A few of you no doubt clicked on the link to this piece with a little trepidation. “Oh, hell,” you might have thought. “Is he gonna crap all over kickstands now?” And you’re right. On some level, that would be like pushing a small child down and calling it a name. The humble kickstand is so simple, so innocent, so…underappreciated really.
It bears asking, why would we even be talking about kickstands? I think the answer comes from one small piece of received wisdom we all (or most of us) accepted a long time ago, an assertion so categorical and yet snobbish that we feared contradict it lest we be expelled from the Very Serious Cyclist Club™, and that dictum held that you could not be a VSC if you had a kickstand on your bike. Could. Not. Be.
It is true that elite racing cyclists do not employ kickstands, because they are “heavy” and will get in the way of elite racing proceedings, and anyway there’s always a helpful person there, just a few meters over the finish line who will take your elite racing bicycle from you and wheel it carefully back to the team tent and be responsible for returning it in only the most elite racing condition possible.
None of us are elite racing cyclists.
And so, through the decades, bikes have fallen over. Steel bikes fell over and their paint chipped. Aluminum bikes fell over and dented. Carbon fiber bikes fell over and became nothing more than ugly plastic sculptures. So many bikes have fallen over, you would think that they had wheels on them rather than…oh…wait…no… they do have wheels on them, right on the bottom. That’s why they don’t stand up very well on their own.
We literally engineered cup holders into cars so our coffee wouldn’t spill, but we gave up on the attached metal stick that held our bike upright. We made selfie sticks and pretzel rods and auto-balancing Segway scooters but abandoned the kickstand.
What goes next in this lunatic purge of useful things? The stovepipe hat? The sock garter?
A kickstand is a beautifully simple thing, basically a strategically located stick that clings to your chainstay until you need it. One hinge. Foot operated. Is there any invention so perfectly in tune with the bicycle’s own invention, any component which so elegantly solves what is one of our hobby’s key problems? I suppose the handlebar would have something to say on that score, but let’s not quibble.
Kickstands on bikes are like tails on humans. We don’t have tails anymore, and the thought makes us chuckle a little, but think about that for a second. Wouldn’t you really prefer to still have a tail? How many times have you thought, “I sure could use an extra hand right now?” That’s pretty much what a prehensile tail is. Every time you’ve ever looked for a tree or a something stable to lean your bike against at a stop, all you really needed was a prehensile tail for your bike.
Clearly what we need is an influencer, someone so compelling you just hafta, gotta, needta be just like ’em, and that person’s singular charming affectation is the persistent use of a kickstand on even the highest performance bicycles. This person should be young, but not too young, attractive but in a quirky way, knowledgeable but not pedantic, someone better than the average but not the type you resent. Now that I’ve said all that, I realize that person doesn’t exist and likely never will. That leaves it up to us to affix kickstands to our Pinarello Dogmas (Dogmae?) and our Cervelo speed sleds and our burly-ass enduro bomber bikes.
What would it take? Does someone need to come out with a 2.5-gram carbon fiber kickstand, one aerodynamically positioned behind the seat tube when not in use? Or maybe we exhume Dario Pegoretti and have him splatter paint one? He’d be into that, I’m sure. How can we make the kickstand like the trucker hat, something that reemerged from the past as an ironic totem of coolness only to be absorbed back into conventional fashion, a sort of neo-retro move with real, practical advantages, like your bike not falling over as much.
Until then, that is until it’s not a total dork maneuver to run a kickstand, I’m gonna find a good stick, one that’s just the right thickness and length, with maybe a notch at one end, and I’m just gonna ride around with that in my jersey pocket, or maybe I’ll strap it to my top tube with an old pedal strap, because that’ll legitimize it for sure. Maybe I’ll even stencil TCI on it and start selling it to hipsters, if hipsters still exist. Come to think of it, I haven’t seen a hipster since I last saw a kickstand. Maybe that’s no coincidence.
TCI is sponsored by Shimano North America, makers of fine bike parts, but maybe not kickstands.