If you’ve wrenched on bikes for any considerable length of time, you’ll know that the very first thing you need to do is remove the chances for the bike in question to fall over. It is just so much easier to work on a bicycle if you turn it into a freestanding object.
Over the years I’ve done this by various ways. Bino, my Dahon Vitesse, has a kickstand as standard equipment. I consider this the absolute minimum kind of support, but it also precludes any work on the drivetrain as the rear wheel bears the bike’s weight and isn’t free to spin.
The next step up is a rear wheel stand. I’ve used Minoura’s DS-30AL display stand to work on my bikes for many years. It’s very useful for most maintenance as it lifts the rear wheel off the ground, and clamps onto the bike via the rear quick release skewer. It’s got its own limitations and annoyances; the stand itself can get in the way of things like the rear derailleur, for example. And while the lightweight aluminum construction makes it easy to deploy (and no need to worry about rust when using it to hold the bike while washing), it also means a lack of stability for heavier-duty work.
Back when the bike fleet had cable-actuated everything, from shifting to braking, the DS-30AL was sufficient. Transitioning to hydraulic brake systems, however, means I will need to do a bleed on them every so often – once a year, say. The basic logic is you want to get rid of any trapped air in a hydraulic system, and you do this by setting the brake caliper (the rear one, especially) as the lowest point of the entire bike – so that air can escape to the highest point, which is typically where your brake levers and master cylinders are. This is all beyond the scope of a simple display stand and requires something much more versatile.
My wife decided to surprise me with an early birthday present: the Feedback Sports Sport Mechanic bicycle work stand.
- Tripod design with rubber-coated feet
- Anodized 6061 T6 aluminum and powder-coated steel construction
- 360-degree rotating frame clamp with rubber-coated jaws and spinner knob; 4.8 cm max opening
- Frame clamp vertical range: 107-166 cm
- Weight limit: 29.5 kg
- Weight: 5.7 kg
- Price: PhP9,500 at Bikezilla
The work stand came in a large box and came pretty much fully assembled, but in its folded form. It’s a burly, hefty item that should ensure serious stability while working on your bike.
Weight aside, deploying it is quick and easy. One thumb knob takes care of the tripod feet, while another thumb knob simultaneously handles the telescoping height adjustment and side-to-side rotation of the main support. Nothing special so far.
It’s at the clamp head where things get interesting. One huge three-pronged knob handles both the folding of the clamp head and its fore-and-aft rotation. To deploy the clamp head from folded, you loosen the knob enough such that the clamp head has enough space to go perpendicular, then re-tighten the same knob to lock in the position and angle. Finally, a spinner knob controls the business end of the work stand: that rubber-coated frame clamp.
To keep costs down, there is no quick-release button or cam mechanism controlling the clamp, like on Feedback Sports’ more premium models which are anodized a fetching shade of red. Here, it’s all down to how much you twist the spinner knob. It’s easy enough to use and mete out the clamping force around the seatpost, which is what gets clamped in the head 99% of the time. The frame clamp’s jaws are wide enough such that it spreads the clamping load across a huge area, minimizing the danger of crushing a carbon seatpost.
Having a work stand support a bike is a game-changer and a huge way of upping your bike mechanic game. No longer do you have to get on your knees to wrench on low-lying components like you would with an axle-clamped bike display stand. Here, you can just lift the clamped bike to a comfortable height and wrench away.
Remember how important putting a bike into a certain attitude is, for the purposes of bleeding its hydraulic brakes? This fits the bill perfectly. I put that 360-degree rotating clamp to the test, and it passed with flying colors as I put Hyro, my Giant TCX, into all sorts of strange angles. That freedom of motion combined with a very stable hold and locking of joints means supporting the bike’s weight and positioning it so that the rear brake caliper is the lowest point of the bike is no hardship.
A final advantage of a work stand is that there are tools that just don’t make sense until you use them on a bike clamped to it. Park Tool has two of them.
Their DH-1 dummy hub is intended to take the place of a rear hub while the rear wheel is removed, so that the chain can still be put under tension. This greatly eases washing of a bike, as you no longer have to work your way around a rear wheel and its spokes, and it provides access to the inboard side of the rear derailleur – something that rarely gets attention when cleaning.
The second tool is the DP-2 threaded dummy pedal. While nowhere near as useful as the DH-1, the DP-2 enables a quicker, easier way of turning the cranks on a bike with no pedals installed, and becomes useful for quick drivetrain and shift indexing adjustments.
I’ve had both these tools in storage for years, and it’s only when I got the work stand that they became truly useful. There’s very little point in using the DH-1 with the Minoura DS-30AL stand, as that relies on clamping force applied over a hub and a full-length QR skewer to work. And while the DP-2 could have been used with that stand, it makes more sense using it with a bike on a work stand.
The Sport Mechanic model isn’t the cheapest work stand Feedback Sports makes, nor is it the absolute cheapest model on the market. That said, going lower than this introduces its own compromises. Many cheaper models use a meshing gear tooth system for their clamp heads, which means you’re restricted in rotation to the spacing of the gear teeth. Feedback Sports itself offers a “recreational” model of work stand for PhP1,000 less, and while it has the same clamp head this model does, it doesn’t collapse or telescope into itself. It just folds up for storage, resulting in a larger package that may not be as travel-friendly.
This work stand ticks all the boxes for me. Unlike the “race” kinds of work stands which support bikes from the bottom bracket shell and front dropouts with an arm, this is much more versatile and readily accepts bikes with fenders. So far I am quite happy with it, and it’s made routine maintenance and bike wash jobs much less physically demanding.