X-Tools Workshop Prep Stand review

This wall-mounted workstand is strong and steady, ergonomically quite well designed, and great value for money…

Kitting out the new workshop means a new workstand – possibly the single most important bit of equipment when it comes to comfortable and accurate bike maintenance.

I decided to try my hand at the budget-priced X-Tools Workshop Prep stand before splashing out half the cost of a new bike on a Park Tools model…

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Previously I owned one of the cheaper generic fold up stands (take your pick) but found it deeply disappointing, so much so that I ended up freecycling it!

What makes a good bike work stand?

A stand must have:

  • great stability, so it won’t tip your bike (and you!) onto the floor at the worst possible moment
  • solid grip, at least enough for hauling on stiff bolts or fixing punctures when you can’t be bothered to remove a wheel.
  • a good quick release, so you don’t have to hold a heavy bike in one hand while you fiddle with the stand

Park Tools have the best reputation, but as with all things Park, you pay a premium. The X-Tools Prep Stand comes comparatively cheaply at around £45 – although this wall mount model obviously sacrifices the flexibility of a portable stand to come in at this price.

Portable stands can be fine – especially if you get a tripod or four-legged model – but if you have somewhere that will accommodate a wall mounted clamp, you’ll really be spoiled for strength and stability. With 20m2 to play with, I thought this was worth a shot.

Wooden stand

You’ll notice that I’ve attached the clamp to a DIY wooden stand to help me figure out the best place to screw it to the wall. This has actually been a surprise success and I’m half tempted to get another one to keep like this – see an upcoming article for the “instructable” on making this.

It has allowed me to do some wrenching out on the drive, enjoying the few days of summer we’ve had (here seen showing its strength with my new trailer):

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Hopefully it’s not too much of a distraction… you will probably want to screw yours to a solid wall or post somewhere, I think 😉

Adjustment / Ergonomics

You’d think there isn’t much to a wall clamp, and you’d be right – there’s a lower pivot to allow you to lean the front or back of the bike away from the wall, controlled by a large scalloped bolt which is easy to turn by hand:

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It’s quite straightforward to reposition this with a bike in the clamp, although inevitably it’s smoother when unweighted.

The angle of the clamp itself (in relation to the ground) is controlled by a pair of interlocking toothed plates, controlled by a large resin lever. This is easy to use one-handed while your other hand positions the bike, and the plate lock is strong enough to hold a bike solidly at any angle you choose:

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The clamp itself has a large QR lever which can be tightened or loosened by rotation (exactly like a hub QR). Unfortunately, it’s the single weak point of the clamp, as it doesn’t have enough throw to grip a bike in one go.

That is, if you have the clamp open just wide enough to admit the seatpost or frame, when you flip the QR it won’t tighten enough to grip – you need to rotate the handle a few times too. Vice versa at the end – you flip the QR open, but you can’t take the bike out… it’s loose and you have to hold it up with one hand and rotate the lever.

Roll over the captions to see an illustration:

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Considering how easy it would have been to make a QR that had a long enough throw, this is a bit disappointing (it makes things especially difficult for my better half, who doesn’t find it as easy to swing a mountain bike around in one hand while she fiddles with the clamp).

On balance, the overall sturdiness of the clamp makes up for this niggle for me (especially as I think I can trim the rubber and improve it), but YMMV.

Working Room

I was a bit concerned with the idea of a wall-mounted clamp, because of course it would be pretty useless if your pedal or handlebars kept bashing off the wall while you were working on the bike.

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This really isn’t an issue – there’s probably a clear foot between my bike and the wall (six inches at worst, at the handlebar) while you can use the overall angle adjustment to bring one or other end of the bike right out from the wall if necessary.

Construction

Burly coated aluminium stock and a thick resin clamp make this a super solid bit of kit. The only piece that’s even vaguely questionable is the rotation mechanism (the two toothed plastic plates). It seems solid for now, but I’m not sure whether the plastic teeth will put up with years of abuse.

The plates are tensioned by an M6 allen bolt, and mine came out of the box needing a couple of turns to snug it up. Don’t neglect this, as leaving the plates loose could let the teeth slip at a bad moment, damaging them and whatever you’re working on at the time!

Remove the lever that controls the plate tension with an allen key to expose the main bolt, and tighten it as required so that it’s solid when done up. This is a >15kg bike, no downhill rig but no lightweight:

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Once done up the clamp is strong enough to hold steady anything you’re likely to put in it – I’ve managed a tough tyre with the bike held in this stand (two of my bikes have solid axles and I prefer just to patch tubes if I can, but that means a bit of wrestling).

The rubber inserts have relief channels for cables, which means it’s fine (with care) to clamp the top-, down-, or seat-tube of your bike. Seat post is still the safest option if you’re worried about crushing the frame!

