After spending any amount of time in the saddle, it becomes quickly apparent that the amount of air in a bicycle’s tires is key to a quality ride. Whether it is airing up a bike that has been sitting in the garage since last summer, or the inevitable roadside flat repair, having a reliable bike pump is one of the most important tools in any cyclist’s kit.
Just like all other aspects of cycling, tire pumps come in a slew of shapes and sizes that serve specific needs. Some of these pumps are designed to excel in ease of use, but may come with larger sizes or weights, while others are intended to minimize their size for ease of carrying, but might be a little slower at getting a tire filled to sufficient pressure. This guide will cover the three categories of bike pumps – floor, mini, and CO2 inflators – and let you know what makes each of these models a top pick for us, and what might be the best new tool for you.
The Wheel Words
When we think of bicycle tire types we usually classify them by their valve style and overall capacity characteristics. Here is a quick explanation for what to keep in mind about your own bike tire needs while reading this guide.
Schrader Valve: This is the same type of valve as found on cars, and will be found on some less performance-oriented bikes. The wider of the two valves, Schraders are very user friendly as they have a spring-loaded valve that does not need to be opened or closed.
Presta Valve: The older and more basic style of valve, the Presta valve is common on road bikes and most modern performance-oriented bikes. The narrow valve requires manual opening and closing when adding or removing air pressure.
High Volume/Low-Pressure: Mountain bikes, fat-tire bikes, and plus size adventure bikes all have tires with large cross-sections intended to provide a bit of cushion for the ride. This is a tire where there is a large amount of air in the tire, but not at very high pressure.
Low Volume/High-Pressure: Road bikes have tires with small cross-sections intended for low drag and high rolling efficiency. This is a tire where there is a small amount of air in the tire, but at very high pressure.
At Home Helpers
The largest of all the pumps, floor pumps get their name as they use the floor to stand on when operating to provide maximum efficiency in the job. With their larger volume cylinders to move a lot of air with each stroke, floor pumps are great for filling a tire from completely empty. Options for floor pumps will include ergonomically designed handles, highly accurate and easy to read gauges, and long hoses that make accessing tire valves effortless.
BV Bike Twin Valve
Getting a firm grip on your pump is essential to making efficient use of your energy when inflating your tires. The BV Bike Twin Valve has a comfortable grip handle and extra-wide base, giving plenty of stability when in use. Steel construction keeps the body from taking a beating and the two-sided head will accept any type of tire valve you may have in the garage. Capable of up to 160 psi, the easy-read gauge features an index marker for a quick visual reminder of how much air pressure is needed.
As not all bicycle tires are designed for the same purpose, it is nice to have a pump that is able to adapt to meet the various requirements of your two-wheeled stable. Featuring a universal fit head that easily snugs up to either Presta or Shrader valves without any modifications, the Crankbrothers Sapphire is rugged steel built pump that will have your tires filled in a snap. Available in either black or silver paint, this pump also has a secret hidden compartment in the end cap of the handle that stores a needle and inflater adaptor, allowing you to check the air pressure in sports balls or pool equipment if anything else in your garage needs a little more air.
Lezyne Classic Floor Drive
For those that commute by bike regularly, you know that checking tire pressure is key to making the most of your time in the saddle, though that detail can sometimes be forgotten about until the last minute. In the case where time is of the essence, grabbing the trusty Lezyne Classic Floor Drive will make sure that nothing slows you down while heading out the door. A solid machined aluminum base is connected to a steel barrel and a wooden handle pushes a large steel piston inside, allowing a maximum pressure of 220 psi to be read on the girthy 3.5” gauge, while the screw-on head keeps a rock-solid connection to prevent blow-off.
Topeak JoeBlow Elite
One of the most ubiquitous pumps on the market, and a staple of garages the world over, the Topeak JoeBlow Elite pretty much sets the standard for floor pumps in the bicycle industry. The stout steel build gives steady pumping action and the extra-long 4’ hose provides plenty of length to reach any valve, while the integrated mini tool carrier conveniently nests any Topeak mini multi-tool for handy access in the case you need to make a quick repair. Topping off this pump is an oversize padded handle with a center-mounted gauge for easy sight, giving you a constant view of how much pressure each stroke adds.
Silca Pista Plus
Buying the most expensive tool you can afford is usually the best approach for any of your garage gadgets, because you generally get what you pay for in the life of that utensil. If you have tried the rest and now you are ready to but the best, the Silca Pista Plus is a top of the line floor pump with a quality build that can be passed down through generations. The classic design used for almost 60 years features an ultra-accurate gauge with a high-contrast face resting on a wide foot base capable of 220 psi, and the lathe-turned Ash handle makes gripping the pump a true pleasure. And if any of the special leather or rubber components inside the pump ever wear out with use, the completely serviceable configuration allows for these parts to be swapped out, giving the pump a completely fresh feel.
Small Air Supply
Ready to be taken on the go and employed wherever necessary, mini pumps are the smaller counterparts made to be hauled along for the ride. As these small pumps are designed with portability in mind, their smaller cylinders will take a few extra strokes to get full-size tires filled. Some cool features to keep an eye out for innovative carrying methods and options for switching between tire volume styles, which can help take the pain out of working with a tool in such a small format.
Topeak Pocket Master Blaster
As the most important part of any tool is having it on-hand when the need for maintenance arises, but that doesn’t always mean you need to break the bank to have the necessary equipment. The Topeak Pocket Master Blaster is an affordable option for a mini pump that packs plenty of performance for the price, allowing for high-pressure jobs up to 110 psi. Made with a machined aluminum barrel for a lightweight while on the road, the padded accepts Presta or Schrader valves and the locking handle makes sure the pump never accidentally deploys while riding in the included carrying mount.
