A rear swingarm stand is a useful item, whether your bike has a center stand or not.
I never owned a bike without a center stand until my most recent purchase, a Triumph Thunderbird Sport.
Since I perversely get as much of a kick out of working on bikes as I do from riding them, a method to hold the bike upright for routine maintenance was a must.
Without a center stand, it’s very hard to complete simple maintenance tasks, such as fluid changes (oil, coolant, etc.), brake fluid flushing or refilling and especially tire changes.
If you own a chain-driven bike, it’s about impossible to do any rear-end maintenance, such as a tire change or chain adjustment without some way of holding the bike upright.
My center-stand-less bike experience meant that I had zero experience with the swingarm-type rear bike stand. Most people have probably seen photos in various magazines of race bikes propped up on rear stands.
But are they useful in the real world?
It wasn’t apparent to me how they actually worked. It appeared that race bikes had some type of fitting (called “spools”) on either side of the swingarm, and you could slide one of these stands underneath and prop up the bike.
The great news is that you don’t need to have a special race bike swingarm with spools to use a rear stand.
The Steel Horse Combo stand can be easily converted for bikes with spools or for bikes that have conventional swingarms. So now there’s one more reason to buy that track bike you were thinking about!
Various types of stands are available, so you’ll need to match your swingarm type and width with the correct stand for best results.
For example, the Steel Horse stand has adjustable saddles to hold a dual-sided swingarm, and some sport bikes have spools on the swingarm (or spools can be installed) that fit in receivers on the stand.
There are even rear wheel swingarm stands that are specific to certain motorcycles, like this special Pit Bull rear swingarm stand (review) I purchased to fit the round swingarm tubes of the Ducati GT1000.
There are several stand manufacturers out there, but the Steel Horse Combo stand immediately caught my eye, because it appeared to be of higher quality and generally a heck of a lot sturdier than any of the other stands I’ve seen.
Some correspondence with Ken Englert and Aaron Abreu, co-owners of Steel Horse Fabrications, convinced me that a lot of thought that went into this product.
Both Ken and Aaron are American Federation of Motorcyclists (AFM) club racers, and it’s obvious that their experience provides a lot of input into their products.
For example, the black powder-coated finish (by Pacific Powder Coating) on this Combo stand looks like it could have come off of a show car.
I was actually afraid to use the stand at first for fear of damaging the paint!
Also, the Steel Horse stands use 1.25 inch diameter steel tubing construction, and the looped handle (vs. straight handles on some stands) helps to prevent the user from tripping over it in the shop.
The Steel Horse Combo stand can be used with spools or on normal swingarms without spools.
The spool receivers are made from stamped steel, and the saddles are made from formed angle iron, featuring a forged and M.I.G. welded pin for maximum strength.
A forging is much stronger than, for example, some type of rolled steel, and the pin is a crucial load-bearing point for the task of holding up your bike.
The saddles are also coated with Rhino Linings polyurethane — the same stuff you see advertised for heavy-duty use as a pickup truck bed lining.
This helps prevent the saddle from slipping around on the swingarm when you lift the bike.
There’s a quality detail that I didn’t even notice until Ken brought it to my attention.
The holes for the cotter pin were drilled vertically (rather than horizontally like some other stands), because when you think about it, a horizontal hole would weaken the pin as the weight of the bike pushes down on the saddle.
Ken told me that this feature has made the Steel Horse saddles popular with owners of other brands of stands whose saddles have bent due to over-extension.
We had a competing brand of swingarm stand to use as a comparison with the Steel Horse Combo stand for this review.
Now you’d think that bigger might be better, and that it might offer more leverage when lifting the bike, but we learned an interesting lesson here.
Very subtle design changes can make a big difference in not only the amount of effort it takes to lift the bike, but also in determining how stable the bike will be when it’s on the stand.
For example, check out the diagonal support braces on the black Steel Horse stand vs. the competitor’s stand in the photo on the left.
The Steel Horse’s bracing goes almost all the way up to the spool/saddle receivers, which prevents flexing when the bike is being lifted and when the stand is in use.
Strength is important, because sometimes you’ll forget the bike is on the stand at the most inopportune times — like when you’re up by the forks grunting 70NM of torque on the front axle!
It’s at times like that when you need a stand that will hold the bike rock steady.
In fact, the design of the competitor’s stand meant that it could barely fit under the TBird, and this bike has a pretty high fender, as you can see.
The competitor’s stand an acute lifting arm angle, which prevents the saddles from locating in a secure position up under the swingarm.
The saddles can only be placed at the very end of the swingarm, under the axle and in a position where they can easily slip back off.
The Steel Horse Combo stand is both smaller and lighter than the competition, yet it is designed to fit well up under the swingarm and securely against the flats of the swingarm to give a secure grip for lifting the bike.
You don’t want the saddles or pins to be hanging too far out over their receivers, as this will put a lot of stress on the pin, rather than the stand.
The design of the Steel Horse Combo stand also gives it much better leverage than the competition.
The design angle of the tubes allows the Combo stand to fit much farther up on the swingarm, which reduces the distance you have to push through. And the Steel Horse’s dual rear wheels make lifting the bike a one-handed, anxiety-free operation.
The dual wheels provide 100% more surface area than single-wheeled stands to spread the lifting load.
After using the competitor’s stand, both my wife and I were really surprised at how much easier it is to lift the bike with the Steel Horse Combo.
