Apr 13 2013

For Want of a Kickstand Plate: A Cautionary Tale for Touring Cyclists

Bikes, like sharks, need to keep moving forward. Once they stop, they’re prone to all sorts of mishaps and misadventures. Which is where the kickstand comes in. But not all kickstands are equal, and no kickstand can be relied on to keep your bike upright under all conditions. That said, I’ve tried both two-legged and one-legged varieties, and I now prefer the latter.

A problem common to both types — the problem, I’d say — is the difficulty in fitting the thing to your bike. Yet the solution is simple: weld a kickstand plate onto the frame to receive the kickstand’s mounting bolt. Curiously, though, many makers of touring and utility bikes don’t bother. My Surly Long Haul Trucker is a case in point. When I brought this deficiency to the maker’s attention, however, I got a response which can best be described as a sneer. Surly by name, surly by nature, I guess. It’s not much of a recommendation.

Anyway, if your bike, like mine, lacks a handy mounting plate, and if you want to fit a kickstand, you’ll have to proceed cautiously. Most one- and two-legged kickstands come with a clamp mount. It’s designed to bridge the (plateless) chainstays, and in theory it’s easy to use. Just tighten the clamp and you’re good to go. But this turns out to be a very fussy job. If the clamp is too loose, even by a little bit, the kickstand can rotate under load, dumping your bike to the ground. It may even slip while you’re riding, allowing the kickstand’s leg(s) to fall foul of your rear wheel. That’s guaranteed to bring your ride to sudden stop. On the other hand, if you get it too tight… Well, why not let cyclist Rael Belterman tell the tale? (NB I’ve added italics for emphasis in several places.)

I read your review [of the Pletscher two-legged kickstand] with interest. I found it after I wrote to a bike shop that sells these stands which, by the way, cost about USD110 in Australia.

Initially I loved the Pletscher kickstand on my touring bike. It is practical, easy to use, and great for working on the brakes or changing a tire. However, it has a couple of serious issues. When using the stand, it lifts up a wheel, and when touring, this is usually the front one. Especially with panniers on the front, the handlebars tend to swing around, knocking lights and damaging paint. I tried to stop this from happening by installing a Hebie stabilizer, but the panniers were too heavy, so the Hebie ended up moving and needing constant readjustments, which in turn damaged the paint (as well as its being ugly).

The second problem was [that] the Pletscher dual-leg kickstand crushed the bike's chainstays (and rubbed off a lot of paint). I am not alone [in experiencing this], and have been told by people at a bike shop that it voids a warranty of their frames if such a stand is installed. Perhaps I overtightened the bolt, which loosens with use, or maybe crushing occurred when the stand jammed and I rocked the bike to get the stand to fold back up, but either way, I was not forewarned that stands, especially ones like this that lift a loaded bike, can crush a frame. I'm sure they are not as much a problem on unloaded bikes. Another point is that mine was not installed with the optional rubber [insert] between the stand and the frame.

I would only use this stand again with a kickstand plate welded onto the frame. While I'm look around to get my frame repaired and perhaps a kickstand plate welded on, I presently use a stand at the back, and when loaded touring, attach a small Hebie stand to the front pannier rack to stabilise the front of the bike.

My bike isn't a Long Haul Trucker. It is a Ghyllside 631 with Reynolds 631 chromoly frame and Reynolds 525 seat stays, chainstays and fork. I wish a kickstand plate was installed on any bike that calls itself a touring frame.

 

And so do I. Rael’s Ghyllside 631 has gone places, by the way. (And so has its owner.) Here’s Rael with his bike (note the Pletscher kickstand) on the flank of a rather famous — or should that be infamous? — peak:

Rael Belterman Ghyllside at Mont Ventoux

Yes, it’s Mont Ventoux, one of the Tour’s most grueling climbs, the mountain that claimed the life of British cyclist Tom Simpson. Yet the barren slopes of this forbidding place only serve to highlight the beauty of Rael’s lovely Ghyllside 631.

If we look closer, though, the picture gets less pretty:

Rael Belterman Crushed Chainstays

And the damage done by the Pletscher’s clamp isn’t confined to the tops of the chainstays, either.

Rael Belterman Crushed Chainstays

Rael Belterman Crushed Chainstays

A cautionary tale, this, and a sad commentary on the shortsightedness of bicycle makers who choose to send their touring bikes out of the factory without kickstand plates.

Ride Lots

Now a footnote of sorts to Rael’s tale: After learning that his Ghyllside couldn’t be repaired — it’s rideable, he says, but he doesn’t know how much longer it will remain so — he decided to get a Surly Long Haul Trucker. Having been alerted to the problems created by the absence of a kickstand plate, however, he first contacted the shop where he’d bought his bike. Rael got a more helpful response than I did from Surly, too, and here’s what he learned:

[T]hey will amend their website to include a warning about crushing the frame with the Pletscher two-legged kickstand. Mine is the second bike they've seen with crushed chainstays. The other one was a Long Haul Trucker which was destroyed by overtightening.... They also told me that they file groves into the Pletscher [clamp's] top plate so that it fits more snugly onto the frame, and so it doesn't twist and is [therefore] less likely to become loose and need tightening (and risk over-tightening).

Maybe the message is getting through. In time, all bicycle makers may come round and start fitting kickstand plates to their touring frames. In the meantime, however, I’d caution every cyclist who’s compelled to resort to a chainstay clamp when fitting a kickstand to use extreme care. Moreover, I’d be very surprised indeed if the problem were confined to Pletscher kickstands. I can’t think of a single reason why any clamp-mounted kickstand wouldn’t crush the stays if you overtightened the clamp bolts.

The takeaway message? Buyer (and home mechanic) beware. Until bikes like the Long Haul Trucker are fitted with kickstand plates, that’s the best advice I can offer.

Many thanks to Rael Belterman for letting me reprint his letters and photos.


Further Reading

 

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