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Park Tool's HBH-3 Extendable Handlebar Holder looks much the same as many far cheaper designs. Unfortunately, it's made what was a functional design worse, resulting in a tool that – given the hefty price – is a disappointment from an industry leader.
When you have a bike in a workstand for fettling or cleaning, you want the handlebar to be held stable so you can crack on without the bar or wheel flopping from side to side. Some folk swear by using a couple of inner tubes looped over the seatpost and then each handlebar grip, but if you're working on different bikes that idea gets old real fast.
Park Tool's own HBH-2 is a coat hanger-esque solution, but doesn't hold the bar 100 per cent solidly, and can foul on handlebar accessories.
The tried and trusted way that most people will have seen if not used is a simple telescoping rod with two rubber straps at each end, popularised by the German supermarkets Aldi and Lidl in their neverending war to sell the cheapest home bike mechanic solutions. The 'handlebar stabilisers' are included free with their bike stands, which are a generic model you see popping up all over the place.
You can even buy them separately for just £5. That's the cheap and cheerful benchmark right there: a fiver.
Stepping things up, Feedback Sports has the Flop Stop, a £25 pro workshop-grade tool that works flawlessly. I should know, because I've owned one for five years and use it multiple times each day in a commercial setting.
That's the benchmark I'm judging the Park Tool HBH-3 against, and at twice the price, Park Tool has some work to do to justify consideration.
The HBH-3 is pretty simple: two blue-anodised alloy poles, one sliding inside another, with a plastic clamp in the middle secured by a large serrated metal knob. Great. Works well, so far.
At either end is where things came unstuck, literally. The plastic V-shaped brackets that align with your seatpost and handlebar grips pivot on metal screws, which out of the box on this example were so loose one fell apart. Fortunately, as it's Park Tool, spares are available via the UK distributor.
The brackets aren't very wide, so as to facilitate fitting into narrow what's-available-seatpost gaps, and the ability to pivot, compounded by the narrow footprint and distance from the pivot point, means that at the handlebar end the rod can very easily push the bracket over into the handlebar grip.
Basically, the bar can move a good few inches when moderate force is applied, even when the rubber strap is hooked down as hard as is sensible. This means if you are doing something on the wheel, fork or bar that requires a bit of pressure or torque, at the moment you need the bar held still the most, it moves.
Wrapping bar tape was a frustrating experience using the HBH-3 – the movement back and forth over even an inch or so made applying even pressure on the tape as it wrapped around the bar a challenge.
In contrast, the Feedback Sports Flop Stop has no pivot, just an indented plastic bar at each end with a thick rubber strap with lumps along it to hook into an open notch on the other end of the bar. It takes far longer to read than to do, and the end result is rock solid. Handily, if you need to remove it from the bar end, say to swap sides while wrapping tape, it's held so solidly at the post that it sticks out from the bike, ready to grab and reattach. The HBH-3 in comparison will flop down into the cranks/chain, getting dirty.
We contacted Park Tool's UK distributor, Madison, about the issues I had.
Eric Hawkins, CEO Park Tool, told road.cc, "We have had zero issues with the HBH-3 in either its function or longevity. The pivots are not meant to be tight but certainly if the feeling was they were going to fall apart we will have to look into that. I've also never heard that it didn't tighten up properly between the collars and the aluminium tube. You need very little pressure for a tight hold as the job of the tool is just to keep the handlebars straight."
Alex Cubbage, Park Tool brand manager at Madison, said, "At Madison we've not had any other complaints like the ones described here in terms of the bolts falling out or being loose to the extent they then fall out."
Had I not used the Feedback Sports Flop Stop, I might have been more generous towards the HBH-3. But for twice the money, with multiple design flaws, it's not something I can recommend if you want to keep your bar solid while working on your bike.
Expensive and poorly executed design that is bested by versions costing half as much
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Park Tool HBH-3 Extendable Handlebar Holder
Size tested: n/a
Tell us what the product is for and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?
It's for holding your handlebar still while you clean or work on a bike.
Park Tool says: "The HBH-3 securely holds handlebars in place on any bike in any position while in a repair stand. Useful for brake bleeding, cable and housing routing, lever adjustment, or any scenario where you want to prevent the handlebars from rotating, including storage or working with the bike rotated upwards. With its articulating clamps and adjustable straps, the HBH-3 can easily be attached in a wide variety of positions onto almost any handlebar, seatpost, frame, fork, or repair stand. Anodized aluminum construction with soft rubber straps."
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Park Tool lists:
Straps install onto any round tube from 12mm to 60mm (0.5" to 2.4"), as well as most irregular and aero-shaped tubing found on bicycles
Rotating articulating clamps allow for secure installation onto virtually any bicycle in a wide range of positions
Usable extension length of 18' to 32' (45cm to 81cm)
Collapses and folds to 17' (43cm) for storage
The individual parts are fabricated well enough.
For a product that's designed to hold a bar rock solid, it fails.
At twice the price and lacking the usability of alternatives, it's not good value.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Poorly. It's frustrating to use.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
The fact that it can flop about, and the price.
How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?
It's overpriced for what it is. The Feedback Sports Flop Stop is considerably better for half the price.
Did you enjoy using the product? No
Would you consider buying the product? No
Would you recommend the product to a friend? No
Use this box to explain your overall score
The fact that it doesn't hold the handlebar still is the major failing here, compounded by the comparatively astronomical price.
About the tester
I usually ride: Sonder Camino Gravelaxe My best bike is: Nah bro that's it
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: A few times a week I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: cyclo cross, general fitness riding, mtb, G-R-A-V-E-L