Your Bike Might Need a Kickstand If…
They might not be the epitome of cool—or are they?
Heading out the door? Read this article on the new Outside+ app available now on iOS devices for members! Download the app.
When you’re growing up, there’s your first bike, and your first real bike. Your first is merely the one upon which you learned how to ride, but your first real steed is the one you truly made your own. You took off the reflectors. You put on some cool stickers or some dice valve caps. And you ditched that corny-ass kickstand.
I probably don’t have to explain to you all the reasons why kickstands are deeply uncool. They add weight, they distract from the clean lines of your frame tubes, and that rubber boot makes them look like a doorstop. If you make a hard landing, kickstands can even make a cartoonish “sproing!” sound, like a Looney Toons character getting hit in the face with a two-by-four. For all these reasons, raiding the household toolbox for the adjustable wrench and figuring out how to remove your kickstand is a rite of passage, as time-honored as taking scissors to sleeves and making your first muscle shirt. Most of us had bikes growing up, but if you were a real bike kid, sooner or later you gave yours a bris. And all your “real” bikes have been kickstand-free ever since.
Fortunately, unlike a bris, or that tribal armband tattoo you got several years later, a kickstand-ectomy is easily reversible. As it turns out, most of the stuff I thought was uncool is in fact eminently useful if not outright indispensable—which, in the final analysis, makes them even cooler. For example, math also seemed impossibly lame to me when I was in school, but now I know that being able to perform quick calculations in your head is one of the coolest skills you can have, right up there with throwing a knife with deadly accuracy. (Alas, I can do neither.) When you stop on a ride, flipping down a kickstand and leaning your bike on it is way cooler than looking around for something to lean it on, just like knowing what to tip on a date is a thousand times classier than having to work it out on your iPhone.
Granted, there are certain bicycles on which you assuredly wouldn’t want a kickstand. There’s obviously no reason for one on a road racing bicycle, since weight and aerodynamics are major concerns, and apart from the occasional pee stop you’re really not supposed to get off until the ride is over anyway. The same goes for other highly specialized or competition-based bikes, such as mountain bikes, cyclocross bikes, and so forth, where the possibility of accidental deployment may also be a concern. Grand Prix motorcycles and motocross bikes don’t have them either.
Nevertheless, motorcycle enthusiasts know better—competition is one thing, but everyday use is another, and nobody’s removing the sidestand from their Triumph Bonneville. Yet even non-competitive cyclists persist in resorting to all manner of chicanery in order to keep their bikes kickstand-free. They lean their bikes against walls and street signs, prop them up by a pedal on the curb, or simply surrender to gravity and risk all manner of cosmetic damage by laying them down on the ground, all instead of deploying a simple, elegant kickstand with the casual flick of an ankle.
Again, if your velocipedal outings begin and end at your home or your car, and you only get off the bike mid-ride in order to repair flats and/or relieve yourself, your bike probably doesn’t need the kickstand. But here are some signs that it does.
You Ride in Regular Shoes
If you’re off the bike often enough to want street shoes (which, to be clear, is a wise choice), you’re also off of it long enough to warrant a kickstand.
You Get Off Your Bike More than Twice Per Ride
Getting off your bike once is normal; getting off the bike a second time suggests extenuating circumstances; more than that means you’re not just cycling, you’re also living your life to its fullest, in which case, do yourself a favor and get a kickstand. (Anyway, you’re probably already wearing street shoes.)
You’ve Experienced Any One of the Following Scenarios
You’ve leaned your bike against your car, only to watch the bike roll along the car and fall down, scratching your bike, or your car, or both in the process. You’ve laid your bike on the pavement and when you picked it up the bar tape plug came out. You’ve laid your bike down at a crowded rest area during a group ride and another rider (or you) have fallen over it.
Your Bike Satisfies the Accessory Checklist
You should immediately remedy your bicycle’s kickstand deficiency if it already sports at least two of the following three accessories: a bell; a mirror; one of those handlebar-mounted beverage holders. Seriously, you’ve got one of these things, and you don’t have a kickstand? Come on!
Granted, there are exceptions to the above. Fixed-gears are exempt from the kickstand criteria, since you’ve already forfeited the convenience of not just coasting but possibly brakes as well, and the whole point of these bikes is that they defy common sense. Also, through no fault of your own, your bicycle may lack sufficient clearance or mounting provisions for kickstands, and you may not wish to risk the integrity of its tubing by resorting to clamp-on solutions. (Though assuming you’re careful and you’re bike’s not made of carbon fiber, there are some decent options out there that you can affix to your chainstay or seatstay. And in fact, there are indeed options for carbon fiber bikes.)
But if your bike has adequate clearance between the rear wheel and seat tube—or, better yet, has an honest-to-God kickstand plate, get yourself a proper center-mounted kickstand. Sure, you may even have to cut it to size—unless you get an adjustable one, in which case, problem solved. Either way, once you’ve got it set up, the next time you stop for a leak you’ll wonder how you ever lived without one.
So stop leaning your bike on random stuff, and start living!