The X-Tools Home Mechanic Prep Stand does more or less what it says on the tin, and at a tidy price for the budget-conscious home user.
First impressions are good - the legs and poles are made from a goldy-brownish alloy, and look quite pro, as do the black resin and alloy fittings. Everything feels solid and the 4.4kg weight is spot on - enough heft to feel up to the job while not being too heavy to cart about.
Folded up, the stand is pretty compact – a metre tall, and 25cm across at its widest – easily slingable into even a small car boot. It will stand in a corner no problem, with a wall to lean on. Unfolding takes less than 10 seconds, with three quick release clamps to tighten and it's ready to go. The head is fixed to the upper telescoping pole, which is keyed into the lower pole so it cannot rotate, aiding solidity and removing a possible cause of play.
The clamp centre height is 1.5m at its tallest, meaning a large-ish frame clamped at the bottom of the seatpost will sit with the rear mech about 1m off the ground, level with the shifters for ease of actuation as you pedal. That's not overly tall, and if you are towards the Skylab end of the home mechanic height spectrum you might find bending over for prolonged fettling to be a pain in the lower back.
The party trick of the X-Tools stand is the teeth that lock the clamp head rotation. Unlike pretty much every other clamp design that relies on friction, the teeth on the head and clamp intermesh to lock the rotation in a shark's-tooth-like grip – there is simply no way a bike is rotating once the head is in place. The teeth are engaged by a lever at the rear – a 180-degree twist and the clamp springs out just enough to let the teeth disengage, so you can spin the bike to the desired orientation and twist the lever back 180. The lever itself flips over, so no matter which hand you're using or the direction you reach through the bike to get at it, you can always get leverage. It's a cunning design.
The clamp itself is rubberised, with an 85mm-long set of jaws operated by a stubby cam lever that also spins to adjust the clamping distance. The jaws open a maximum of 58mm, the action of closing the lever decreasing the clamp space by 18mm. As with many low-cost clamp designs, the simple closing of the lever/cam does not secure the seatpost – you need to first twist the lever three times, then close it to provide sufficient clamping force. What this means is that once you insert your seatpost there's a bit of trial and error to get the distance right, then wind the lever thrice and clamp down, allowing the lever to cam over into the locked position. Of course you also have to unwind the handle three times when removing the seatpost from the clamp too.
If you only work on the one diameter of seatpost you'll never have to adjust it again; get the opening distance just right, insert post, three turns and clamp. If, however, you wrangle a veritable plethora of tubage you'll need to re-set the spacing each and every time. This isn't overly-onerous, but if you have a few heavy bikes in your fleet you'll have to support their weight with one hand while faffing with the handle. This may or may not be your bag, and if you're trying to quickly turn around multiple bikes in a race scenario this is probably not the stand you're looking for. The moving side of the clamp jaw is double-hinged, to accommodate pretty much all sizes of post or (shudders) tubing. If you find yourself compromised by shortness of seatpost and need to clamp a top tube there's a channel in the centre of the clamp for a single cable (top or bottom of the tube) to feed through.
For a clamp with so many moving parts there's a discernible but not unseemly amount of play in the overall package. Again, once you get the clamping distance right the cam lever does the job of locking it down. Certainly the quality is quite a large step beyond the Everyman budget home workstand, £30 courtesy of your favourite Germanic discount retailer.
The stability of the X-Tools stand relies on a virtual tripod formed by the base of the pole plus the feet at the end of the two legs. There's 2cm of clearance under the legs so stability on rough surfaces might be hit/miss over a traditional tripod arrangement. The virtual tripod legs are 55cm to the left and right under the clamp, and only 40cm to the rear. This means that compared with other designs with legs up to 68cm long, where you can also spin the head left or right to adjust the bike's centre of gravity relative to the legs, in this case you get what you're given. This can result in an unstable, tippy experience if you don't pay attention, and is the major drawback to this V-legged design - a quasi-Orwellian case of three legs good, two legs bad.
Once you are practised in the foibles of bike centre-of-gravity, frame angle and force applied, it's a perfectly reasonable maintenance proposition. X-Tools doesn't list any maximum weight, but there was no issue holding an elderly full-suspension mountain bike the right way up. Don't expect to be holding any full-size bike at odd angles, though, due to the aforementioned stability limitations.
