I was up a hill in Wales when a seemingly incontrovertible truth hit me: every bicycle should have a kickstand, otherwise it will fall over.
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This revelation came on the bothy microadventure I undertook with my colleagues Jack Luke and Felix Smith, the subject of the BikeRadar video below.
Riding hefty Giant e-bikes with full panniers, the adjustable kickstands proved incredibly useful at every stop, holding our bikes whether we were outside a cafe or on a rocky trail pausing to open a gate.
Rather than awkwardly propping our bikes against vegetation and street furniture or dumping them uncaringly on the ground, we stood them where we pleased.
With the bikes upright, access to our panniers was painless, and we weren’t scuffing grips, frames and saddles every time we parked.
It was just so… easy. This might seem blindingly obvious to veteran kickstand users, but not having ridden a bike with one for years, it came as a startling revelation.
Kickstands: practical but hideous?
The case against kickstands is pretty obvious; they’re ugly and surely redundant when you can just lean your bike against things.
Stands add unnecessary weight and probably loads of aero drag (strangely, it’s hard to find data on this), and they have a distinctly unsexy whiff of the practical about them, one that’s entirely at odds with the svelte athletic image you’re probably trying to project.
A kickstand is a bit like a stairlift – incredibly useful when you need it, but probably not something you aspire to owning.
I also understand that you probably don’t want a kickstand on your race bike, be it road or mountain.
If you’re attempting an hour record on the track or perhaps attending the hill climb nationals, by all means, skip the stand.
I accept all of that, but consider this: a kickstand lets your bike stand anywhere.
What if kickstands suddenly became cool?
It’s funny how fashions in cycling evolve over time. Not so long ago, hulking bags hanging from saddle rails and handlebars were considered tragically uncool.
Frame pumps were an effective form of birth control, and riders of all stripes attempted to minimise the amount of cargo they carried.
Now, tattooed trend-setters in fade jerseys seem to be in competition to find out who can dangle the most baggage from their bikes.
The frumpy act of ‘touring’ has made way for achingly trendy ‘bikepacking’, the principal distinction between the two being the number of Instagram stories you make on a given outing.
Could it be that we’re only one influencer away from kickstands hitting the mainstream and becoming the must-have accessory for Generation-Z adventurers?
Currently available kickstands tend to be unapologetically practical and they typically require either a dedicated mount or a metal frame that won’t object to vigorous clamping. Woe betide the rider that fits such a device to a standard carbon frame, it’s not going to end well.
There are a handful of lightweight stands designed to fit racier bikes, such as the carbon Upstand (and a number of what appear to be near-identical rip-offs of the concept that I won’t link to).
Strictly speaking, the Upstand doesn’t qualify as a kickstand because it doesn’t fold out of the way, you have to remove it and store it on the bike or in a pocket. All the same, it’s a delightfully simple concept that appears to work well and is even supposedly compatible with thru-axles (although I’d need convincing that’s a good idea).
What I’d like to see is an entirely fresh design that’s fully integrated. I want a gravel bike manufacturer to engineer an elegant built-in stand, perhaps allowing it to flip out from a chainstay or emerge from somewhere around the bottom bracket shell.
Specialized managed to convince us that storage is cool with its clever SWAT frames, and I don’t see how a stand is any less worthwhile for the right bike.
Of course, it might turn out that regular kickstands are just a gateway drug for the bike buying public, and punters will go on to embrace more serious bicycle holding devices like centre stands.
Or, if we’re going fully science fiction, why not built-in hydraulic jacks like you get on some race cars? Because that’s stupid, Matthew, that’s why.
Would you like a kickstand on your bike? Do you think there’s a better way to hold up your bike? Let us know your thoughts in the comments, and please don’t hesitate to tell me how wrong I am or point out that, in my fourth decade as a human man, my brain has clearly turned to pudding.