Choosing the Right Style of Bike Repair Stand

Bike Noob is happy to feature a guest post by Sam Walker, for those of us interested in working on our bikes.

When I first started learning about bike repairs, I began with learning how to fix a tire.  That wasn’t too tough, and all I needed were a few minor tools.  As my knowledge of repairs evolved, so did the tools.

Sooner or later, if you are into bike mechanics, you start researching how to hold your bicycle while working on it.  Turning it upside down is a rather poor option for both your bike and your back.  Many of us make do with something at home in the beginning, but investing in a good bike repair stand sets the framework for all your bicycle maintenance.

A bicycle repair stand is useful for a few reasons:

  • It holds your bike at any height you need
  • It keeps your bike stable while you work on it
  • It allows you to work on your bike without putting pressure on any of your bike’s components

There are various types of bike repair stands on the market.  Which one you choose will depend on the type of bicycle you ride, the type of mechanic you are and how much space you have at home to do your bike tinkering.  In short, there are four main styles:

Racing Stands

As the name suggests, a racing stand is designed for people who are racers and therefore own a racing style bike.  They are also good if you own an ultra thin and light frame bicycle that you want to be extra careful you don’t do any damage to that light frame.

Racing stands are built light.  They are designed to be taken with you on the road or to the track and consequently are extremely portable.  They can also hold your bike without grasping it by the frame tube or seat post so as not to do damage to the ultra thin frame.  They are pretty nifty, but if you don’t fall into the category of owning a racing style bike, then it may not be the best option.

In order to make a stand super portable, you need to sacrifice on some of the stability and you should only do this if you really do need it to be that portable.  With that said, they’re building them better and better these days so that even a racing stand can hold your bike pretty stable if you get a good one.  Of course, you will pay for that quality.

Home Mechanic Repair Stands

This is probably the style that will suit most people.  A home mechanic stand is specifically designed for home bike mechanics that work on the average road cycle as well as mountain bikes.  They usually have a tripod base, and adjust to any height.

Home Mechanic stands are great because assuming you get a good one, they can hold your bike rock solid, rotate your bike 360 degrees and be folded up and put away after you are done with it.  If you buy one with a good wide base, it will allow you to work on your bike outside on uneven ground.  I wrote a comprehensive review of the Park Tool PCS-10 Repair Stand because it was a good example of having all the features that a home mechanic stand should have.

Most home mechanic repair stands have one of two styles of clamps.

Spring cam-style clamp – This is the most popular as it allows you to clamp and unclamp your bike in one swift clamping action.  It is good for all normal bikes and mountain bikes as the clamp is fully adjustable.

Screw-down clamp – This option takes a bit more work, as you need to hold your bike into the clamp while you screw it closed.  However it can be good if your bike is very lightweight and has thin-walled tubes, as you have a lot of control as you adjust the pressure.

Either style clamp will work well, but read the reviews before you buy and make sure you are getting a quality home mechanic repair stand.  They are not all built the same and the quality of the clamp makes a lot of difference.

Incredible Hulk Shop Stands

Okay, I added in the incredible hulk myself to emphasize the point, but heavy duty shop stands are the style of stands you would likely find in most bike shops, but some home mechanics choose them too.  They are for the real hard core mechanics… the handy types that know how to build a bike from scratch and spend a lot of time working on it.  They will generally hold any bike, and they will hold them completely solid no matter how hard you crank on them.  However, they are not portable, and you often need a parking space for it in your garage or basement.

Miniature Stands

These are my least favourite but some people like them.  Miniature stands are small and lightweight stands that can be used for average bikes that don’t have any unusual designed frames or accessories.  This style of stand is chosen by some who are low on space such as living in a small apartment and by those who want  something very lightweight for very minor maintenance or cleaning.  Basically they will only hold the bicycle upright.  They cost less, which is also why some people go for them, and they do the job, but they don’t do the job well.  For normal bike repairs they are not a good way to go.

A better way to go is to get a bench or wall mount stand if you have a place to screw it in, as it also doesn’t take up much space.

Learning to do your own bike repairs can be a fulfilling and worthwhile investment towards our sport. Putting a little love and care into your two wheeled vehicle can also go a long ways to help your bike live a long and healthy life.

About the author: Sam Walker works as a reviewer at Gear Reviews Online where he reviews quality gear for outdoor enthusiasts.

Hot Spots

One of the discouraging aspects of last weekend’s metric century was a recurrence of the hot spot in my foot that bothered me in last fall’s Imperial century. It creeps up on me. At first, I don’t notice it. Then suddenly, the ball of my foot is burning. It hurts to pedal.

My usual remedy for hot spot is to stop, take off my shoe, massage my foot, maybe even take off my sock and let the air cool it. I was lucky Saturday. After I gave it that treatment, I didn’t get a hot spot for the rest of the ride.

Other times, like last fall’s century, I haven’t been so blessed. It plagued me for the rest of the ride, and was one of the reasons I rode slower than I had in that ride in the past.

I’m not alone.

A cursory check of biking online forums (fora?) reveals other cyclists who report much the same symptoms. So now that spring is here and warm weather rides will soon be common, maybe it’s time to talk about hot spots and how to handle them.

The most common advice is to loosen your shoes, move your cleat back — either a little or a lot, depending upon who is giving the advice, and get carbon fiber soles with a wide platform cleat.

In my case, I wear Specialized shoes with carbon soles. My cleats are back as far as they’ll go, and have been for a couple of years. I do keep my shoes fairly loose, because I know from experience that my feet swell up on long rides in warm weather.

