|Cyclingnews TV News Tech Features Road MTB BMX Cyclo-cross Track Photos Fitness Letters Search Forum|
On test: Ultimate Pro Elite Repair Stand, October 10, 2005
Stand in the place where you work...
REM probably weren't thinking of outdoor bike mechanics, but Ultimate Support sure have been as James Huang finds when he takes the Ultimate Pro Elite portable workstand for a spin.
Portable bicycle repair stands are unusual beasts. As repair stands, they have a largely singular purpose of providing secure, stable, and flexible positioning of a bicycle in order to facilitate maintenance. At the same time, though, they also need to be relatively lightweight, collapsible, and of relatively modest cost such that the average consumer will actually buy one. If you were to poke your head in to the repair area of your local shop, the chances are good that they use the same sturdily-built, chromed-steel repair stand that has served the industry faithfully for years. Typically, these things are usually found bolted to a big steel plate or directly to the floor itself and topped with a nice, beefy, cast aluminum clamp mechanism. Secure, check. Stable, double check. Flexible positioning, check. Portable….. um, right. You get my point.
Satisfying all of these requirements is no small feat. Many have tried and failed, but the folks at Ultimate Support have pretty much had this formula nailed down since the advent of their Professional Repair Stand way back in the late 80s. The fact that this design has soldiered on largely unchanged for over 15 years is a testament to its good design. The original used a then-innovative folding tripod base (adapted from Ultimate's well-established music equipment business), a remarkably versatile Slide-Lock clamp head, light and strong tubular aluminum construction, and an integrated truing stand and toolbox/work tray. These features earned the stand a spot on a vast number of pro team trucks, neutral support vehicles, and consumer basements (including mine).
However, Ultimate Support was clearly not content to rest on its laurels with the introduction of the Pro Elite repair stand . Most of the basic design elements have been retained such as the tripod base and large-diameter anodized tubular aluminum construction, and for good reason. The three-point base makes for stable footing on uneven ground (three points define a plane, for the geometrically-challenged), and the tubular aluminum construction is still among the best material choice, plus it's now anodized red for a little bling factor. The biggest updates are the all-new clamp assembly and the unique one-side truing stand attachment, but we'll get to those in due time…
Lock and load
Setting up the Pro Elite is just as easy as with the original. Flip one quick release lever to unlock the tripod leg fitting and slide it down the main mast to unfold the legs . Back off the perimeter-weighted rotational lock dial to pivot up the head, then unlock another quick release lever to adjust the height of the stand to the desired height. One cool thing to note here is that the tripod legs can be locked in a partially open position . This obviously decreases the stability, but it can make it a little bit easier to work in tight spaces (such as in between those two twin beds in your motel room...)
The legs are pleasantly stout, too; you're certainly not supposed to do this, but I was able to stand on one of the legs with all of my weight and nothing broke. Finally, each of the legs is capped with beefy rubber tips to prevent sliding about .
Unscrewing a nicely perimeter-weighted knob unlocks the clamp arm from the folded position. Rotate the arm up, then tighten the knob again. Easy as pie. And I'm talking ready-baked pie from the grocery store easy, too .
Go on, push the red button…
Once the stand is set up, mounting a bike (or suspension fork, as the case may be) in the clamp is where the fun really begins. The new Secure-Lock clamp head is an evolution of the original Slide-Lock clamp with some key new developments. The sliding V-block jaws are still there but a new quick release feature opens them up to maximum width with the push of a big red button . Once the jaws are open, just hold the tube to be clamped in position and a one-way ratchet in the clamp assembly allows you to simply push the clamp shut most of the way. The final step is to just spin another perimeter-weighted knob to snug things down. So basically it's just three steps: pop the clamp open, push the clamp shut, and then tighten the knob. This is hands-down the easiest clamp head I've ever used, either in a portable or shop-quality stand.
A multitude of tube sizes and shapes can be easily accommodated, and switching from one to the other requires no clamp head adjustments in between . The soft jaws are quite grippy and are easily replaced, and open up to a rangy 2.6in (66mm) wide so even the down tube on your old Cannondale Super V will fit in there. The clamp arm assembly itself is a rather massive thing, being made from two cast aluminum clamshells bolted together. Good stuff.