Included in this £90 RRP package is a black plastic mat measuring 90 x 208cm, trimmed in blue. It's a few grades up from IKEA carry-bag type woven plastic, and comes in its own carrybag with handle. It's handy for working indoors, or outside where there's risk of dropping bits into grass or mud. Or as something to stand on to get changed at a race. At RRP is it worth the extra £10 though? That will depend on where you need to work, and how accepting housemates are of filth-infused WD-40 on the parquet flooring.
Untested in this review is the optional tool tray for £13. There are two holes in the height-adjustment collar for it to fit into.
So there are limitations in the clamp design and stability, but the head locking is genius, the materials used look shiny and corrosion-resistant, the weight is right and it folds up as small as can be expected. For around £65 (not including mat), is it twice the value of the Aldi/Lidl alternative? Yes, definitely, and then some. If you simply cannot countenance paying more for a workstand, spend the £100 you'll save on some decent T-head hex keys, a torque wrench or any other critical tools you don't yet own and haven't managed to slip under the spousal radar.
If you only work on a few bikes, and only do so once or twice a week, the X-Tools stand will do you right, caveats understood. If you're running a fleet of bikes and fettling daily, though, the shortcomings will frustrate.
If you only work on a few bikes, and only do so once or twice a week, the X-Tools stand will do you right, caveats understood
road.cc test report
Make and model: X-Tools Home Mechanic Prep Stand and Workshop Mat
Size tested: n/a
Tell us what the product is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?
The stand is for home users on a budget, who need a reasonable quality stand. But it's not 'professional quality'.
X-Tools says: "A professional quality workshop workstand with multi adjustable quick release head. Wide angle folding legs create a wide stable platform when being used and fold away for compact storage and easy transportation."
Legs easily fold away for compact storage and easy transportation.
Legs fold out and lock at a wide angle to create a large stable platform to work from
3x Quick release levers quickly lock the stand in the desired position
To ensure the stand does no move around there are three rubberised points of contact the floor
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Adjustable height from 102 – 154cm
Adjustable clamp will fit a wide range of frame tube shapes/sizes or seatpost diameters.
Clamp opening adjusts from 30 – 80cm
Clamp pressure can be easily adjusted to prevent occurring to any fragile thin tubing
Multi-angle adjustable clamp arm rotates 360 degrees so will adjust to fit any bike/component
Folds down to100cm long for easy transport and storage.
Manufactured from lightweight aluminium for strength, durability and easy transportation
The X-Tools Workshop Bike Mat is made from a quality waterproof PE plastic, which has been specifically designed to help make the bicycle enthusiast's life easier at home or outdoors.
The large 900x2080mm Mat is the perfect size to help prevent any dirt or grime from getting onto your flooring/carpets during general maintenance, cleaning, lubrication, or when drying your bike indoors at home.
The foldable Mat comes with its own waterproof carry case for easy transportation and storage: perfect for taking to the races in the boot of your car, to help catch small parts that try to escape when working outdoors on grass or gravel.
It is especially handy at muddy races where you want a waterproof changing area next to your car.
Size: 900mm x 2080mm
Quality waterproof PE plastic material
Easy to fold
Comes with a waterproof carry case to help transport and contain dirt and grime.
With expectations set, it performs OK.
Looks to be very durable.
Pretty light for what it is.
Tricky. If you only need a stand for minor jobs, not that often, it is cracking value. Regular fettlers of many bikes will soon be frustrated and wish they'd spent extra.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
OK. That's about it.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
The rotation locking. X-Tools should license that patent to everyone else.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Having to wind the jaws closed before clamping.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes, squarely bearing in mind the price.
Would you consider buying the product? Yes. But possibly not at RRP, and not as my main stand.
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes, but with the caveats understood.
Use this box to explain your score
Yes, it's more than twice as good as the £30 Aldi/Lidl ones, and it's circa half to a third the price of a Feedback Sports Pro Elite. It's definitely 'Good' rather than 'Very good' though.
About the tester
Age: 42 Height: 183cm Weight: 72KG
I usually ride: Charge Juicer My best bike is:
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: A few times a week I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: club rides, general fitness riding, fixed/singlespeed, mountain biking, and Dutch bike pootling