Apr 14 2010

Need a Leg (or Two) to Stand On? Some Help in Choosing a Kickstand

Is something missing on your new bike? No? Are you sure? What about a kickstand? Few new bikes come with ’em, at least on this side of the Pond, but many riders want one. Whatever you use a bike for—commuting, grocery shopping, or touring—you’ll probably find that a kickstand is one of life’s handier gadgets. Racers and club riders won’t agree, of course. To them, a kickstand is just extra weight, and decidedly not cool. But the rest of us can probably remember a time when we leaned a bike against a wall “just for a minute” and walked away, only to hear it come crashing down seconds later. A good kickstand makes these unpleasant surprises very rare.

Note the qualifying adjective: “good.” A bad kickstand is the worst kind of false friend. Sooner or later it’s guaranteed to let you (and your bike) down. But what makes a good kickstand good? That’s the question. At least we have plenty to choose from. Some have one leg. Some have two. Some attach to the chainstays just behind the bottom bracket. Some clamp to a single chainstay, a few inches from the rear dropout, on the side opposite the mech (aka derailleur). Which of these are good, and which are not-so-good? And most important of all, which one is best for you?

I’m glad you asked, even if I don’t have all the answers. But I do have some reasonably well-founded opinions. So here goes, a sort of Tour de Kickstand, beginning with…

Two legs good?  My Number One Bike, a Surly Long Haul Trucker, didn’t come with a kickstand. In fact, it doesn’t even have a kickstand plate, the little steel shelf that makes fitting a kickstand easy and eliminates the chance that you’ll crush a chainstay in the process. This is a sore point with me: the sole shortcoming in an otherwise first-rate machine. And Surly knows how I (and others) feel about the matter. But their response has been uncharacteristically…well…surly. Not exactly a case study in good customer relations.

But I digress. The subject is kickstands, not the curious ways of modern corporations. And when I bought my LHT I knew exactly the kickstand I wanted to mount on it—a two-legged Pletscher:

Two Legs Good?

And I got one. While the Pletscher isn’t a cheap date—it cost USD45!—it was love at first sight. The Pletscher was (and is) a marvel of design, clever and compact, if a bit on the heavy side. We stayed together for a year, while I put some 2,500 miles on my new LHT. But the romance quickly cooled. The clamp proved dodgy—and Pletscher has the chutzpa to make you pay ten bucks more for a fix that ought to be part of the original package. Worst of all, the stand proved inherently unstable when used on a heavily loaded bike—and my LHT is usually heavily loaded.

In the end, we went our separate ways. I’ve written about our brief affair at some length elsewhere. It was a painful interlude, to be sure, but I bounced back from the disappointment quickly, and I picked up a new love on the rebound:

Meet Greenfield. He’s only got one leg to stand on, and he’s not much to look at, but this doesn’t matter. He’s never let me down, and that’s what really counts. He’s also lighter than the Pletscher, and much, much cheaper (less than USD10, in fact). His clamp works better, too. It holds tight without crushing. And I can boot him into action without having to lift the bike (and the fifty-plus pounds of groceries in the panniers) first. Don’t get me wrong. Ours isn’t an abusive relationship. He likes being kicked around. It’s what he lives for. Here he is:

One Leg to Stand On

We’re going to stay together for a long time. But the secret of his appeal isn’t chemistry. It’s geometry. Greenfield simply has a bigger base of support:

Eternal Triangles

So…my search for a kickstand had a happy ending. That’s what counts, right? But if you want the whole story, you’ll find it here.

How about you? Not content with just two choices? Thinking about playing the field? Then you might want to give a kickstand that mounts far back on the chainstay a try. Like this one, on Barney Ward‘s LHT:

Barney Ward's Sturdy Steed

I’ve never used one, and it looks like they could complicate the job of attaching a trailer, but Barney and other folks who have them like them. You might, too.

Then there’s the Click-Stand. (Click-Stand. Kickstand. Get it?) The maker calls it the “World’s Only Folding Portable Bicycle Stand.” Fair enough. It looks a bit like a cross between an aluminum tent pole and a shooting stick to me. And I found the idea interesting, once upon a time. But—for no good reason other than inertia—I never got around to trying one. That said, the Click-Stand has plenty of fans. So if conventional bolt-on-the-bike kickstands leave you cold, it could be just what you’re looking for.

What’s the bottom line? Kickstands make life a little bit easier for cyclists who use their bikes to haul stuff. And while no kickstand can guarantee that your bike won’t someday take a tumble, good kickstands make this pretty unlikely. Like I said, my Greenfield has never let me down. Sure, I’m careful how and where I park my bike. And I carry a “sand-shoe” (a metal jar lid) to use on soft ground. But mostly I just kick the stand down and walk away. The Greenfield does the rest.

I can’t kick about that, can I?


Further Reading

 

Questions? Comments? Just click here!