Behind the scenes at brilliant British stand-maker abba
The British-built gear that prevents your machine from toppling to the workshop floor
Abba’s world-renowned motorcycle stand is one of those inventions that is so simple and yet so brilliant, that you wonder why nobody had thought of it before.
The stand was the brainchild of abba founder Alan Burdett and it was during his time as a frame straightener and accident repairman in the late 1980s that he became frustrated by the lack of decent stands to ensure bikes were secure while he worked on them.
“Getting the forks or head bearings out of big, heavy, bikes such as the GSX-R1100 was a nightmare,” remembers Alan. “Paddock stands were no use and one day I had a GSX-R suspended from the rafters by a bit of rope and its owner turned up. He looked shocked but I explained there was no other way of doing it, which is when the penny dropped.”
Thanks to his background in frame straightening, where the jigs connect directly to the bike’s swingarm pivot point, Alan knew where his new design of stand had to locate. A few months later he had a working prototype and with its patent secured, he produced his first run of stands.
“I had to demonstrate its principle to people at first as it was something completely new due not only to its location on the bike, but also the way it lifts the bike forwards,” remembers Alan. “But as soon as anyone saw it in action they instantly understood.”
Keeping costs down by building the stand himself, Alan’s invention soon caught the eye of M&P Accessories and the firm placed the first mass-order of 25 stands from Alan’s newly formed company, abba. “I picked the name abba, an abbreviation of Alan Burdett Bike Accessories, as everyone remembers
it; they always say ‘as in the pop group,’” says Alan.
Throughout the 1990s abba’s stand gradually gained momentum, but it wasn’t until a change of location and a new invention that the firm’s success really took off. Relocating to a larger premises in South Woodham Ferrers, Essex, not only gave the firm the ability to increase production, it also saw a new addition to the stand being developed.
“We invented the front-lift arm, which allows a bike’s front to be suspended in the air and can be retro-fitted to any abba stand, in 2011 and sales spiked,” says Alan. “It was a logical evolution , god knows why we didn’t think of it before.”
Nowadays abba build around 8000 stands a year as well as over 30 other products, such as wheel changing and workshop equipment, and export to a worldwide market. Every part of the abba stand is built in their Essex base with all the raw materials supplied by British firms before being packaged in-house and dispatched. It’s a British success story in every sense.
“Paddock stands are there to remove tyre warmers, to make your bike easier to work on or even to just make your bike look good,” says Alan. “An abba stand is a universal piece of workshop equipment that you keep for life and update its fixings when you change your bike.”
Heavy-duty kit like this requires some serious welding by abba craftsmen
Abba’s founder Alan with his two sons Steve and Paul It can take up to 10 tonnes of pressure to bend 6mm steel
They build around 8000 stands a year