.
Question number one: How many bikes will you be working on?
This may seem like a silly question but it is important. For low volume, say only your family’s bikes and single clamp is fine. But if you want to go in on a professional grade shop stand with your friends because you expect to be working on bikes every weekend for that upcoming cross race, the extra investment is worth it.
Check out this Park Tool Deluxe Single Arm Stand
The added weight of the floor plate helps stabilize the stand and the thick steel tubing is guaranteed not to break down after a season on use. They use the same construction and components to make a double arm model as well. Just in case you want two mechanics working at the same time. But if your buddy is just going to come over and drink your beer and tell you that all grease is the same, just get the single arm and spend what you save on good beer.
Available from: JensonUSA
Question number two: How often are you going to be working on bikes?
Are you a crazy bike builder constantly buying bikes off the classifieds to resell after you have tinkered on them? Or are you just tuning up your sweetie’s bike at the beginning of winter? If you are option one then go with something a little more robust because you don’t want it breaking down when you put that 40 lbs fatbike in the clamp. If you are option two, just go cheap. Most of the low end models are relatively the same so if you can save some money and still have a working stand, that’s what I would do.
Pedro’s Folding repair stand
This is an excellent mid level choice. Versatile, strong 3 point base and solid construction materials make it easy to use. When you are done you can fold it up and store it your garage or wherever you like.
Available from: Bike24
For a cheaper option
Go with the park tool pcs 10 home mechanic stand. This product is relatively cheap, widely available, and still works pretty well. I have one myself and it works fine. It has the points of contact with the floor and can be folded up and stored away. My one issue with it is it is harder to do some of the big repairs like swapping out the bottom bracket because the bike wants to move away from you when you apply the torque. That is just something to keep in mind.
Available from: BikeAhead.com
Question number three: Piggybacking off the last question, what kind of repairs are you going to be doing?
If you want a stand that can handle any torque or you have the space to leave it up all the time, go with the big floor stand. If you are going to leave the major repairs to the professionals but still want something nice, go with the Feedback sports pro elite. The tripod style stand is more stable than the 3 point contact systems that park tool and pedro’s stands use. This stand is a little lighter to store but can still support 85 lbs.
Sometimes I need an extra body for stabilization even with our heavy duty shop stand. Sometimes repairs require a little more creativity and elbow grease than you expect. I think the sign of a good mechanic is not the one with the best tools but the one who knows how to use their tools the best.
Some other options to consider
Not every mechanic needs a floor stand. There are two options if you feel like you don’t have the space or if you are just a little different. There is a stud mount stand that you can mount in any stable stud in your workspace. I have never seen one let alone used one so I am not exactly sure how they work. I can’t imagine the clamp mechanism is any different so they can’t be too difficult.
There is also a bench mount stand. It uses the same principle as the stud mount stand. It is a clamp welded to a face plate that you screw into your mounting surface and it stays there. It is kind of like a bench vice that you can clamp your bike into.
Available from: REI
These two options might present problems that the others may not. Height is the main one I can think of. If a bench is a comfortable height for you to work at, then chances are it will be a little too low to comfortably work on your bike. I like my bottom bracket to be right at about my belt buckle. This puts the brakes around my chest and the handlebars a little higher. With a regular stand I can just rotate the pivoting arm down to lower the handlebars to a working height then move them back up when I am done. A bench mount stand will not allow you to do this.
The second problem I can see is not being able to work on the non drive side without turning the bike around. With other stands it is pretty simple to just squeeze in on the other side. This makes work fast and convenient and you don’t have to remove the bike from the stand. If there is a wall or bench sitting where you would need to stand to access the non drive side well then you are going to have to take the bike out and turn it around.
Those things might seem trivial to you but with the high volume of bikes I work on, sometimes things like this make all the difference.
If you want to forego buying a stand altogether then there are still other options. In major cities all around the world co ops and kitchens are becoming more popular. In these places you can pay a small fee (like $5 at the two I worked in) and have use of their tools and stands for 1 hour. You can pay for a monthly or annual membership. The Bicococina (Bicycle Kitchen) I worked at in Los Angeles had a lifetime membership for $100 or something insanely cheap like that.
You get the use of tools and stands, professional help and advice, and a really awesome community to share cycling stories and swap beers with. Generally proceeds go into amazing projects in your own community as well. One of my local kitchens here in Portland collects donation bikes , rebuilds them, and sells them at discounted prices to members of our homeless or displaced communities.
University Stations or U Fix It Stands
Look around in your community. Because bikes are much easier to repair than cars and bikes are very quickly becoming a more popular mode of transportation, businesses, schools, and shared public spaces and are putting stands that are free to use. We have one at my place of business, granted I work at a bike shop but still. Universities and businesses are realizing that more people want to ride bikes. They’ll put up stands with enough tools to make simple repairs as well as a high quality floor pump.
A Word of Caution: Don’t rely on these stands to have the tool you need. I still carry around tools I need to make my own repairs. Because these stands are left in public places sometimes tools get broken or stolen and you wouldn’t want to be left to walk home in the rain would you?
Now let’s talk accessories
Some stands come with trays and holders for tools or spare parts. Some cost extra and work great. All of these things add benefit but also add costs. Think if you can solve the problem in a different way or if you are in close enough quarters why not just set your tools on you bench? Check out REI for some things that might peak your interest.
So now that you have your stand let’s talk about some other needs. Personally, I think a stand pales in comparison to some other items that are necessary in a home mechanic’s arsenal. Everything I will mention can be found after a little research online or in your local community. Many tools and larger hardware items are made of strong and long lasting materials and you can find great cheap items second hand.
Tool Number 1: A vice
Vices are critical in almost every line of mechanics. The clamp can keep items steady helping you get the necessary torque to work with some seized or rusted parts. When paired with an axle vice, a small aluminum fixture that fits between the jaws of a vice, hub adjustments, and rebuilds are done in a snap. Vices can also provide a solid surface for hammering and are resilient to whatever you throw at them. They can be in your family for generations. Make sure you use strong bolts and have a good mounting surface, which leads me to tool number 2.
Tool Number 2: A Work Bench
Nothing is better than a sturdy work bench. It only gets number 2 because in a pinch you can use a table or the ground but there is really no substitution for hip level, tool storage, and a hardwood surface. It helps keep your workspace organized and it is easy to visualize the repair you are working on. If you are already handy, make your own. If not, repurpose an old table, buy a new one, or ask for some help. I’m telling you, you won’t be sorry.
Tool Number 3: A truing stand
This is a no brainer. It is essential for fixing wheels and building them. There are some things that come with it that you can do without like a dishing gauge or a tension meter. Those things are nice but not essential to the quick fix and they more or less help with building wheels more so than a quick truing.
That does it for essentials. There are plenty of things that make your workshop even more fun to work in and I’m sure the more time you spend out there the more things you will add to your list. The keys to a good work environment are keeping things organized.