Monday, January 24, 2011
Should you use a kickstand or not? Does a kickstand on my bike make me look like a nerd (or "phred" in cycling parlance)? The answer depends on what kind of bike you're talking about and how you plan to use it. The following tips should help you sort it out:
1. Kid's bikes: Yes. Any kid's bike that does not have training wheels should have a kickstand. For most parents, the reasoning is, "He/She shouldn't be laying that brand new bike in the grass." Actually, laying in the grass temporarily is not really harmful to a bike. Go to any large organized bike event (like GOBA or Pedal to the Point), and you'll see literally hundreds of bikes, many of them worth thousands of dollars, laying in the grass. However, getting your kids in the habit of using a kickstand helps to instill good habits that lead to taking good care of their bikes in general. Thinking about how they leave their bikes when not in use will hopefully make them avoid leaving their bikes out overnight or in the rain, or that worst of all offenses, laying invisibly behind your car in the driveway. Make sure a kickstand on a kid's bike is sized properly. If it's too long, the bike will topple over to the opposite side when used on pavement, but if it's too short, it will sink into the dirt when used on grass.
2. Road or mountain bikes: No. If you have any aspirations of being considered a "serious" cyclist at all, whether you're riding on- or off-road, then the kickstand is taboo, the first warning sign of your phred-ness, whether you're racing or just trying to hang with the group during medium-to-fast-paced club rides. You probably paid a premium price to get a lightweight bike, so why bolt an extra pound or so of steel onto it? Plus, the lightweight tubing used in the bike's frame wasn't designed to handle the additional stress caused by the kickstand clamp.
3. Hybrids and cruiser bikes: Yes. These bikes are intended for more casual riding. You're probably going to make frequent stops to check out flora and fauna along the trail, wait for the kids to catch up, or to bop between the farmer's market and the coffee shop. Cruiser bikes are some of the few bikes that do come with a kickstand these days. Most hybrid bikes have a flat metal plate as part of the frame, right behind the pedals. This is the kickstand plate, so if your bike has one of these, then by all means, go ahead and indulge in a kickstand to make your stops more convenient. If you're using a road or mountain bike for casual riding or commuting, you may want to consider a kickstand for the convenience; check with your bike mechanic to ensure that it can be installed without damaging your frame.
4. Touring bikes: Maybe. The long-distance bike tourist faces the same issues as somebody riding for errands and commuting: what to do with your bike during frequent stops to smell the roses? A kickstand on a touring bike can be handy, but the weight of a fully-loaded bike is often too much for a kickstand to handle. You can try a special kickstand designed for tandems, which has two legs and is able to support more weight. There are custom fold-up kickstands available that are about three or four feet long that provide a way to prop up your bike. As mentioned before, check with your bike mechanic for compatibilty of any kickstand-like devices with your bike. If you have an extended-length cargo bike, such as a Surly Big Dummy or Xtracycle, fortunately, these have a built-in kickstand plate that works well with a standard kickstand with all but the most extreme weight loads.
5. What do I do if I don't have a kickstand? Lean your bike against a tree, post, fence, railing, or anything else that's available. To avoid the dreaded wheel-flop-over, use a velcro strap or similar device to stabilize your handlebar. If possible, try to put the rear tire in contact with whatever you're leaning against; that way, any movement of the front wheel or handlebar is less likely to cause the bike to fall over. If you're riding with a friend, use the buddy system to create a "bike Eiffel Tower"--place your two bikes a foot or two apart, with one facing to the left and the other facing to the right. Lean them together carefully until they are resting on each other. Wherever you park your bike, please be courteous to those around you, and don't block access to doorways, gates, wheelchair ramps, public benches, or sidewalks.
In conclusion, when deciding whether or not to use a kickstand, you should do whatever works best for you without worrying about fashion or what other people think. As long as a kickstand does not impair you or your bike and you want to use one, then go for it!