I literally wrote the book on home bicycle workshops, Your Home Bicycle Workshop (eBook), and I think every roadie would like to have a nice at-home bike shop. But, you can actually do just fine without a shop if you have the most useful shop tool — a bicycle repair stand (also called a work stand). Even a homemade or improvised stand will do the trick.
A good repair stand is super-handy. You can put it anywhere it fits and where’s there’s room to move around your bike, and you’ll have a nice place to work, whether at home or at cycling events (with a portable stand). In this issue and next week’s, I provide tips on the different kinds of repair stands, how to choose one, and tell you about a few nifty repair stand accessories you might need.
I’ll give you some ideas for homemade stands and those you can improvise using bike products you might already own.
All types of repair stands support the bike, leaving both hands free to work on it. Most also hold the wheels off the ground so you can pedal by hand to make shifting adjustments and spin the wheels for wheel truing, brake adjustments and so on.
Tip: If you need to check an adjustment on a ride and don’t have a friend to lift the bike while you check it out, look for nature’s work stand: a tree with a low branch. Simply rest the tip of your seat on the branch and your bike will be ready for repair.
Simple homemade stands
It might surprise you, but even some professional shops use homemade repair stands, so there’s nothing wrong with that approach. These are made of inexpensive materials you might already have. And you can customize them however you want. Here are a few examples.
The simplest homemade repair stand I’ve seen is made of 2 ropes with hooks tied to the ends. You tie the ropes to eyehooks screwed into your ceiling, or tie them to a rafter overhead so that the hooks hang at chest height. Then, just lift your bicycle and place its top tube onto the hooks and you’re ready to work on it. You can also walk all around your bicycle since it’s suspended.
Rope repair stands let the bicycle swing, which can get annoying. A more stable simple repair stand is constructed of two wood pieces (horizontal supports) protruding from a wall at chest height that you can rest your bicycle on. The supports only need to be long enough to keep the inside pedal from striking the wall. Nail a shelf on top of the arms to rest your tools and lubes on. Notch the ends of the arms so you bike doesn’t slide around.
You can’t walk around your bicycle on this type of stand. Instead, you just turn it around on the stand to access both sides.
Note: These types of homemade stands rely on the bicycle having a horizontal top tube.
I’ve seen a variety of these, but they are all made from ordinary plumbing pipe with threaded ends and the same size elbows and flanges. Some pipe stands feature plywood bases, some hang from overhead, the flange screwed to a rafter and the pipe screwed into it. It’s easy to attach the pipe to the elbows and flanges and make a support (or hanger if your rack attaches to a rafter) for your bike. The tricky part is making the clamp that your bike attaches to.
Some people use the Pony Clamp fixture Style No. 50, adding wood blocks with V-cuts in them to the jaws so they’ll clamp onto a seatpost. Or, if you can weld, or want to have a welding shop do it, you could fashion your own hinged clamp from a piece of tubing.
Tip: If you have the materials and tools, a pipe stand might make sense for you. But if not, be sure to check out the basic commercial repair stands because they’re so affordable it usually doesn’t make sense to spend more in time and money building your own.
Improvised Repair Stands
Car rack stand
If you have a bumper/trunk or hitch-type bicycle car rack, the chances are good that you already have a perfectly good repair stand.
Try resting your bicycle on your car rack and see if you can pedal by hand without the inside pedal hitting anything. If so, you can use your rack for bike repairs when it’s on your vehicle– and you can probably mount it to a wall for inside use too. The nice thing about these racks is that they’re made to hold your frame gently so they won’t damage the finish.
Tip: If yours is a trunk or bumper rack, check to make sure it’s not putting a lot of pressure on the body of your car or you could dent it if you have to use a lot of force working on your bike, like when removing a stuck seat, etc.
In a pinch you can use some indoor trainers as repair stands too. Just back off the roller so it doesn’t drag on the tire, and the trainer will hold your bike’s rear wheel off the ground so you can check and fine-tune adjustments.
Jim Langley is RBR’s Technical Editor. He has been a pro mechanic and cycling writer for more than 40 years. He’s the author of Your Home Bicycle Workshop in the RBR eBookstore. Check out his “cycling aficionado” website at http://www.jimlangley.net, his Q&A blog and updates at Twitter. Jim’s streak of consecutive cycling days has reached more than 8,000. Click to read Jim’s full bio.