Kickstands are incredibly convenient when it’s time to park your bike. They allow you to keep your bike upright and stable on any surface, allowing you to store your bike virtually anywhere with a simple flick of a lever.
When you purchase a modern bicycle, however, the chances of the bike coming with a kickstand are slim to none. So why aren’t these handy devices included by default on modern bicycles?
The biggest reason for bikes not including kickstands is simple: you can add a kickstand later. Bike manufacturers make bikes for everyone. If some people like kickstands and some don’t, it’s easier to make a bike without a kickstand and let the people who want one add one later.
Kickstands are quite cheap and easy to install, so it’s not a big hassle to add one on yourself. So why aren’t kickstands the default option? Why do some cyclists dislike them?
Let’s dive into the pros and cons of kickstands and discuss why they’ve fallen out of fashion and what you can and should do about storing your bike in light of this trend.
Why Don’t Bikes Come With Kickstands Anymore?
Kickstands Aren’t That Useful
Kickstands aren’t particularly helpful for the average adult rider. When riding in the city, bikes usually need to be locked to something when they’re parked.
In almost every case, the thing you’re locking your bike to also provides enough support to keep the bike upright.
There are exceptions to this, of course. For example you might ride your bike to the park and want to keep it upright near you while you have a picnic, or you might ride your bike to work, where it can be kept safe and it doesn’t need to be locked. These exceptions are not the norm.
Similarly, most common mountain biking spots have trees – and they’re not always used. It’s super common to see mountain bikers gently lay their bikes on their sides when it’s time for a rest.
While this runs the risk of scuffing the frame, this isn’t a big concern to most cyclists. Any mountain bike that sees regular use is going to get scuffed up.
You’ll do much worse things to your frame when you bail on a nasty section than when you set it down gently when it’s time for a break.
This isn’t to say that a kickstand can’t be useful for YOU. Kickstands are a very clever solution to a common set of cycling problems. If you have those problems, adding a kickstand might be the best way to go.
However many cyclists find that they can easily circumvent them by locking their bike to things, leaning their bike against wall or tree or simply resting their bikes on their sides when it’s time for a break.
Kickstands Add Weight
If there’s one thing that serious cyclists care a LOT about, it’s how much their bike weighs.
Bicycles are human-powered moving machines, meaning that every extra pound on your bike is an extra pound you have to push around with your pedaling.
On a road bike, a kickstand will make you slower and cause you to tire faster as you go up hills. On a mountain bike, a kickstand will rattle around and add a few precious ounces that you have to get over each obstacle.
In both cases, this means that a kickstand is a distinct disadvantage. If you’re trying to go fast and pedal efficiently, kickstands have a distinct cost.
For Safety Reasons
Kickstands are thin, strong metal objects that protrude from your bicycle. In a crash, you don’t necessarily know where your limbs or your bike will end up.
Many riders find that their kickstands betray them when they get into a bike accident. You’ll hear tales of people getting nasty cuts or even getting impaled by a kickstand in particularly gnarly accidents.
This is an especially big concern in mountain biking, where crashes can occur in all sorts of unpredictable situations and odd angles. While you can find modern kickstands with end-caps that are designed to reduce the risk of injury, these aren’t foolproof fail safes.
You’re still adding an extra protrusion to a bike that can interact poorly with your body when you fall.
They Are Not Always Stable
Even a properly installed kickstand isn’t a guarantee your bike won’t fall over. Bikes are designed to be balanced on two wheels.
Adding a single leg to support the bike can work in many circumstances, but it’s not uncommon to see bikes with kickstands fall over within a couple of minutes of being parked.
If your goal is to avoid scratching your frame or jamming your clipless pedals into the dirt, your kickstand might wind up betraying you. Falling over in an uncontrolled manner when a kickstand fails will give a worse outcome than gently laying down your bike.
It Goes Against The Trend
In many countries, modern bikes aren’t often used as a method for primary personal transportation. Instead, bikes are used for exercise, recreation, and sport.
It’s very common to see mountain bikers drive their bikes to the trail, get on the bikes, and bike around until it’s time to get in the car and leave.
Similarly, city cyclists will often start and finish their journeys at home, or even drive to a location that they’d like to cycle in and then return to the car when they’re done.
In all of these cases, bikes don’t really need to be parked outside of one’s home.
If you’re storing a bike at home, a kickstand might not be the optimal solution. Options like bike hooks and racks tend to be much more stable long-term.
Kickstands Add Cost
Kickstands aren’t particularly expensive, but they do cost money.
A good kickstand currently costs around $20. If you’re comparing two bikes and one is $20 more for a feature you don’t really want, you’ll probably choose the other option.