The Combo stand glides smoothly under the bike and its arms don’t flex, which gives you a much more secure feeling when lifting the bike.
An ideal stand should be designed so that when you push on it, the stand itself moves under the bike and lifts it in one efficient motion.
The Steel Horse stand does just that — you push down, the stand smoothly rolls under the bike, and the bike lifts. No drama. Steel Horse calls it their “E-Z Lift” geometry, but whatever you call it, it works.
What you don’t want is a stand that stays in one place and all your effort has to go into levering the bike over the stand every time you want to raise or lower it. Not only is this dangerous, it can be back-breaking!
This is the case with the competitor’s stand. When you push down, the stand doesn’t move — it tries to move the bike instead. Think about how much effort it takes to one-hand a 450-odd pound motorcycle, and you get the idea.
You also don’t want the bike to be moving around when you’re lowering it by yourself.
The farther the bike moves, the more of a chance there is that the front wheel will start to turn slightly and move the bike away from you in a direction that could be unsafe.
This is especially noticeable if you’re trying to put the bike back down on its sidestand — you don’t want the bike wandering one way or another when your only grip is on the stand’s handle.
The ability of the Steel Horse swingarm stand to smoothly slide up or out from under the bike makes a big difference in ease of use and peace of mind.
We took some measurements using each stand to see how far the bike moved when lifting or lowering it.
The Steel Horse stand moves the bike only about 12″. The competitor’s stand takes about 16″, which is 33% more.
This may not sound like that much, but believe me, when you’re raising or lowering the bike by yourself, it feels like a huge difference.
wBW Video: Using a Motorcycle Swingarm Stand
Above: wBWYouTube Video: Demonstrates how to raise and lower a motorcycle on the Steel Horse swingarm stand.
We also found that the Steel Horse stand lifts the bike’s rear tire by a reasonable 2″, which is more than enough to perform maintenance, and low enough that it keeps the bike steady and secure.
The competitor’s stand lifted the bike by 3.5″; probably wasted effort to raise it that high, and the bike did not feel as secure when on the stand, both due to the height and the higher flex levels of the un-braced arms.
The Steel Horse Combo stand works with swingarms from 12″ to 14″ wide. Spool setup can be adjusted in/out up to 1″, and there are adapters for use with spooled swingarms less than 13″ wide.
The only complaint I have about the Steel Horse stand is that there is no protection for the beautiful paint job underneath the handle.
When the bike is lifted and the back of the arm hits the floor, you can scrape the metal tubing, and eventually the paint could wear off. I’m going to get a couple of self-stick rubber furniture bumpers and stick them on the bottom of the tubing to prevent this from happening.
(NOTE: Since this article was posted, Steel Horse has made a design change and the stands will now incorporate stainless steel rivets on the bottom of the arm to act as bumpers and which will protect the paint from damage).
Using a rear stand can be a real lifesaver when working on your bike, especially if you don’t have a center stand.
But I don’t think think you should try and save a few bucks on what might be a poorly designed and manufactured stand.
The Steel Horse Combo stand is well-made and has been designed to perform, and also is priced competitively. I think you’ll find that once you start using this stand, you’ll wonder how you ever got along without it!
From “C.L.B.”: “I also purchased a lift from Steel Horse fabrications based on the great review written on your site.
The device works as well as it is described in your review and was accompanied by e-mail from the owner of the company.
My device was even shipped out on a Saturday! I even received some good advice about my specific model of bike and how to make it more stable (given that I have a dual set of pipes on both sides). This is a fantastic product with great service.”
From “P.S.”: “After reading the review on the Steel Horse rear stand I decided to purchase one. I received it in about a week with a hand written note plus a personal email thanking me for my purchase.
Talk about great customer relations. My stand also had the rivets on the ground side to protect the nice powder coat. Stand works awesome. Easy to use for a smaller guy. Thanks for your great review and great site.”
From “S.R.”: “Just wanted to close the loop with you and let you know that your reviews are seen and used. I ordered the Steel Horse stand during the New Year holiday season, and the response from the company was great—immediate communication and immediate shipment.
Great workmanship on the stand, including the addition of blind rivets (two) on the back of the handle to protect the finish when the stand is in use.
As a first time user, I found the stand remarkably easy and safe to use.
The leverage on the design makes it very easy to lift my Super Hawk with one hand—really, easier to use than a center stand. As you noted, it’s a lot easier to use a stand than it is to describe the use of a stand.
Thanks again for your advice and good review and thanks to Steel Horse for a great product and truly outstanding service.”
From “D.L.” : “Wanted to write to let you know I purchased a swingarm stand from Steel Horse Fabrications because of the review I saw on Web Bike World. Fantastic build quality, extremely happy with it. Incidentally, the stand did not have any protection on the bottom (steel studs, etc.).
I saw you had mentioned they might do that, so thought you might want to know in order to update the page.
I think I’ll add some small adhesive bumpers, because I have the same feeling as the author of your review: Can’t stand the thought of ruining that beautiful powder-coat! Thanks for the informative website, and the great write-up of this great product.”
Follow-up From D.L. : “Bought some 1″ rubber furniture bumpers (self-adhesive) today, that do the trick on the Steel Horse stand (2 bucks @ Wal-Mart for about 20). I also thought of using some 2″ tire patches, and just gluing them on.
Decided to go the lazy route, and I think the bumpers are going to work well. If you find some rubber tubing, that might even work better, and I’d be interested to know where you find it.”