Standard Inflation: The 7 Best Bike Pumps
Getting a flat tire when you are in your car is frustrating and can mean that you have to get your hands greasy or call AAA to come save you. Getting a flat tire when you’re riding a bike can mean being thrown to the pavement, bloodied, and then being forced to stagger your wounded body an untold distance while either walking or carrying your beloved bicycle. To avoid this you should always have a patch kit and a bicycle pump on hand.
Bike pumps run from the very simple to the luxuriously complex. They come in many flavors from those that use CO2 for quick inflation, electric ones, and the most common: pumps that rely on the sweat of your brow. Using a quality one will help you keep your tire pressure at the desired rate, inflate your tire easily and quickly, and can be stored simply. Bad ones require too much effort, don’t produce enough PSI (Pounds per Square Inch) for proper inflation, and take up too much space. We’ve focused on every situation and found the 7 best bicycle pumps for any occasion.
Zefal HPX Classic
Pro: Large cylinder for a frame pump
Con: No air hose.
Grab and Go: This is the best of the basic modular hand pumps around. It works with both Schrader and Presta heads without any parts alteration needed. The aluminum body can take a fair amount of punishment and is large enough to make every motion count so that you aren’t wearing out your arms and breaking hundreds of OSHA regulations every time you use it. The handles are large and easy to grip to help eliminate fatigue and difficulties keeping hold as the tire’s PSI’s get higher. It has a minimum of moving parts to get damaged or stick out during rides but that means it doesn’t have a hose to reach difficult valves. The mounting is low-profile and tight using an economy of space and weight. [Purchase: $28+]
Topeak Road Morph G
Pro: Soul of a track bicycle pump
Con: Small handle
Go Go Gadget Inflator: Mobile inflators usually prize size as a premium and forego any attempt at being sturdy or steady. Their intent is to top off a tire on the go or get a flat back into the most rudimentary fighting shape. The Morph G, true to its moniker, attempts to go above and beyond by folding out into nearly a track – aka floor – pump complete with a folding footpad and an actual air hose instead of a fixed air nozzle built into the main body. It can go as high as 160 PSI and there is a small in-line gauge that, while hard to read, is better than nothing. This changeling can handle Schrader, Presta, and even Dunlop valves without any switching or disassembly required. You’ll still get a small grip handle that isn’t a full T-Bar, but it is also light enough to be mounted or packed up without weighing you down. [Purchase: $33]
Topeak Joe Blow Sport II
Pro: Extremely sturdy
Con: Can be difficult to attach
Dearly Beloved: The Joe Blow Sport II is still a very nice piece of equipment that has served every kind of user from the casual rider to the die-hard pro, but the layout has begun to show its age. The steel base is still one of the best in the business and provides grip, stability, and endurance. The steel barrel is tough, though it could have a little more volume since it is time consuming to use. The large handle is comfortable and gives an exceptional hold, even if it is a little smooth and tapered which can cause slips if working fast or pumping hard. The head is double-sided so there is no need to swap out parts to fill either a Schrader or a Presta tire. Some leaking, cross threading, and other issues can arise with the head so when attaching it go slow lest you find yourself losing precious air as you work. It is also a beast to lug around anywhere but your car’s cargo area. [Purchase: $40]
Lezyne Steel Floor Drive
Pro: Strong base and shaft
Con: Quirky bleed valve
Easy as Pie: Some bike pumps try to get clever with simple mechanisms for locking the head to the nozzle. These are never as effective as the tried-and-true method of just screwing it on. That is how the Steel Floor Drive creates a seal, not through complicated machinations but the ancient art of righty-tighty, lefty-loosy. It’s easy to align and screw in place. Once the lock is made, it doesn’t come loose. The steel shaft that gives this pump its name makes it sturdy and capable of taking abuse without losing pressure, denting, or developing gaps. The aluminum base makes it stand out since it won’t snap when put through its paces, unlike it’s slightly cheaper cousin, the Sport Floor Drive. A two inch gauge is easy to read from a standing position for all but the most visibility impaired. Completely compatible with all valve types. Just make sure you practice with it since a bleed valve on the air hose can easily get hit by the uninitiated. [Purchase: $50]
Topeak CO2Bra Race Pod
Pro: Deploys quickly
Con: Large for a CO2 bike pump
Cooking with Gas: Yes, we can only assume someone over at Topeak was on their fourth day of an intense Ayahuasca trip when they named this product, but that doesn’t make it any less worthwhile. It is very large for a CO2 pump so expect to need to make space in your saddlebag or use the attached mount to keep it locked to your frame. It works quickly and fits both Presta and Schrader style nozzles. You can get just the pump, but we chose their race pod model since for a few dollars more it has an enhanced mounting bracket that can also keep a secondary CO2 container and plastic tire levers for pulling the flat tube out for patching. This is especially good for marathoners or anyone impatient as hell who need to be able to get back into the action at speed. The safety cap keeps debris out of the mouth of the “cobra” but mostly just gets in the way. [Purchase: $31]
Genuine Innovations Mountain Pipe
Pro: Does double duty.
Con: Only a mini hand pump
Hybrid: This is more than the sum of its parts. It is a very passable mini pump that can top off tires or give you a quick inflate when you need just a few puffs to get up to top performance. It also offers the ability to use a CO2 canister for a much faster inflation that can then be supplemented with the mini hand pump. The aluminum frame is helpful if you intend on taking rougher terrain rather than roads and the look is flashy. The pressure release is adjustable so you won’t burn through an entire CO2 canister in one shot if you are looking to handle a hiss rather than go full bore. Tilting the scales at only 6oz it is far easier to carry alone than toting around a CO2 and a mini pump. Comes equipped for Presta with a Schrader adapter. Genuine Innovations also has one of the best and most basic CO2 inflators with their G2673 Air Chuck which is basically a nozzle and a tank. Ideal if you need to keep weight at the absolute minimum. [Purchase: $24]
Pro: Compact and powerful
Con: Awful battery pack
Portable Power: There aren’t many decent air compressor bicycle pumps on the market that are also truly portable. For a compressor, you usually need something that plugs into a wall and is the size of a Shetland pony. The Airman isn’t necessarily going to work for inflating your car tires on the go, but the 150 PSI is more than enough to get your bike tires back up to par. It works both cordlessly and plugged in with its AC adapter/charger and 9.6 volt NiCd battery pack. The included air hose has a pressure gauge since it is easy to overfill a tire when using power. The pistol-style grip is easy to use and the slender body fits neatly in most packs. The largest problem with the Airman is the battery. It is unreliable, has NiCd memory issues, and doesn’t hold a charge. You might want to crack the case open and replace it with a better rechargeable battery so that it can be trusted. [Purchase: $69]