The 10 Best Bike Pumps
How Bicycle Pumps Work
If you purchase a pump that has a different valve than your bicycle tire tube, you can purchase an AVACS adapter and attach it to your pump.
The valves found on bike pumps are designed to lock onto the corresponding valve on the bike tire tube.
A bicycle pump works by pulling in air, compressing it, and then forcing it out and into a tire. All manual bike pumps have a metal or plastic shaft, which is designed to contain the air that is sucked in when you pull the handle upwards. When you push down on the handle, the compressed air inside the shaft is then forced out.
The air exits the shaft and flows through a hose and out of a valve, which is forced open by the pressure of the compressed air. When the handle is pulled up again, the valve automatically shuts so that no air can escape from the tire. Some designs do not have this hose feature but function comparably; it's really for the sake of portability.
The handle that the user is pushing and pulling is attached to a thin rod which enters the shaft's interior chamber. On the end of the rod is a plunger-like assembly that creates an airtight seal against the walls of the shaft. This allows you to completely push all of the air inside of the shaft out when the handle is pushed, and suck in air as you pull back up on the handle.
Bike pumps usually come with either a Schrader or a Presta valve, but some higher end models feature an All Valves Adjustable Connecting System, which can work on both types. Bicycle tire tubes also come with either a Schrader or Presta valve to correspond with the ones found on bike pumps. If you purchase a pump that has a different valve than your bicycle tire tube, you can purchase an AVACS adapter and attach it to your pump. The valves found on bike pumps are designed to lock onto the corresponding valve on the bike tire tube.
Types Of Bike Pumps
Bicycle pumps come in a few different styles. The standard floor pump is what most of us grew up with in our parent's garage or storage closet. They are large, but what they lack in portability, they make up for in speed. Since their shaft is so big, they can move a large amount of air in each pump. They are also easier for kids and those without a lot of arm strength to operate because they allow one to leverage the weight of the body when pumping. They feature a base that the user can stand on while they pump, ensuring the pump sits firmly on the ground and stays in place during pumping. Most also have an integrated pressure gauge, so the user knows exactly when to stop pumping.
They can also be used to top off a deflated tire multiple times before being emptied.
Portable pumps come in two different styles; frame-fit pumps and mini pumps. A frame-fit pump, as the name implies, snaps directly onto a bicycle's frame without requiring any additional hardware. This is convenient as installation is a breeze, but they must be perfectly sized to your bicycle, otherwise they won't stay securely in place. Frame-fit pumps are heavier and larger than mini pumps, but they also work quicker and can deliver tire pressure up to 160 psi.
Mini pumps are compact enough to fit into a small hydration pack, but most people choose to mount them directly onto their bike frame. Unlike frame-fit pumps, mini pumps do require mounting hardware, but many manufacturers include it with the pump. Mini pumps can achieve from 90 to 160 psi of tire pressure depending on the model.
There are also C02 bike pumps, which don't require any manual pumping. Instead, they use a C02 cartridge, which is capable of delivering enough air to fill a completely empty tire. They can also be used to top off a deflated tire multiple times before being emptied. C02 pumps are the lightest and most compact bike pumps available.
Considerations When Choosing A Bike Pump
Before purchasing any bicycle pump, a cyclist needs to know what type of valve their bicycle tires have. Schrader valves are the most common, but it never hurts to double check. If you are unsure of your bike's valve type and don't know how to check, choose a pump that has an AVACS. You should also consider the materials of the pump's valve head. Metal is more durable and stands up to wear better than plastic, but it is susceptible to rust.
This will make pumping easier and allow you to inflate your tire more quickly.
If you're buying a floor pump, check to see how wide the base is. The more stable a floor pump is, the easier it will be to use. Tripod designs are the most stable, while those with just two legs tend to wobble more during pumping. Heavier bases are preferable, as these help your pump stay firmly in place, with less chance of tipping if the gauge is mounted above the center of gravity.
While on the subject of gauges, it is best to buy a pump with a gauge if possible. This will help you accurately determine how much air your tire has. Both over- and under-inflating a tire can cause a range of problems when biking.
Finally, consider how comfortable the handle is. Pumping up a bike tire can take a considerable amount of force and a number of pumps, depending on the size of the shaft. Picking a pump with a comfortable handle will reduce the chance of causing blisters. Look for one with a handle that conforms to the shape of the hand. This will make pumping easier and allow you to inflate your tire more quickly.