[This article was last updated on December 19, 2017]
A workstand holds your bike firmly and off the floor so you can do repair and maintenance work more easily. You don’t have to spend a fortune to get a perfectly decent one.
Eventually you get fed up of trying to work on a bike that’s leaning against the kitchen bench or — the horror! — upside down in the shed. You’ve seen the beefy static workstands shop mechanics use and want some of that action at home. It’s time to take your mechanic-fu up a step and get a workstand.
Very broadly speaking, there are two types: a pro shop style fixed stand with a heavy base — or even bolted to the floor — that lives in your dedicated bike repair space, or a folding stand that can be packed away when not in use and taken to events. Few of us have the space for a dedicated workshop, so folding stands are far more common.
There are two common ways that workstands hold bikes, either with a clamp that grabs a frame tube or the seat post, or with a combination of a quick release fork clamp and a bottom bracket cradle. Race mechanics like the latter type because they’re very stable and handy for cleaning bikes, but a stand with a clamp works with a wider range of bikes.
There’s a caveat with clamp-style stands though: they can easily crush light frame tubes. Carbon fiber and very light aluminium frames are the most fragile and must be clamped by the seat post if it’s beefy enough. We’re not aware of any seatpost makers that warn against clamping, but if you have a very light seat post and you’re worried about it, then get an el cheapo aluminium post to use with your workstand.
Your typical folding stand has three points of contacts with the ground on legs that fold out from the body, some sort of adjustment of the clamp height usually through a telescoping vertical member and a clamp that may or may not fold away depending on the design. Within that outline there’s a lot of variation in detail and quality, so let’s take a look at six of the best workstands.
The Park Tool PRS-22 is a professional-level repair stand that's strong and stable, the beam design allowing it to support the bottom bracket and hold either the front or rear dropouts so there's no need to clamp either the frame or seatpost.
Most repair stands feature a clamp that you tighten around the seatpost but the PRS-22 is an entirely different design in that your bike is supported by a central beam. You whip one of the wheels off, rest the bottom bracket shell on its support on that beam, and then secure the dropouts on the quick release axle.
Once your bike is fixed in place, the PRS-22 holds it firm and secure, although bikes with sloping bottom bracket shells aren't as stable as others. Whether you're adjusting the gears or brakes or doing something that requires a bit more force, the PRS-22 is more than strong enough. The wide base is really steady on a flat floor, each of the three aluminium legs extending outwards 60cm from the centre.
The Bikegater+ Repair Stand from Slovenian company Unior is a practical, tough and stable tool for home and shop mechanics alike, though the clamp unit will need upgrading if you work with a lot of different bikes.
If a stand ain't stable it ain't worth having. Some seem OK until you load the bike in, at which point the whole thing becomes top heavy. That's a danger to you and your bike. Well, the Unior Bikegater+ passes that particular test with aplomb. Though only a two-leg design, the geometry is sorted so that a bike clamped by the seat tube sits squarely over the centre of gravity. No amount of leaning on foot-long bottom-bracket wrenches threatened to topple it. This was true even at maximum extension – a very generous 155cm, I might add, which made it the first stand I've used that was actually a bit too tall!
With a delivery price well in excess of what most people are prepared to pay for an entire bike workstand, the Hirobel Carbon Frame Clamp is going to remain pretty rare even among diehard home workshop fettlers. But if you have a fleet of bikes, strange carbon aero shapes, or very short exposed lengths of seatpost, this may well be the workstand accessory you've been looking for all these years.
Clamping a bike by the seatpost can mean having to move the post to secure enough 'real estate' for the clamp – risking misalignment of the saddle, returning it to the wrong height or ultimately stripping the clamp bolts through repeated tightening/loosening. With modern bike-fit principles setting seat height to within fractions of a millimetre, you don't want to be getting this wrong...
Combine this with the difficulty of clamping increasingly thinner-walled and strangely shaped hydroformed alloy tubing or complex 3D carbon layups, and what's an honest fettler to do? Enter the Hirobel Carbon Frame Clamp.
Many manufacturers make a professional workshop stand along these lines, with a heavy steel base and a simple but robust clamp that slides up and down the upright so you can place the bike at exactly the right height. The base of Var’s stand weighs 28kg, so it really isn’t intended to be portable, unless you're the Incredible Hulk of bike mechanics.
Var says the tacky rubber used for the jaws of the clamp means you don’t have to tighten it as hard and illustrates it holding a Look carbon frame by the seat tube.
The Rolls Royce of folding/portable stands, Feedback Sports’ Pro-Elite stand is superbly made and a joy to use thanks to a brilliant, beefy clamp that opens and closes in a jiffy but holds your seatpost securely whatever its size or shape.
It’s made from aluminium and stainless steel so you don’t mind getting it wet when using it as a bike wash stand and when it’s not in use it folds tidily into the optional tote bag. Our man Mike Stead concluded in his review: “The last workstand you'll ever need to buy, and you'll love using it, every time.” He’s not wrong — I’ve had a Pro Elite for years and can’t think of any reason to replace it.
This is Feedback Sports’ take on the fork-end-and-cradle supported stand popular with race mechanics. The Sprint is easy to use, with a simple clamp that can hold either the front or rear dropouts. Mike Stead again: “The Feedback Sports Sprint Workstand is a great-looking top-class bit of kit that you'll look forward to getting out to use. If you can bring yourself to put it away, that is.”
The more expensive of Park Tool’s pair of folding stands, the PCS-10 is worth the extra over the PCS-9 for its easier folding and unfolding, and quicker, nicer to use clamp. The adjustable, cam-action clamp fits tubes from 24 to 76mm and it takes Park Tool’s handy accessories like the tool bucket and paper towel holder.
This is a simple and sturdy stand at a good price, with lots of positive reviews on Amazon, where it can sometimes be found for a bargain price. It has quick releases so it’s easy to put up and down and a simple cam-action clamp.
This appears to be the same as the four-legged stand that sometimes pops up as a Lidl seasonal offer for £25-30. Amazon reviewers report that it’s plenty stable and sturdy, and the Lidl stand is a forum favourite, usually described as far better than you’d expect for the modest price.
Our official grumpy Northerner, John has been riding bikes for over 30 years since discovering as an uncoordinated teen that a sport could be fun if it didn't require you to catch a ball or get in the way of a hulking prop forward.
Road touring was followed by mountain biking and a career racing in the mud that was as brief as it was unsuccessful.
Somewhere along the line came the discovery that he could string a few words together, followed by the even more remarkable discovery that people were mug enough to pay for this rather than expecting him to do an honest day's work. He's pretty certain he's worked for even more bike publications than Mat Brett.
The inevitable 30-something MAMIL transition saw him shift to skinny tyres and these days he lives in Cambridge where the lack of hills is more than made up for by the headwinds.