Since we’ve already covered materials, lets cover construction just to give you a basic idea of how they’re made. Most motorcycle stands are welded together at some point. A lot of your imported stands are constructed in such a way that they can be disassembled for flat shipping, whereas your domestic brands often feature more of a solid welded construction. Flat shipping boxes are advantageous both domestically and for imports, but the biggest benefits are realized when shipping over long distances. Ultimately, a solid welded stand is going to be the way to go because the advantage of a stand that can be disassembled goes away once you take it out of the box. If your budget forces you to go that route, look into welding together the separate pieces after assembling the stand. It’s not a perfect fix by any means, but your motorcycle stand will feel less rickety.
Wheel size(and quantity) is an area of decreasing variety in the motorcycle stand market. There used to be stands with big 4″ wheels, stands with roller skate wheels, stands with casters, etc. Most of the more popular brands now feature the larger plastic wheels. Large wheels roll better over rough surfaces, so this is probably why this feature is seeing less diversity in construction. Some manufacturers are now including extra wheels inboard of their upright tubes. This enables them to use thinner tubing since the inboard wheels will help prevent a thin walled tubing from immediately flexing when a heavier motorcycle is lifted. Other than the freedom to use thinner tubing, there is no advantage to quad wheel designs.
Most motorcycles for dual-sided swingarms will require some form of width adjustment. Some stands feature width adjustment via a knob or bolt, whereas other stands might require you to bend the tubing a bit in order to adjust for width(although this method is decreasingly common these days). Make sure that whatever stand you purchase is width adjustable to fit your motorcycles.
One feature that is not found as often as you would think is height adjustment. A height adjustable motorcycle stand gives you a tremendous amount of versatility. It might seem like all bikes are very similar in height but things like swingarm design and spool mounting location will vary the height necessary from your motorcycle stand by as much as 2-3 inches. The Kawasaki ZRX1200 features a triangulated swingarm whereas the Ducati Panigale 959 has spools mounted inside the swingarm(instead of under) so your stand needs to be able to lift that bike higher in order to get it off the ground enough for some maintenance tasks. One of the most versatile stands on the market is the Pit Bull “Busa Rear” Stand. This stand features both width and height adjustability and while it’s designed for spooled swingarms, you can easily swap out the spooled supports for non-spooled for under $20(see those here if you’re interested). The name of the stand might lead you to believe it primarily fits the Suzuki Hayabusa, but you can actually use that stand on most modern sportbikes with dual-sided swingarms. That height adjustment feature is very nice to have if your stable(or future stable) of motorcycles requires a versatile stand.
We touched on the welding a bit earlier, but one thing worth noting about a welded motorcycle stand is that while anybody with a welding gun can weld two pieces of metal together, you’ll find that the quality of the welds will vary greatly from one stand to the next. Most stands are getting painted these days, so you really can’t even see a hairline crack in the weld – which could of course lead to a catastrophic failure down the road.
Finally – and I didn’t notice this until I was writing this article – apparently there’s a factory overseas pumping out cheap motorcycle stands of a 1 or 2 designs and marketing them as several different brands. If you see 2 identical stands for $57.99 and $26.99, rest assured they’re both coming from the same factory. One company is just making a lot more profit than the other company. Years ago, I remember a factory in China offering to sell me a shipping container full of stands for $12 per unit. I later saw that same stand for sale in the US for $80! 1. Holy markup! 2. I’ll be damned if I leave my motorcycle on a $12 stand for any length of time…especially while I’m under it. In closing, there’s a lot of variety in motorcycle stands, but if you settle on design X from China, make sure you’re not buying the most expensive version of design X. The only thing worse than buying a piece of crap is buying a piece of crap and overpaying:)