But according to cycling coach Fred Matheny, hot spots are a neural problem. The burning sensation is caused by pressure on nerves in the feet, says Matheny. That pressure can eventually cause a neuroma, or swelling of the nerve between two metatarsal bones, as seen in the illustration at right. The coach suggests getting metatarsal buttons. These things are little foam domes that can be attached to insoles just behind the ball of the foot. They cause the metatarsal bones to spread, which keeps the nerves running between them from being pinched by pressure or swelling. You can buy metatarsal buttons in the foot care section of drug stores. Insoles with the buttons already built in are also available.

I’ll have to give them a try. I’m also going to dig around in my dresser drawers and try to find some running shoe insoles that I think I still have.

You might also consider wearing thin cycling-specific socks, and even buying high-end cycling shoes that come in widths. My friend Rick, who doesn’t get hot spots, rubs his feet with Chamois Butt’r before a long ride, and then puts on two pairs of socks — just the opposite of the conventional wisdom.

(Illustration from Synergy Massaging Insoles —


Those T-shirt Rides I’m Not Doing? I Did One

Shortly after posting that I would henceforth be skipping t-shirt rides (organized rides), Mrs. Noob asked if I had registered us for the LBJ 100.

“No,” I said. “And I’m not planning to.”

“Well, I want to go,” she said.

That took care of that.

We did the ride last year, and I performed poorly. I had to sag out after about 55 miles of the 65-mile course — completely out of energy. I was determined to avoid a repeat of that this year. Fortunately, the forecast called for mild (if warm) temperatures, with only moderate wind.

Appropriately, the LBJ Ranch is on Texas Ranch Road 1.

The ride starts and finishes at the LBJ Ranch, the former home of President Lyndon B. Johnson. His daughter Luci is a great supporter of the ride, which raises money for the historical site on the ranch. It’s now run by the National Park Service.

An airstrip behind the ranch house served as a runway for LBJ’s planes when he was president. The big Air Force One couldn’t land here, so he would fly into Austin (then Bergstrom Air Force Base) and take a smaller jet to the ranch. Cyclists drive onto the runway and park. The ride starts at the base of the runway.

The runway, looking toward the start.

It appeared to be an even larger crowd than last year. My friend and riding companion Rick said there were over 700 pre-registered, and they were expecting the total to top 1600. The ride included routes of 10, 30, 42, and 62 miles. Pat did the 30 with Rick’s wife Penny, and Rick and I opted for the 62.

The route out from the ranch is beautiful, and the roads near the ranch are lightly traveled. We didn’t push to leave with the lead pack, but took our time. Rick is a strong rider, and we skipped the first two rest stops. By the time we hit the third, about 25 miles into the ride, we were ready for a refill of the water bottles.

Rick looks over the old Willow City school building, site of our first rest stop of the day.

This is the Texas Hill Country after all, and we were in for our share of rollers. None of the hills is steep. However, some gradual climbs go on for some distance, and those are the ones that really take it out of you. By the halfway point, Rick was way ahead out of sight. I limped into the rest stop at Sandy, the easternmost point of the ride, and took longer than usual to unwind. A hot spot had flared up on the bottom of my left foot, and I could feel my energy waning as the temperature warmed into the 80s. I downed a bottle of Pickle Juice Sport (horrible stuff, but it seems to prevent cramping — I had no issues with that this day), refilled my bottle twice, and had a banana and an orange slice. The peanut butter and jelly sandwich quarters just didn’t appeal to me in the heat.

Most of my riding so far this year has been in the 20-30 mile range. My long ride was 37 miles. Clearly, I hadn’t built the base miles I needed to tackle a metric century.

It’s a little over 20 miles from Sandy back to the ranch, but the first 10 are all uphill. Again, these are mild grades, but they’re probably the most difficult thing in biking for me. I wasn’t the only one having trouble with them. About four miles out from Sandy, two guys were sitting in a shady spot. I pulled over for a rest and a pull on my water bottle. Both of them were in bad shape. One had cramps in both thighs, and could hardly walk. The other seemed to be in the early stages of heat exhaustion. A sag wagon was taking a third guy out — they would send another van back for these two. While I was there, another rider stopped and announced he was done, too. I got back on the bike and started pedaling for the next rest stop.

A little farther on, I was passed by a cyclist going perhaps 6 mph to my 5. “I’m ready to get off the bike,” he said.

“Me too,” I replied. “But a lot of people need sag more than I do, so I’ll just keep going.”

“I saw that. Let’s go,” he answered.

Many cyclists were going no more than 5 mph as they approached this rest stop.

This year, they put a rest stop at the spot where I called it quits last year. The friendly volunteers filled my water bottle with ice before I topped it off — most welcome. I choked down a small energy bar of some kind (a kind I will never try again) and sat in a shady spot to rest. More people were barely limping in under their own power. The sag wagons were busy, taking some folks to the next rest stop, and others back to the ranch. But this was the high point (altitudinally) of the route. We had some great downhills to the last rest stop and the ride back to the ranch was mostly downhill or flat. I rode slowly onto the runway about 15 minutes after Rick arrived.

“You’re right,” he said, as we and the wives sat in the food tent afterward. “This is just a t-shirt ride. But the scenery is pretty good, and the start at the LBJ Ranch is unique.”

Pat nodded in agreement. It looks like we’ll be back next year. And I’ll be a lot smarter — I’ve already decided I’m only doing the 42.