Once the bike is mounted, positioning it where you want it is just as easy. As when setting it up, a simple flick of a quick release lever makes for easy clamp height adjustments from a Lilliputian 42in all the way up to a towering 71in (1070 to 1800mm). The clamp arm allows for 360° vertical rotation and a conical clutch holds the bike in position, usually without even having to readjust the locking dial . One unique feature provided by the round tubular construction is the ability to pivot the bike 360° about the main mast. It doesn't sound like that big of a deal, but it does make it so that you don't have to keep walking 360° about the bike. As with the adjustable tripod base, this becomes much more significant in tight quarters.
Ultimate rates the Pro Elite as being able to support up to 85lbs (~39kg). I didn't test that number myself, but it was certainly quite stable throughout the adjustment range with the multitude of bikes that I had clamped in its jaws during the test. This included a custom titanium and carbon dual suspension tandem monster bike so that 85lbs. number seems believable enough.
Ultimate also sent along the new TRS-80B Pro Truing Station; TB-12B Toolbox attachment; TT-15B Tool Tray attachment; and HBH-10B Handlebar Holder accessory. Where appropriate, all of these bits are designed for direct tool-free attachment to the Pro Elite (the Handlebar Holder isn't, because that would be silly).
The equally red Pro Truing Station clamps to a stub at the top of the Pro Elite or to its own dedicated cast base . Quick-release or standard-axle bolt-on wheels easily mount to the unique single-armed design which also doubles as a built-in dishing gauge. Users of 20mm or other thru-axle designs will have to get a bit creative as there is no obvious way to mount non-standard wheels to this thing. Once the wheel is mounted, two indicators slide up and down the truing stand arm for gross setup and micro-indexed knobs adjust a miniscule 0.004in (0.1mm) per click for precision tuning . The angle of the truing stand arm is also adjustable to personal preference.
In spite of its portable nature, this is easily the best truing attachment I've seen in a stand that's not intended for a pro workshop. The wheel is mounted securely and stably and the indicators hold their adjustment. I don't know if I would recommend it for heavy-duty use, but I did build a couple of wheels using this thing during the test period. Off-road riders take note: the indicator arm can also slide all the way up the arm to serve as a gauge for your disc rotors, too! When not in use, the arm can be folded straight down against the main mast of the repair stand.
The attaching tool tray and toolbox are both workhorse items that perform their function without complaint . Both are made of heavy-duty molded plastic and mount directly to the stand with their own dedicated brackets. The tool tray incorporates a bunch of handy nooks and crannies to hold most of your tools and parts, including your coffee mug! One compartment can also double as a small cleaning tank and includes a removable drain plug complete with lanyard so you don't lose the little bugger. The toolbox is basically just a medium-sized box with a flip top, but it can also serve as a tool tray if you didn't have that, too.
The handlebar holder attachment has an adjustable rubber loop at either end to grab on to your seatpost and handlebar and is joined by a telescoping aluminum tube in between. This thing seems a bit hokey at first but it proved to be remarkably useful for keeping the front end from flopping about. This was particularly handy when doing a couple of brake bleeds; nothing more annoying than DOT4 fluid splashing about!
Packing it all up
Breaking down the stand is as easy as setting it up. The Pro Elite collapses into a 6 x 8 x 46" (140 x 200 x 1170mm) package (with truing stand attached) and tucks neatly into a dedicated, well-padded Cordura nylon bag. The handlebar holder will also fit in the bag, but you'll have to carry the other bits separately. With truing stand attached, the Pro Elite weighs only 14.8 lbs (6.7 kg). If you need something smaller or lighter, Ultimate also makes the Pro-Compact Repair Stand which offers most of the Pro Elite's features in a package that should fit in most travel cases at only 2/3 the weight.
Details, details, details
In spite of offering just about every feature you could ask for, the Ultimate Pro Elite stand excels as a result of things you wouldn't even think about. Everything moves as it should and nothing is too loose or too tight. Levers operate smoothly, knobs spin as they should, and each part seems to have just the right weight and shape. Heck, the knobs are even perimeter-weighted and nearly every bolt is plated to prevent rust. Everything just feels exactly as it should. Ultimate may have taken their sweet time in releasing a successor to the old Professional Repair Stand, but the designers have clearly been taking good notes the whole time. Is there anything I would change? Hmmm… well, they apparently have been toying with the idea of making a carbon fiber one, but short of that, I'm stumped. Nice job, guys.
Retail prices: Pro Elite Repair Stand: US$244.99 (including storage
For a thumbnail gallery of these images, click here
Images by James Huang