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Conclusion

At the end of the day, a workstand isn’t *essential* for owning and working on a bike… plenty of people scrape by with turning the bike upside down or leaning it against the wall.

However, there are two major advantages:

  • You can position the part of the bike you’re interested in at a comfortable height. Don’t underestimate how much better your tune-ups will be if they’re comfortable – it really does contribute to a tip-top job.
  • If you want to rotate the wheels a lot, you will cry tears of joy at the simple fact that the bike is upright and off the ground (for instance, fitting a new mech or replacing shift cables, or just trimming your gears).

The traditional choice for a home workstand would be the Park Tools PC9 or PC10 (or perhaps the Feedback Sports Pro Ultralight), but all of these cost around double, if not triple the price of the X-Tools clamp.

If you need to move it about, obviously a fixed clamp is not for you, but otherwise you are buying a whole lot of strength and stiffness for your money, in a well thought out and solid design, with just the one outstanding niggle over the QR throw.

Within its niche – definitely recommended.

Chain Reaction have these on a respectable discount at the time of writing.

Park Tool CN10 Cable Cutter review

Wire rope cutters have blades which result in a much cleaner cut – a must-have when servicing your gear and brake cables.

Professional tool makes light work of your cable woes

Often you can get by nicely with generic tools, but not when it comes to cutting gear and brake cables/housing. For good results, you really need a purpose-built pair of wire rope cutters, and the Park Tool CN10 is a very sturdy, easily adjustable tool.

With a simple pair of side cutters, while you’ll be able to get both inner and outer to the right length, there are a couple problems: the outer housing is likely to be pretty badly crushed, and if the inner isn’t neatly round, it may not be possible to thread through the housing at all.

Park Tools CN10C cable cutter review

Wire rope cutters have blades which encircle the cable and so result in a much cleaner cut, one which leaves both inner and housing in usable condition.

Wiggle have got the Park Tool CN10C on offer and I highly recommend it. (Or see this collection if you’d rather view other options).

Features

As well as the cutting end (!) the Park Tool CN10C has two different crimping notches for crushing end caps onto your brake and gear cables to stop them fraying.

It’s internally-sprung, and strongly enough that it will open easily after every cut so you can work quickly with one hand free to arrange your cable and housing. There’s a simple clasp to hold it shut in storage.

Park Tools CN10C cable cutter review

The only nit-pick I have is that the tool doesn’t feature a spike for opening out cable housing (something I found very handy on my cheaper tool). In more fevered moments I’ve often thought a filing surface on one edge to square off brake cable housing would be nice too – but to be fair to Park Tool, they’ve built something that does a particular job, and does it well.

Buy cheap, buy twice…

After a short and unsuccessful experiment with a pair of cheaper generic cutters, I caved in and bought the Park Tool version on offer at my local bike shop.

Counting various re-cablings over the years, I’ve probably used it for the equivalent of around twenty complete bike builds, and it still cuts smoothly first time. Take a look at these photos:

Park Tools CN10C cable cutter review

On the left is a brake inner cut with my Park Tool CN10C, on the right one which I cut (with difficulty!) with a pair of side-cutting pliers. Outer is vastly easier to cut with the Park Tool and the result is pretty good:

Park Tools CN10C cable cutter review

Averaged out, that’s a cost of around £1.50 per bike (if you replace your housings once a year, £1.50 per annum per bike).

Just try getting your local bike shop to cable a new bike for £1.50 labour. 🙂

Little maintenance needed

As long as you maintain it properly (which pretty much means “keep the bolt tight”) the Park Tool cable cutters will give years of faithful service. The lower blade is threaded and the bolt is then backed up by a large locknut:

Park Tools CN10C cable cutter review

If you don’t keep the blades tightly aligned, the geometry of the cutting surface breaks down and poor results are all but guaranteed. Strangely, the internet has plenty of negative reviews of this tool (or its predecessors) which makes me wonder how many fail to keep to this simple rule – or are unlucky enough to buy a loose or badly QC’d copy.

Park Tool have a maintenance guide published for this tool, so I won’t repeat it here – needless to say, it’s not rocket science (and you’ll probably get a few years from it before having to worry).

Conclusion

The Park Tool CN10C cable and housing cutter isn’t the cheapest option out there, but it’s comfortable in the hand, accurate and durable – a tool that you can expect to get good use from for many years to come.

A badly crushed cable housing requires plenty of TLC before it will let the inner run freely (possibly hampering smooth shifting or brake lever return) while a mangled inner may not thread properly through the housing at all.

Park Tools CN10C cable cutter review

On the other hand, the curved blades of the CN10 all but guarantee a clean finish. Cable isn’t cheap and you won’t regret tackling it with the right tool for the job!