Considering how much bicycle work I was planning on doing this winter, I was interested in getting a decent bicycle workstand. For my whole life I’ve managed to make do with the ad hoc method of flipping the bike over and leaning it against a wall like a newbie gymnast trying to learn how to do a headstand. But now that I have a bit more disposable income and space than a starving college student, it seemed like it would be fine to invest in a device that could actually keep the bike stable and the saddle unmarred.
What to get, then? There are quite a few possibilities that are marketed, in order of increasing wallet pain:
- A “quickie” type stand that lifts the rear wheel off the ground after you slide your bike’s rear chainstay into it. $15-30. Pros: inexpensive and portable. Cons: unstable and touches the bike’s paint.
- Bottom bracket holding workstand: these support/clamp the bicycle underneath the bottom bracket and downtube. $50-80. Pros: still relatively inexpensive and more stable than the quickie type stand; can hold bike without the wheels present. Cons: can pinch derailleur cables that run underneath the downtube and touches the bike’s paint.
- Clamp-type workstand: these hold the bike by clamping onto frame tubes or the seat post. $110-210. Pros: stable and what professionals use; can hold bike without the wheels present. Cons: expensive, touches the bike’s paint, can crush the bikes’ tubes (many bikes, such as my Cannondale, have warning labels that say not to clamp the ultra-thin seat tube), and if you clamp by the seat post you will likely have to loosen the seat post and extend it, which can be inconvenient. They take up quite a bit of space even when folded up and unused. Also, to prevent the front wheel from flopping around, you’d want a handlebar holder to fits over the stem and top tube ($15).
So what did I end up getting? The answer: none of the above. All of them had too many drawbacks. In particular, I wanted something that could hold my bike stable without touching the bike’s paint or tubes, yet allow the spinning of the wheels to, say, fine-tune the derailleurs.
I thought back to 10 years ago when I was building the recumbent. I recalled fine-tuning its derailleurs for the first time, with the ‘bent mounted on a trainer that I once had before I lent it to an acquaintance who never returned it before moving to who knows where.
“That’s the solution,” I thought. Not only could I use it as a workstand, but I could use it to ride indoors (actually, its intended use).
The main drawback of the trainer as a workstand is that you must have at least the rear wheel attached to the bike to work on it. But this is only a drawback if you do not have a rear wheel in the first place (e.g., if you were building a new bike from scratch) or if you wanted to work on the bike with the rear wheel removed to, say, wash the bike between the chainstays.
I found a like-new Ascent fluid resistance trainer on Craig’s List for $75 (original retail price: $200). Like most stationary trainers, it clamps onto (actually, around) the rear quick release and never touches the bike’s paint. It only takes about a minute to attach.
Then I used it to inspect Cranky‘s bottom bracket. Note how stable the bike is:
Finally, I brought the trainer over to Leah’s place the night before the Tour de Fat, and tuned her mountain bike’s derailleurs on it in her living room within a matter of minutes. “This is the first time the bike shifts properly,” she said of the bike after test-riding it after the tune-up. A friend of hers and myself had tried to do it before on separate occasions, but did not have the luxury of a workstand to do so and the trial-and-error technique of making an adjustment and then riding and re-turning was not successful.
My recommendation for anyone thinking about buying a “real” workstand, then, is to not bother. Buy a stationary indoor trainer instead!
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