There are three basic types of workstand; single clamp, bottom bracket and dropout support or basic wheel holder, each with their own pros and cons.
Bicycle workstands are a godsend for the home mechanic as they make it so much easier to work on bikes. They keep the bike in an upright fixed position, well off the floor.
Depending on model can also allow a bike to be placed into a variety of weird and wonderful positions to let you get at awkward spots without contorting yourself or damaging your bike.
You don’t have to be the world’s keenest mechanic to get an advantage from using one either. Cleaning is made much simpler. Basic stand models also help with storage (keeping the bike off walls etc) without taking up too much room.
As the name suggests is a single clamping mechanism on an arm holds the bike – either the seatpost or top tube. A long arm extends horizontally from a vertical pole with a clamp at the end. This clamp can also be rotated allowing the bike to be placed in more positions.
These types of stand are the most common as they are the best combination of stability, portability and cost. The drawbacks from this system is that you can’t use a clamp on a tube of a carbon frame (it may cause crush damage) and aero seatposts may not fit in the clamp securely.
Bottom bracket and dropout support
The bottom bracket rests on a mount on a horizontal bar which also has adjustable position QR axles to hold the front fork or rear dropout. These are often favoured by pro mechanics at races as they don’t place any stress on the frame with clamps. They also spin around easier allowing the mechanic to stay in position and move the bike around instead.
They are also very portable which makes them easier to stow when not in use, something worth considering if you travel away from base with yours. The downside is that you have to remove a wheel to secure the bike and they typically cost more than a single clamp design.
Basic wheel holder
If you can’t run to a full-on workstand but could do with something to hold your bike in place while working, cleaning or just storing it then these are worth considering.
They usually take the form of a base support with an upright arm approx 50cm high with two plastic coated hooks sticking out which support the rear stays. Some have a base which the rear wheel places into and a spring loaded arm with two poles holds the wheel in place and keeps the bike upright.
These basic types are very light, easy to use, very portable and the cheapest available. The downsides are: having to stoop down to work on the bike; not the most stable as the front wheel is not supported; you can’t rotate the bike wheels so not good for gear indexing or brake setup etc.
More expensive stands tend to be more stable and better constructed. You’ll appreciate this if you are constantly tinkering. In my experience I’d rather pay a weight penalty for a more stable stand. The better the base the more stable it is, regardless of having two or three supporting legs.
Does the clamp rotate? Does the upright pole allow you to adjust the height the bike is held at? Can you vary the length of the horizontal arm for better stability with heavier bikes?
Portability and storage
If you are tight on space or intend to use the stand in more than one place then the easier it is to fold and store the more you’ll use it.
Think about your needs
What you will be using a stand for? If you’re doing lots of work you’ll appreciate a better stand. If you’re just using it for cleaning bikes then you may not need to spend as much. Even basic stands are better than nothing and come in handy in more ways than you think.
Which workstand should you buy?
We’re not breaking this down into our usual ‘what is best for which type of rider’ stuff because as mechanical skills are completely different to riding and racing skills. I know some very good riders who can mend a puncture and that’s about the sum total of their mechanic ability!
Very little mechanical skills – Even a basic wheel holder stand will make cleaning the bike easier or help when getting it ready for a ride ie not leaning it against a wall or car
Regular mechanic – A basic stand is better than no stand and if you have basic skills then a single clamp or bottom bracket and dropout support stand will make tinkering and cleaning easier.
Obsessional tinkerer – Single clamps are great with the right bike. Bottom bracket supported models are more stable. Price can also be a determining factor but most good mechanics will pay to have the best stand for their particular needs.