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Bicycle pumps

Whilst there are hundreds of pumps available they fall into three basic categories:

Floor Pump (AKA Track or Stand Pumps)

As the name suggests, these stand on the floor and are pumped from a standing position with your feet holding the pump firmly to the floor.  They are the largest and most stable pumps and inflate tyres to high pressure quickly and easily.  Because of their size and weight they are not suitable to take on a ride with you.

Frame Pump

These are a traditional pump that fits into the frame of your bike without the need for special attachments.  Whilst they can be used to pump tyres to high pressure this takes longer and requires considerably more effort than a floor pump.  This is due to the slimmer barrel resulting in less air being forced into the tyre for each stroke of the pump.  They are of course portable, attaching to the bike frame for use on your ride.

Mini Pump

These are essentially small frame pumps.  Many modern frames do not accommodate a frame pump so smaller units have been developed which can be carried in a bag, pocket (not recommended as can cause injury if you crash or can easily be lost) or attached to the frame with additional hardware.    With an even smaller barrel these pumps take a long time and a lot of effort to achieve high tyre pressure (if they can manage it at all).  They will provide enough
pressure to get you home though, as long as you’re careful around corners.

So, basically you should ideally have two pumps, a floor pump for home, used for routine pressure checks and inflations, and a frame/mini pump that goes with you on your ride and is generally reserved for roadside repairs.

What should I look for?

  1. Buy as good a quality floor pump as you can afford.  It will do the bulk of your inflation work and will be with you for many years.  Look for one with all metal construction for durability and make sure it has a gauge so you can maintain the proper pressure in your tyres.  A good tip is to ask your local bike repair shop what floor pump they use as this will need to be a hard working, durable pump.
  2. Make sure any floor pump you purchase can accommodate both presta and schrader tubes.
  3. Your frame/mini pump must fit well on your bicycle without hampering you in any way. You should also make sure it can accommodate the type of valves you have on your bicycle.
  4. Look for frame pumps with a metal pump head.
  5. Consider a minipump if weight is an issue or you don't have room on your bike to hold a frame pump. Minipumps aren't as powerful as frame pumps, but they'll get you home if you have a flat.
  6. Consider co2 cartridges if you're obsessed by weight and hate to pump, but understand that they can be somewhat unreliable.  If your co2 cartridge misfires and you don’t have a spare you are in a fix.

Tips

  • Always maintain proper pressure in your tyres.  Riding under inflated tyres requires more effort (due to extra friction between the road surface and the tyre) and has a detrimental effect on handling, especially cornering, which can cause crashes.  Equally, overly inflating your tyres can result in a blow out.  This is when the pressure in the inner tube forces the tyre off the rim of the wheel.  This can also cause crashes, especially as a blow out is more likely when cornering.
  • Be careful when inflating a tyre with a frame pump or minipump as it is quite easy to damage the valve stem.
  • Check your frame/mini pump is working properly from time to time.  If you have good tyres and change them before they become worn you might not get many punctures and so you won’t have to use your frame/mini pump very often, which is good news.  But there’s nothing quite so bad as having your first puncture in a year, 30 miles from home in the pouring rain and finding that the pump is seized up with road grit or the pump head fell off six months ago.