Blowing Them Away: Top 4 Road Bike Floor Pumps Shootout
The pressure is on
Sure, torque wrenches and multi-tools are essential when it comes to working on your bike, but to keep rolling, one of the only tools every cyclist really needs is a floor pump. What with all the latest science nitpicking the effect of tire size and rim width, air volume and air pressure have on ride quality, a proper pump can keep you riding longer and more comfortably.
Truth be told, other than the $450 Silca SuperPista floor pump (or any Silca pump for that matter) that embodies old-world legacy with new-world design and fabrication, we have found floor pumps to be one of the more consistently disappointing accessories in the office. Between a variety of broken handles, gauges and heads, there is a graveyard of floor pumps in our office, each that proved incapable of making it through a full season.
Never one to lose hope, we set out to amass a new collection of floor pumps to determine what sets one apart from another and which one could be right for the type of riding you’re doing.
Long-time pump designer Topeak has expanded its JoeBlow line of pumps to include the $50 Sport III model. Their innovative TwinHead valve head uses two separate nozzles that eliminates the need to change valve internals for Presta and Schrader valves and is still the highlight of the Taiwanese brand.
Located about a third of the way up, the steel body is the 3-inch-wide gauge. It’s the highest-positioned gauge out of our bunch, which makes it easier to read, and it measures pressure in bar and psi. The steel base measures 10 1/4 inches across, making it the second-largest base of the bunch.
BIKETUBE AIR HANDLER
A polished aluminum barrel and a steel base make BikeTube’s Air Handler a reliable piece of equipment. Best known for their hard-to-beat consumer-direct prices for inner tubes and one of the best-value and -performing mini pumps ever, their Air Handler floor pump is a get-the-job-done tool. The 35-inch hose has an auto-head capable of inflating a Presta or Schrader valve with no adjustment needed. However, a downfall of the Air Handler is its small 1 1/2-inch-diameter gauge with even smaller numbers crammed in to reach its 160-psi maximum pressure rating. Its industrial-grade gauge proves to be accurate, as we were able to reach 100 psi in a 25mm tire in 22 pumps.
SPECIALIZED AIR TOOL COMP V2
It’s hard to choose a favorite part of the Air Tool Comp V2, but its Candy Apple Red coating is one of the reasons we fought amongst ourselves to take it home (Zap won). While pumps might not seem like a specialty item from the brand most popular for trendsetting bikes, the Air Tool Comp V2 boasts many of the features we look for in a modern road pump.
A large, raised gauge sits 3 inches above the grip tape of the 12-inch-wide steel base. It’s the largest gauge in the group, measuring in with a 3 1/4-inch diameter. The Air Tool has the lowest-volume gauge, maxing out at 120 psi, but that’s what gives it an advantage. Since the range of the gauge is smaller, there is more space between each 10 psi, which makes finding a specific number easier to read. The Air Tool has the longest barrel, but only the second-highest volume at about 325cc per stroke, which is about 40cc less than the Topeak. Due to its extra-long 42-inch hose, the Air Tool needs about an extra half pump just to begin filling a tube.
For us, any pump that is sturdy, quick to fill, easy to read and accurate will win quick acclaim. And, of the group tested here, the Specialized Air Tool Comp V2 checked all those boxes, in addition to its standout appearance. Its max pressure of 120 psi, large easy-to-read gauge and high volume per pump make reaching a precise tire pressure easier than many other pumps on the market, even those outside of our comparison.
Out of our group, Topeak’s JoeBlow came in a close second. It pumped a 25mm tire up to 100 psi on average three strokes sooner than the Specialized. However, its high-pressure gauge made it a bit more difficult to hit a precise pressure.
The Sapo and BikeTube pumps both filled out the field due to their smaller, hard-to-read gauges and relatively small barrels that required a few extra pumps. The Sapo earned a spot right above the BikeTube pump just for its all-steel build and easy-to-replace parts that should add a bit more life to the product.
The Specialized Air Tool set itself apart in terms of overall utility. It’s as capable of accurately inflating a tubeless gravel tire to 22 psi as it is hitting 85 psi for a road bike. The Topeak is best for those looking for a quick inflation, thanks to its high volume. The Sapo takes the style awards for its craftsman look and feel. The BikeTube Air Handler dawdles in the middle of the price point of the group, but has many of the same qualities as lower-tier pumps at just about the same level of blandness.
• Accurate and simple gauges lead the way
• Who needs more than 100-psi nowadays?
• Look for designed durability