Pro Bike Tool Mini High Pressure
Bike tool manufacturers have always designed with the idea that there is the perfect tool for any job, but that same tool has to perform the task on a variety of different shapes and sizes of bicycles. With the thought that space can be limited when making a roadside air pressure adjustment, the Pro Bike Tool Mini High-Pressure pump utilizes an extendable flexible hose to make this job less of a fight. Assembled with an oversize piston and air chamber, the high volume layout means that fewer strokes are required to reach higher pressures, and a hidden pressure gauge automatically deploys once the pump is in use.
Blackburn Mammoth Flip
Some issues will out on the road or trail are going to call for a little more air, and in those situations, you’ll really get a workout if you are working with an inadequate mini pump. Blackburn has heard the calls for a better pump for adding air to large tires mid-ride, and the Mammoth Flip is their answer for those looking for a floor pump experience from a pump that easily fits into their riding bag. Unfold this pump to reveal a base and handle just like the at-home versions, and the two-stage pumping mode adjustments gives you even more bang for your buck while performing flat repairs in the wild.
OneUp Components EDC
As in the spirit of EDC, your mini pump should be considered an essential item to have on you at all times, and should, therefore, have an intelligent design that makes the most of the carry. Thinking of how to do more with less, the OneUp Components EDC pump combines multiple inflation systems and storage unit all into this heavy-duty mini pump platform. Designed to be the go-to unit for heading out on two-wheels, the OneUp is available in two different volumes, accepts CO2 cartridges, and has a hollow cavity perfect for storing their multitool or any other trail necessities. Take this pump to the next level with the optional EDC Top Cap to store this pump in the steerer tube of your mountain bike. Genius.
Silca Tattico Bluetooth
If you are the fastidious type that has gone the extra mile to measure every gram, log each mile, and track individual calories to make sure you have got every competitive advantage, there is no reason to not carry these same habits over to your tire pressure. For the tech-inclined, the Silca Tattico Bluetooth mini pump is just what you need to make sure that every gear-inch turned is at maximum efficiency. Download the iGauge app for paired data updates that automatically sends pressure information to your smart device anytime that you air up. Capping the cool little unit off is a twin-tube handle that makes sure that thing never gets too hot when tuning your psi.
With the amount of time and effort necessary to fill a tire in the middle of a ride with a mini pump, CO2 inflators provide a quick and effortless way to blast flat tires back up to the correct pressure. In conjunction with pre-pressurized and disposable CO2 cartridges, these micro-sized units weigh just a few grams and require no strenuous work. Look for features in this category that will keep the job simple while not adding too much weight to your bag.
Genuine Innovations Ultraflate Plus
While it is never a good time to fix a flat tire roadside, it is nice knowing that your emergency repair tool is going to perform excellently when the occasion calls for it. Thoughtfully designed to be versatile and reliable, the Genuine Innovations Ultraflate Plus is made with a reinforced glass nylon body and brass internals, meaning this inflator is rugged in its construction both inside and out. With the ability to accept non-threaded 20g and threaded 16g, 20g, and 25g CO2 cartridges, pretty much any cartridge you have on hand will be able to quickly get you back up and rolling down the road.
Portland Design Works Tiny Object
Since the idea of a CO2 inflator is so basic by definition there is a great opportunity for those looking to travel light to minimize the additional weight they are packing in their tool kits. Keeping it as basic as it gets, the Portland Design Works Tiny Object is simply an anodized aluminum head for accepting threaded CO2 cartridges and a leather sleeve to keep your hands insulated from cold cartridges. While this inflator is only compatible with Presta valves, the extremely minimal weight and overall tiny footprint are ideal, and the easy to use control knob allows for inflation to perfect levels.
Fabric CO2 Lever Kit
For those in need of some additional tools to fix a flat, the Fabric CO2 Lever Kit has all of the essentials that are necessary for an efficient road or trail-side tire repair. As the name implies, this kit includes tire levers for breaking the tire bead from the rim during the repair, which will save you some headache when wrestling your tire free from the wheel. Also included in the kit are two 16g CO2 cartridges and a universal fit head with a convenient control knob, all wrapped in a durable silicone rubber strap for attaching anywhere on your bike.
Specialized Air Tool Gauge Trigger
Missing from most CO2 inflators is a pressure gauge, though that feature has become standard equipment for the other categories of pumps covered in this guide. Specialized took on this challenge with their Air Tool Gauge Trigger, allowing for super-quick mid-ride adjustments from this pressurized pump by adding an analog gauge built right into the head. With a solidly machined anodized aluminum construction and thumb-activated trigger for precise CO2 blasts, just throw in a threaded cartridge, depress the trigger, and watch the needle indicate the exact tire psi you are looking for.
Lezyne Tubeless CO2 Blaster
With the rise of tubeless tire technology, combined with the popularity of adventure cycling in all capacities, there are a lot of riders looking for quick solutions to fix punctures not repaired by sealant. The Lezyne Tubeless CO2 Blaster is a combination plugger and tire filler that will be working overtime out on the trail to get your wheels turning quickly. Just thread one of the included rubber plugs into the puncture with the reamer, then use the CO2 cartridge to inflate the tire right from the puncture site, getting two jobs done at once while it patches the hole and fills the tire back to a rideable pressure.
The 12 Best Bike Lights For Commuting
Arguably one of the next most essential bicycle products is a good set of lights, so if your whip is missing the illumination to light the way, check out out list of the best bike lights for commuting to see which torch is right for you.