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So, I've started to look into buying a bicycle repair stand. I've never used one before, and I was just wondering if people keep their bikes clamped while really torquing down on a bolt, and trying to get stuck ones off.

I'm interested in going for a bottom of the barrel stand first, but most of them have plastic connectors that connect the clamping arm to the long vertical post that goes down to the ground. I'm afraid that if I push or pull to hard on the bike, that the plastic part on the stand will break. Is this a legitimate concern?

Are stands only meant for 'delicate' jobs, or can you leave them in for things like bottom bracket removal too (that often require a lot of force to remove cups)?

Also, doesn't the bicycle 'dangle' and move side to side a lot in a stand since it's only clamped in one spot? I just imagine trying to tighten/loosen a bottom bracket cup, and the bicycle moving a bunch laterally. Does this happen?

Thanks everyone.

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    I can't answer in general, but my stand is a "portable" that never moves from my garage, and I usually take the bike out of the stand and place it on the ground if I need to torque it so that it might move in the stand. But for things like taking pedals off or putting them on, or twisting on the bottom bracket, I can usually do it so that the bike can stay in the frame. I sometimes have to stand on one leg of the frame, but I have to do that anyway to clamp the bike in the stand. I'd love a heavy-duty stand, but can't afford it. – Lee-Man Jun 2 '16 at 19:01
  • What stand do you have? – jrahhali Jun 2 '16 at 21:58
  • You will probably find a search here for "workstand" helpful. This question on "cheap workstands" seems likely to be relevant, for example. – Móż Jun 3 '16 at 1:00
  • It would probably be informatitive to use one (ever if it is not the one you would buy.) My university has a few around its campus, I suspect other public buidings might too (depending on your area) eg libraries, rec-centers etc. Failing that local bike shops may have one for customers to use -- when I wore through my tyre (conveniently infront of the bikeshop)) I ask the shop for a new one, and they gave me one and told me to go round to the side to install it -- they had a repair stand in the loading bay for customer use. Using one that is around to get a feel for how they work is good. – Lyndon White Jun 3 '16 at 1:19
  • I just get a decent commercial work stand for ~$30, with a tripod feet and it is sturdy . There is "don't do it " you should know here : sheldonbrown.com/work-stands.html – mootmoot Jun 3 '16 at 9:05
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The load limit is determined by the stand rather than the clamp in all but the cheapest setups. If you look at what bike shops use they tend to have great big chunks of steel with clamp arms bolted to those. But those clamps, even the really good ones, cost about the same as a cheap clamp with stand. So the question to ask right at the very start is whether you're better off buying the proper tool right at the start.

In both these photos (search for "bike mechanic" rather than "bicycle workstand") the key point IMO is that there's a nice solid bit of steel pipe holding the clamp up, and if you look around that pipe is normally bolted to the floor. Where I worked we used slightly thicker square tube with a clamp each side (two mechanics per pole).

enter image description here (via Boston News)

enter image description here (via JobMonkey)

That setup will be more expensive that a cheap portable stand, but a lot more effective. Find a local steel fabrication business, tell them what you want, say you're willing to wait until they have time to put one together, and it shouldn't cost too much. Most places will be able to make it from offcuts, and it's an easy welding job. What you want is thick wall mild steel square tube somewhere between 70mm and 120mm on a side and 5-10mm wall thickness, between 1.5 and 2m long. Weld that to a bit of plate about 400-600mm square and 8mm-15mm thick. The reason for the loose dimensions is that you are aiming for "what spare bits do they have", if you specify it exactly they will cut it for you and charge accordingly. So that post will cost between "some beer" and "$300 plus tax", depending.

I used to use a simple length of square tube with the clamp on it, and I'd put that in the vice on my workbench. But that was a 6" engineering vice that weighed 30kg, bolted to a 100kg steel framed workbench. If you have a bench like that it's a great way to get an easily moved out of the way stand.

enter image description here (via Mσᶎ's awesome Paint skills)

A stand like that will hold an electric assist loadbike without problems once it's bolted to the floor. With a bigger plate you can avoid bolting it down, but it might fall over if you don't pay attention (and it's heavy enough that if it falls on your bike it will seriously damge the bike, or you). Lifting a heavy bike into the stand, on the other hand, will be a hassle. My local eBike shop uses powered hoists for that reason.

A cheap stand will be very flexible, and even if it doesn't actually collapse, it will feel as though it's about to even with a lightweight road bike in it. When you want to apply any real force to the bike you will need to brace the bike against that force as well as applying it. Which is a huge pain. That said, they do work for most minor repairs and adjustments.

enter image description here

But the stand is cheap and it folds away to nothing. Hopefully when you want it to fold, but for that price you can't be too fussy. What you're buying there is light and easy to fold, you're not paying for a usable workstand.