This means that bike manufacturers tend to not include kickstands to stay competitive. Again, it’s very easy to purchase install a kickstand yourself if you decide that it’s a thing you’re interested in.
They May Damage The Frame
If your goal is to keep your bike pristine, a kickstand may actually be a negative. Kickstands clamp onto your frame and exert leverage against the ground, keeping your bike upright.
While modern bike frames are very strong in the ways they need to be, they’re not necessarily engineered with this sort of clamping and twisting action in mind.
Over time, a kickstand can actually cause noticeable damage to your frame, especially if you’ve got an extra-light frame to save weight.
Bad From Production Standpoint
There’s an apocryphal story in some cycling communities about a gentleman who worked in a bike factory who was asked why kickstands weren’t included. According to the story, kickstands take a bit less than a minute to install.
This means that over the course of a full day, a worker tasked with installing kickstands could have simply made an additional 50 bikes.
It’s not clear if the numbers in this story are entirely accurate. What is certain, however, is that adding kickstands to bikes would create extra steps, require extra parts, and require additional labor.
These additional complications add to the cost of each bike and can have additional effects that aren’t always obvious. For example, where are these kickstands stored before they’re attached to the bikes?
What happens if the kickstand manufacturer suffers a delay of some sort and falls behind?
What happens if a batch of kickstands fails quality control? By electing to not include kickstands, bike makers can dodge all of these potential problems and make it easier to deliver a quality product.
Kickstand Are Great For Commuting & Travel
The above cons don’t mean that kickstands are bad things that you should avoid. They’re just not for everyone. If you do find yourself traveling to a lot of safe places, a kickstand can be a very good investment.
In some cities, having a kickstand makes it much easier to take your bike on the bus.
If you’re biking to work, a friend’s house, or to a shop that will let you store your bike inside, you’ll definitely appreciate the ability to use a kickstand to stand your bike anywhere.
If you find yourself stopping outdoors frequently, a kickstand can simplify the process of parking your bike so you can do things like take pictures, set up a camp, or just take a breather.
These benefits start looking even better if a bike is your primary means of transportation. If you’ve got a car, you can simply decide to drive to places that don’t have good bike racks.
If you’ve got a bike, you won’t have that option. Kids who don’t drive yet are especially good candidates for bikes with kickstands, as they’ll often ride to safe places where they don’t need to lock their bikes.
What Can You Do If You Don’t Have A Kickstand?
Use A Dedicated Bike Stand
Most cities have bike racks that you can use to park your bike in public places. These stands tend to be more stable than kickstands and offer convenient designs for locking your bike, making it safer against theft.
If you’re riding to a location with a bike stand, you’ll probably use it, even if you have a kickstand.
For home storage, it’s not a bad idea to purchase some sort of stable contraption to store your bicycle. Single bike stands aren’t that much more expensive than kickstands and can get the job done easily.
Bike hooks are also a popular solution, allowing you to hang your bike on a wall or ceiling so it’s both safe and out of the way. Both solutions tend to be much better for constant use than a kickstand, as they won’t run the risk of damaging your frame or failing and letting your bike fall over.
Lean Your Bike Against Something
You don’t necessarily need a structure designed specifically for bikes to keep your bike upright. City cyclists will often lock their bikes trees, trash cans, benches, and fences.
All of these items offer more than enough support to keep your bike standing, especially with the added support of a bike lock. In the wilderness, trees and rocks can fulfill the same role, giving your bike the support it needs to keep the frame off the ground.
Your bike might tip over occasionally, sure, but that’s sometimes still a risk with a kickstand, especially if your bike isn’t set up on level ground.
Buy An Attachable Kickstand
If you want a kickstand and don’t have one, buy one! Attachable kickstands are around $20. There are a variety of different options in terms of how they attach to the bike, how they adjust, and what the end of the stand looks like.
This one I found on amazon is a great starting point if you’d like a stand that attaches to the bottom of your frame, while this stand is a solid choice if you’d like a kickstand that attaches to the rear side of the bike.
Both mounting styles have their own advantages and disadvantages and you should consider the hardware on your bike before choosing either. You might find that there’s a set of brakes or a cable in the way!
Kickstands Aren’t For Everyone
Modern riders don’t always need kickstands. Between the availability of bike racks, the necessity of locking your bike, and the use patterns of modern recreational riding, it’s not always required to have a kickstand.
While convenient, kickstands offer a handful of noticeable downsides. They add weight, they’re potentially dangerous, and they’re not 100% reliable when it comes to keeping your bike upright and safe.
This means that many riders elect to forgo these handy accessories. Even though manufacturers tend to leave these levers off of their bikes, you can always pick up an attachable kickstand and add it to your bike later.
It’s a great way to customize your bike to suit your individual riding habits and preferences.