Regardless of what kind of cyclist you are, there will always be a point when your tyres need air. Flats, snakebites, cracks, and sheer blowouts require the use of a good bike pump. As a prepared cyclist, it is important to know what kind of bike pump you should get in order to be ready for the worst-case scenario.
The great news is, bike pumps come in a lot of different types and styles. They are easy to use and can be small enough to keep with you anywhere you bike. There is a bike pump for you no matter what kind of bike you ride and what kind of tyres you use.
Since there are so many possibilities, it can be a little confusing when deciding which bike pump to buy. That is where we come in. Best Reviews is all about helping you choose the right products for your needs.
If you find yourself needing or wanting a new bike pump for your next outdoor adventure, read this guide to learn about all the ins and outs of the tool that will keep you and your bike going for miles.
Know the recommended air pressure of your tires. Unless you need to underinflate or overfill them for challenging terrain, the factory-recommended tire pressure should keep your tires at peak performance.
Bike pump types
All bike pumps do the same thing: push air into the inner tube so you can keep on rolling. Despite the simple use, bike pumps actually come in many different varieties depending on when and where you need to inflate a tyre.
The hand pump is one of the most common bike pumps on the market. These are usually small enough to fit in a bag so you can use them when out on your bike if you need to. They are the best choice if you want a simple way to inflate a tyre on the go.
Frame pumps are similar to hand pumps, but they fit directly on the bike frame instead of in a bag. They are hand-operated, but because they are somewhat larger and heavier than hand pumps, they produce more airflow.
Floor or track pumps
For inflating tyres at home, this type of bike pump is a better option since you can inflate the inner tubes faster. Floor/track pumps are too bulky to carry around on a bike unless you’re also towing a large bag or cargo trailer. Notably, if you’re going on a multi-day bike trip, this type of pump is a good choice.
Bike pump sizes
The size of a bike pump influences how much air it pumps into the tyre at any given point. For larger inner tubes, it is much easier to use a bike pump that pushes a large volume of air with each stroke. Typically, the larger a bike pump is, the more airflow it produces each time.
On the other hand, larger bike pumps are more difficult to take with you while biking. Bike bags tend to be too small for larger pumps. Hand-operated and frame pumps are a much better fit. CO2 cartridges are another excellent way to be able to inflate a tyre on the go without taking up too much room.
It may be a good idea to have a small bike pump for trips and a larger pump to keep at home in the garage. If you’re buying your first pump and need to choose one or the other, go with the smaller, more mobile option to make sure you can inflate your tyre if a flat occurs while biking.
Bike pump construction quality
The materials a bike pump is made of determine how well it will withstand typical use and abuse. Commonly sold bike pumps come in a variety of materials, including plastic and metal.
Plastic: If you primarily ride a bike on the road or sidewalk, you can save some money by buying a plastic pump without too much worry. However, if you take your bike off road or perform a lot of tricks, the harder impacts could dent and damage a plastic bike pump.
Metal: High-quality metal bike pumps tend to be more expensive and also more durable.
Valve stem adapters
What type of stem is your bike pump compatible with? It’s important to find this out before you buy. Stems come in one of two different varieties: Schrader and Presta. While both types allow you to easily pump or release air when necessary, each is only compatible with a certain type of valve.
Presta valve stems
Presta valve stems are more common in road bikes. They are narrow and include a valve on top to prevent air leaks. These are unique to bikes and require a smaller adapter to fit the bike pump nozzle correctly.
Schrader valve stems
Schrader valves are similar to the type of stem used on car tyres. In fact, a pump you can use on a car tyre should be compatible with a Schrader valve bike inner tube. These are larger, allowing for more air to flow in with each pump.
One commonly overlooked feature of bike pumps is air volume. All bike pumps have a certain amount of air that gets pushed in and out with each stroke. In general, the larger the pump, the more air volume per stroke.
The type of bike tyres you use can help determine what kind of bike pump you can keep with you when biking. In particular, the width of the tyre will determine how much air you need to pump into the inner tube to achieve the correct pressure level to get the best performance and grip. In general, the wider the tyre, the more air that will be required.
Road tyres require the least amount of air because they are narrow. Small, hand-operated bike pumps you can keep in a bag should be sufficient for these tyres.
Mountain biking tyres require more air since they are thicker and wider. A larger bike pump, preferably one that can still fit on your bike frame, will allow you to inflate the inner tube faster.
- Fat tyres require the most air since they can be up to four or five inches wide. Larger bike pumps, such as floor pumps, will give you the best performance for these unique bike tyres.
Built-in tyre pressure gauge
A handy feature on some advanced bike pumps is the built-in tyre pressure gauge. This device lets you know how much air is currently in the inner tube as you inflate it. Knowing the current tyre pressure is important since it can help you prevent overinflating the inner tube to the point of damage. The type of gauge to look at often depends on the type of biking you do.
Road/tour biking typically uses more tyre pressure to decrease rolling resistance and increase overall performance. A built-in tyre gauge will often read between 35 and 120 PSI.
Mountain biking/bad-weather biking typically requires less pressure since the tyre will have more contact with the surface underneath. A more sensitive built-in tyre gauge that reads around 5 to 50 PSI is needed.
Choose a bike pump with a built-in tyre pressure gauge if you want to change the pressure on the go without having to guess.
Bike pumps with electric motors
If you want to save time and energy, consider a bike pump with an electric motor. Unlike hand-operated bike pumps which often require several minutes of vigorous pumping to get a tyre up to the correct pressure, electric pumps work automatically. They come with several settings and controls to help you achieve the correct pressure.
Unfortunately, there are two significant drawbacks to electric bike pumps. First, unless they are battery-operated, they require the use of an outlet or car plug-in to operate. Second, they tend to be more complicated and expensive than simple hand-operated pumps.
If you are looking for your second or third bike pump, an electric pump is an option to consider. If this is your first one, however, stick with something small and hand-operated you can carry around.
Bike pump prices
Compared to other types of bike equipment, bike pumps are some of the most inexpensive tools you can buy. For the cost of a single bike tyre, you can purchase separate pumps for the bike and garage and still have enough money to spend on a snack.
If you want to minimize the impact to your wallet, purchase a hand or frame pump. Ranging between $10 and $25, these pumps will save your bike ride many times over for a small price. Budget floor pumps can also be found in this range, but their build quality and durability might be questionable.
Pumps for the garage, including floor pumps, will range from between $25 and $100 for select premium options. Most floor and track pumps fall right around $50. If you’d like some electric assistance via a pump motor, budget models start around $50 and can go up into the $100 to $250 range.
The most reliable portable bike pump is the hand-operated variety.
For everyday bike rides, don’t carry a large frame or floor pump unless you want the extra exercise.
Most home workshops have some kind of floor or electric bike pump for usual maintenance and seasonal tyre changes.
If possible, invest in a high-quality portable pump so it will last a long time.
Double check the types of valve stems your tyres use to avoid any compatibility issues.
Invest in a high-quality floor pump for your garage if you like to switch tires and wheels around during the year. A good floor pump will make it easier to inflate new tires when it comes time to make a tire change.
Q. What type of bike pump should I buy first?
A. In general, the best bike pumps are portable so you can use them in an emergency. Larger pumps are good for home use.
Q. Do CO2 cartridges run out?
A. Yes. Eventually, you will need to replace the cartridge or refill it. If you don’t want to order a new cartridge, most local bike shops can get them refilled for a fee.
Q. Are electric bike pumps reliable?
A. Most batteries will last several weeks on a single charge. A small hand-operated or frame pump is a good backup to keep on your bike in case you find your main electric pump needs recharging.