There are lots of tools you can do without, but a workstand is one piece of equipment that truly enriches your workshop experience. It gives you full access to every part of the bike without putting undue strain on your back (bending down is for mugs), and it lets you adjust brakes and gears to your heart's content in the comfort of your own home (or shed).
Pedro's produces a comprehensive range of tools for bike mechanics and its stand is a sturdily constructed affair that's designed for professional use. It arrives folded in a useful carry case that's approximately 116cm long and 22cm in diameter, and the whole lot weighs around 9kg – light enough that taking it to events poses no problem, but not so light that you'll be packing it for your next cycling holiday.
The stand unfolds in a matter of seconds, with bike-style quick release levers locking the legs and the telescoping upper column in place. The hinged head flips round 270 degrees to its working position, secured by a third quick release, although on our test stand this wasn't having much effect. It doesn't matter however, since gravity keeps the head in the correct position, resting against the top of the stand.
Pedro's doesn't specify a load rating for the stand, but it's unperturbed by standard road and mountain bikes. At maximum extension the centre of the clamp is about 185cm off the floor, far higher than most of us will need it, but useful for the exceptionally tall mechanic. The stand's footprint is around 116cm wide and 70cm deep which makes it fairly stable, although it's certainly possible to knock it over and as the legs don't lie flat on the floor, it's relatively easy to trip over them. The feet have plastic covers that won't mark most floors, but could scratch soft wood.
The best thing about this stand is the head's clamping mechanism. It rotates through 360 degrees and with a bike held in position, all you need to do is squeeze the trigger grip a few times to clamp it in place. The jaws of the clamp will take tubes up to around 6cm in diameter, enough to accommodate any bike we can think of, and the system offers a fine enough adjustment that there's little danger of crushing delicate parts. Flipping a switch on the clamp releases it, letting you slide it open to remove the bike.
We do wonder how long the plastic spacer on the main column will last, but overall the Pedro's stand is solidly built – it may even be overkill for the home mechanic. It's not exactly cheap, but it's very easy to live with and folds up usefully small.