Having spent nearly my entire adult life in the motorcycle industry, I can tell you that there are huge differences in from one stand to another and those depend on multiple factors. The first of those that I will write about are materials.
Most motorcycle stands use somewhere between 1″ and 2″ tubing combined with various solid stock materials. Obviously lighter and thinner materials are preferential for weight, but as with anything structural – as it gets lighter, it gets weaker. Some stands are actually thin enough that you can bend them by hand.
What do you want from your motorcycle stand? Is light weight the most important thing? Or do you want it heavier and more rigid. If you’re an average Joe(or Jane) and are using the stand in your garage or shop, you probably want a heavier, beefier stand that will hold up over time – and since you’re not carrying it around often, weight is a non-factor. If you’re a professional racer or crew chief, you might prefer something lightweight since you have to carry it around at the race track.
One of the common ways to produce a lightweight motorcycle stand is by using aluminum. Aluminum is indeed light in weight, but you sacrifice strength. Steel stands will of course be stronger, and with that strength will come additional weight. There is always a trade-off and there is no motorcycle stand in existence that is both the lightest and the strongest.
The only stands that you can be assured are not worth having are those that are both steel and bolted together by a dozen or so bolts. This is often done so that the stand can ship flat. Of course, once you receive the stand you no longer care that it shipped in a flat box. What you care about are the extra weight of the bolts that are holding your new stand together. Now you have a steel stand that weighs more than it has to, just so that it could ship in a flat box. If you’re going to purchase a heavy stand, make sure the weight of the stand is in the strength of the stand – not the bolts that you use to put it back together after shipping.
Lastly, be aware of the plastic and rubber bits on your motorcycle stand. More often than not, they are there to serve a purpose and that is probably to prevent metal to metal contact with your motorcycle. If one falls off, put it back on. Loctite 415 is a great adhesive to re-secure your plastic or rubber parts to your metal stand. If you lose the part before re-installing it, contact the manufacturer to see if you can get a replacement.