A better lightweight design is this style:

enter image description here

They support the bottom bracket rather than the top tube/seatpost, so there's less stand to flex. It's slightly more twiddly to get the bike in and out, but they're easier to work with in my experience. At least for upright bikes - it's unlikely that a recumbent or load bike will fit into them at all.

edit to add:

Finally, many "bike storage systems" actually work ok as workstands. The ones that suspend the bike from the roof using pulleys are very close to the power hoist that my LBS uses. Many of the "arms poking out from the wall" style have arms long enough that you can pull the bike out a bit and spin the pedals while the bike is on the storage unit. This style of leaning hanger is available pretty cheap if you can put up with less decorative versions:

enter image description here

With the "wall hook" style that hang the front wheel it's less convenient, but you can put a block under the bottom bracket to push the rear wheel away from the wall and adjust the gears that way. Reaching the handlebars when the bike is hung up is only easy if you're tall, though, so it's not always an option.

Many car racks can also be used this way.

  • I'm part-way through building a stand vaguely like the last one, but it will fasten to the top of a bike trailer, for going to fixups. – Criggie Jun 2 '16 at 23:32
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    I like the style of the bottom rack, but my bike has shifter cables running along the down tube so it stops me from tuning the bike. – mattnz Jun 2 '16 at 23:40
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    I don't have much space, and don't have a dedicated workshop either, and I just tinker with bicycles when I have the time in the evenings or weekends, so a foldable stand is the way to go for me. But you have definitely pointed out the difference and I learned something! Thanks for the detailed response! – jrahhali Jun 3 '16 at 0:30
  • @jrahhali I added a quick note about other cheap options - many of those storage hanger things work as well as a cheap stand. – Móż Jun 3 '16 at 0:35
  • Before I got a portable stand, I would use the hitch mounted car rack (one with prongs) as a work stand, fairly successfully. – mattnz Jun 3 '16 at 1:18
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Although not as good a the stands used in bike shops, a light weight portable stand will hold the bike for larger torque jobs. I replace the BB and pedals with the bike in my light, portable stand. The stand holds the bike, you have one hand for the tool, and the other to hold the bike and counteract the forces close to where they are applied.

On the odd occasion I have worked on a bike after a gorilla with a spanner has had a go, or corrosion has seized parts. In these cases, one option is to lower the bike so wheels are on the ground, but the stand still holds it upright. Using correct tools - e.g. longer handles rather than more force allows more controlled application of higher torques. In the worse cases, I will remove the bike from the stand and lie it on the floor.

Pedals are easier to loosen with the bike on the floor, its a two second job before putting in the rack, but can be done easily enough in the rack if needed.

As far as flopping around - not really a problem, you have a hand free to support and control the bike, and one for the tool. The stand I have has a rod to hold the handle bars steady.

A lightweight portable stand is certainly a compromise compared to a professional fixed stand, but if you want something that works 95% and accept it has some limitations (How often do you replace seized up BB's) they are well worth the cost. Given changes in the industry where every season a 'new and improved' way of doing things also means a specialised tool, it won't be long before bikes are like modern cars and DIY maintenance is limited to cleaning and pumping up tires.

The only regret I had after buying mine was I did not do it 10 years sooner. It is a tool that will last a life time, and be used a lot, so it is worth thinking hard before getting one that is cheap.

One other thing to consider is if you have a carbon bike clamping Carbon is not good. One recommendation is to install an aluminium seat post and clamp that.

  • You're suggestion about lowering so the wheels are on the ground has just sold me on making sure I get a stand that can easily be height adjusted. Thanks! – jrahhali Jun 3 '16 at 13:59
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I've used a couple of cargo tiedowns (AKA motorbike tiedown straps) and a convenient rafter successfully. You can push down on things, much more than lifting up.

Recently I bought one of these lift units and it would do a similar job at lifting the bike up to working height. However you could only pull tools downwards.

enter image description here

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    I was given a couple of those by a bike shop because they decided that the design is too dangerous for a workplace - if you let go of the rope the bike falls on you. Fine for home use, because it's all on you if you do that. So I use them to hang my less-used bikes right up under the roof of the garage. – Móż Jun 3 '16 at 2:06
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I have used one like this for many years:

http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/21oihoFfvyL.jpg
Via Amazon

It's not ideal, and it doesn't hold the bike very far off the ground, but it's cheap, it gets the rear wheel up, the legs are wide enough to be stable, and though there's some flex, it's strong enough for some grunting to loosen a tight bolt. With careful balance, you can tip the bike & stand back to get the front wheel off the ground, too, but it's not ideal for that.

This one (also via Amazon) has some adjustability, but it doesn't look like the legs are quite as wide, so I'm not sure if it would be as stable.

No particular endorsement of Amazon for said purchase, they were just the first place I found an image of the product I was looking for.

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