Apr 13 2009

Taking a Stand: The Pletscher Two-Legged Kickstand

I’ve had my Surly Long  Haul Trucker for a year now, and that’s given me plenty of time to adapt her to my needs. There are many Long Haul Truckers, I know, but Petra is mine. And one of the things I’ve done to make Petra mine was to add a kickstand: a Pletscher two-legged kickstand, to be exact. Here’s an interim report…

Cost and Weight  At around USD45, the Pletscher isn’t cheap, and it’s no lightweight, either. But at least the weight is mounted low.

Two-Legged Kickstand Design

Design  The Pletscher’s double legs are cleverly designed to fold together, then open out to a nine-inch spread. Once deployed, the kickstand lifts one wheel off the ground. The legs sport a molded scale to guide the owner in cutting them to any desired length, but I left them as they came, preferring the widest possible base of support. (Cutting the legs necessarily reduces the spread.)

Two-Legged Kickstand Folded

 

Ease of Mounting  Since my Long Haul Trucker lacks a kickstand plate, I had to use the Pletscher’s clamp to mount it. It’s a tricky business, at best, and the smooth, angled facets of the upper element (see the photo at right) make it even trickier. In fact, the clamp almost demands that you overtighten it. Don’t! A too-tight clamp can crush your chainstays. Yet a loose clamp will let you down. It’s a lose-lose scenario. I tried using aquarium tubing to pad the clamp and reduce its tendency to slip, but that proved ineffective …

Clamp Jaws

So I replaced it with wrappings made from salvaged inner tubes, secured with electrical tape. I also put electrical tape on the contact faces of the clamp, in the hope that the tacky tape would help keep the clamp from slipping. The result certainly isn’t elegant, but it works, after a fashion:

Padded Jaws

The kickstand hasn’t shifted in a year. I’m not sure what I’ll find when I remove the improvised padding, however… Peeled paint, or something worse? We’ll see.

Technique  With a single-leg kickstand, you just get off your bike, flick the supporting leg down, lean the bike toward you, adjust the angle of the front wheel, and walk away. Parking with a two-legged Pletscher isn’t quite so straightforward. To begin with, you have to lift the bike a bit — not the easiest thing to do when you have a full touring load aboard. Then you lower the legs and let the bike down on the stand. One wheel — the front, usually — will remain airborne, and if the bike is heavily loaded it will probably feel wobbly. A word of warning: If you have a heavy bar bag, the front wheel may swing round suddenly as the bike settles down on the kickstand. I try to anticipate this, catching the ‘bars and bringing the wheel home gently. I’ve also padded Petra’s top tube with a thick Velcro wrap to protect it from the bar-end shifters.

Now here’s an uncommon sight: Petra parked on a level surface, with more weight in her handlebar bag then in the (single) pannier.

Nose Down

Even on those rare occasions when the fore-and-aft trim favors such a nose-down attitude, however, the front wheel can still pivot. Which is why I prefer the nose-up approach:

Nose Up

Here I’ve parked Petra at right angles to the road and sunk the legs an inch deep into the soft shoulder, then cocked the wheel to the right, the position which offered the greatest stability at the time. (Once in a blue moon, a sloping site may allow Petra to come to rest with both wheels on the ground, or near enough. See the next photo for an example.)

On the Level

A heavy load in the panniers makes things even more problematic. Because of the rather tottery behavior of the loaded bike, I try to park near a support whenever I can, as I did on a recent shopping trip:

You're the Tops(oil)!

I had 30 pounds of groceries in the Nashbar Townie panniers when this picture was taken. A few minutes later, I stopped to pick up a five-liter box of vin very ordinaire. Once again, I chose my parking place with an eye to the infrastructure:

Bricks and Mortar

All of which goes to show that two legs aren’t always better than one, at least where stability is concerned. Consider the following diagrammatic sketch:

Comparing Kickstands

A single-leg kickstand yields a broader base of support than two-legged stands like the Pletscher. Here’s my “one-legged” utility bike with a comparable 30-pound load in the panniers:

One Kickstand

The cocked wheel helps to offset the single-leg’s tendency to flop over when there’s a heavy, unbalanced load. A canny eye for terrain helps, too. If possible, park so that your one-legged bike leans into a slight slope. This is easy along the shoulder of the highway. (It’s not so easy in a parking lot, however, and the trick doesn’t work at all if you’re using a two-legged prop.)

 

The Bottom Line  On balance, the Pletscher offers less security than a conventional kickstand, at appreciably higher cost and weight. Why did I buy it, then? Well, I listened too intently to some good advice. The Pletscher was said to…

Make Loading racks and panniers easier.  But as the foregoing makes clear, I didn’t find this to be the case. Light loads are easy to manage, to be sure. But heavy loads are tottery, and unbalanced loads require great care in loading and unloading — far more care than is necessary with single-leg stands.

Serve as a handy workstand for roadside repairs  This is true. In particular, the two-legged support makes patching a puncture easy. And if you take care in positioning your Pletscher kickstand when you mount it, you can even spin your pedals freely by hand while the bike is in the nose-down orientation. That makes adjusting indexed derailleurs easy, should they drift out of register when you’re on the road. (NB Never, ever sit on a bike when it’s supported by a kickstand — to adjust a derailleur or for any other reason. There’s no better way to crush your chainstays.)

Offer unmatched stability.  What can I say? Not in my experience, it doesn’t. I find one-leg stands far more stable.

This doesn’t exhaust the list of demerits, either. At the risk of repeating myself, the Pletscher is also costly, heavy, awkward to deploy, and — if mounted on a bike lacking a kickstand plate — liable to damage your chainstays.

Not a very encouraging summary, is it? And would I buy this kickstand again? Probably not. Perhaps if my bike had a kickstand plate, I might feel differently. To give credit where credit is due, the Pletscher does make mounting (and removing) light panniers easy. And it shines when you have to repair a flat on the road. (Though you’ll probably have to unload your bike first.) But this last really isn’t a deal-maker unless you do a lot of riding in thorn country.

So… What “good advice” would I offer cyclists looking for a kickstand? Buy a single-leg stand. It will do anything a kickstand can reasonably be asked to do. And you can buy a couple of big boxes of vin very ordinaire with the money you’ll save!

Low Down View



Further Reading

 

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