A workstand – or repair stand – can be extremely useful when you're working on your bike or carrying out repair work. It lifts the bike off the ground, holds it a comfortable working height and keeps it stable and secure so you can focus on the task you're doing, rather than having to use one hand to hold the bikes still.
A workstand is the centre of any home workshop. Once you've used one, you'll wonder how you ever managed to even lube a chain without it.
There are many factors to consider when buying a workstand. Do you need it to be portable and/or easy to store? How strong does it need to be? How delicate are the bikes it will hold, and how many different types of bikes do you own? These are a few key factors that will decide the style of workstand that’s best for you. Budget, of course, is another factor to consider.
What type of workstand?
There are two main types of repair stand – tube clamping or axle/bottom bracket mounted. What bike you have may be the deciding factor on which is best.
Tube clamping workstands
A tube clamping workstand is the most common style. It can be used to either grab a frame tube, such as the top tube, or hold onto the seatpost. They are generally quick to grab the bike but are not ideal for all bike types. Very light bikes shouldn't be clamped by the frame tube, and there may not be room to clamp the seatpost on some frames. Then there's super aero frames that don't offer the right surface to securely clamp to at all.
Generally speaking though, if you have anything other than a super light or aero road bike, a tube clamp style stand is the best choice. It allows you to do all your work with both wheels mounted, and through-axles and strangely placed brakes won’t be a cause for concern.
Tube clamp stands are the most common
Axle/bottom bracket mount workstands
Go to a WorldTour race and all you'll see is this style of stand. It doesn't involve any clamping on any frame tubes, and lets the mechanic easily spin the bike so they can reach all areas and sides of the bike without having to move themselves. This style is more compact too, so the stand takes up less room whether in use or not. Exerting a lot of force on tight bolts and stuck bottom bracket is best done in this style of stand – although try telling that to the majority of bike stores that only use tube clamping stands!
There is a sacrifice to made in return for the benefits that this sort of stand offers, and that's that one wheel must be removed to use it. On some newer bikes with integrated brakes or newer axles systems, this may be a pain to deal with.
Axle/bottom bracket mount stands are the choice of professional road mechanics
Portable vs permanent
The idea of a portable workstand is attractive to anyone without a permanent work space. Being able to easily take the stand to events, rides or even a friend's house will be important for many people. Most of us need to pack up our ‘toys’ when we’re finished playing.
Is being able to store or transport the stand important to you?
Not all workstands are created equal though, and some are certainly easier to stow away than others. For absolute portability, the stands from Feedback sports are hard to beat. Park Tool comes to the fight with a stand that's slower to set up, but that offers a more solid construction. It’s a trade-off and one that’s best decided by how much you’ll be folding up your stand.
There's no denying the satisfaction of owning a permanent mounted stand that is more solid than the bike it's holding, but a permanent workstand is really only for committed home mechanics. Its solidity means you'll have a much better chance of loosening tight pedals or rusted bottom brackets, but it's impractical if you don't have a permanet work space. While most permanent options bolt to the floor, wall or bench, you can also consider a big steel plate that lets you move the workstand, at least a little.
Price and features
Sure, the US$3,395 electric motor driven Park Tool PRS-33 stand is pretty awesome, but then so is a personal butler or a Lamborghini.
Just like when buying a bike, you should spend what you're comfortable with. More expensive stands will give you better quality stand that can handle more advanced repairs and/or more features that go a long way to making the repair more comfortable, but make sure you're only paying for what you need. The following are key features to look out for in tube clamp style stands:
- Angle adjustment: the ability to change the angle of the clamp is crucial when doing more complex repairs such as bleeding hydraulic brakes. The ideal is a stand that's adjustable, easy to swivel and locks down rigid when wanted – it's a pain when you're trying to do something precise and the whole bike tilts away.
- Height adjustment: all but the very cheapest options will offer height adjustment, but some may not offer enough. If you're tall, look for a stand with a tall maximum height – you don't want to be bending over every time you work on your bike.
- Quick-release clamp: holding the bike up with one hand and operating the clamp with the other can get tiring and the better clamps are always quicker to use. They also have a wider opening diameter and can hold a variety of shapes including aero seatposts and over-sized square profiles. Being able to finely control the clamping tension is forever becoming more important, look for a clamp that offers both speed and accuracy.
- Load capacity: this isn't going to matter so much if you're only working on a 7kg road bike, but a strong stand is crucial for those who own gravity mountain bikes or even e-bikes. Often as the load rating goes up, so does the stand's weight, which makes them less ideal for portability. The load capacity is also a clue to the rigidity of the stand – if it can hold a 45kg well, it's going hold to hold a 10kg bike very securely!
Extras to consider
Some workstands offer add-on accessories. Some of the more useful of these include attachable trays for tools and small parts, carry bags and wheel truing stand attachments.
The DIY option
We've covered what is available on the market, but if you're handy with tools and are looking for a project beyond the bike repair itself, then making a DIY stand is totally possible.
Some people we know have made stands from wood, others from PVC pipe. Whatever you choose, the common downfall is the clamping mechanism and the overall cost efficiency compared to pre-made options. The only truly good DIY stands we've used have been made from metal, still feature aftermarket bike-specific clamp heads and generally cost more than the pre-made version – but we’re all for ingenuity!
If you’re still stuck after reading all this, then our personal preference is for the Park Tool Home Mechanic stand if you’re after something at a decent price and don’t expect to fold it up too often. Otherwise, for something a little more portable (and expensive), the Pro Elite from Feedback Sports has everything most home mechanics should want.