Bicycle air pumps are a fundamental part of the basic toolkit for cyclists, both for those who are transported by bicycle, and for those who use the bike to exercise. And if we talk about a tool for the bicycle workshop , it is simply an article that cannot be missing.

Bicycle air pumps have two purposes: keep your tires at the recommended pressure level and inflate the tire after repairing the punctures. 

Maintaining your bike tires at the recommended pressure level helps reduce rolling resistance and minimize the chance of punctures, increasing the life of your tires.

Not all air pumps are the same, so we prepare this guide that includes everything that must be taken into account when purchasing a pump your bike.

Types of bicycle pumps

There are different options in terms of types and methods to inflate your bicycle tires. In this case we will mention the three most common and practical types to keep your tires at an adequate pressure.

Floor pumps

Also known as “track pump”, this type of pump is the fastest way, compared to portable pumps, and efficient to pump air to your bike’s tires. They usually have a long flexible hose, a pressure gauge (an instrument with which air pressure is measured) and a large chamber or cylinder for a generous air transfer, which means you have more air in the tire for less effort.

Portable pumps

Hand pumps are portable and designed for emergencies and road use. Due to the small size of your camera or cylinder, it may take a while to inflate your bicycle tire. For this reason, it is convenient to have a floor pump for daily use and reserve your portable emergency pump.

When you are looking for a hand pump, you should take into account the pressure your tire needs. If you have a road bike, look for a pump that suits high pressure inflation (PSI), and if you have a mountain bike, look for a pump that suits high volume inflation.

CO2 cartridges

An even more portable alternative to hand pumps is a CO2 inflator cartridge, as it can inflate a tire in a matter of seconds using compressed carbon dioxide.

A single 16 g container. It will inflate a standard 700 x 23c road tire to approximately 100 psi. However, each container is a single use, so it does not make it very practical if you need to inflate more than one tire and much less if we think about the waste generated by the cartridges once they have been used.

Keep in mind that the cartridges get very cold, so be sure to wear gloves or cover it with a cloth when you use it.

Characteristics of bicycle air pumps

Taking into account the type of tires and the pressure that each type needs, it is important that you take into account the different characteristics that different air pumps can offer you to make the right choice. 

Maximum pressure you can pump

While it is not necessary to have a pump that can generate 260 psi, you should consider that the pump you choose is capable of generating the suggested pressure on the side of the tire of your bicycle. If you have more than one bike, you should take as a reference the one that requires the most pressure. For example, if you have a road bike in your case, you will most likely need a pump that generates a minimum of about 100 psi. On the other hand, for a mountain bike tire, 60 psi may be more than enough.  

Many brands offer specific air pump models for different disciplines within cycling, which respond adequately to the air pressure needed for the tires of your road, mountain or urban bike.

Taking into account the air pressure requirements that different types of tires need, this table I think will help you have a better compression of the type of pump your bicycle tires need.

Examples of common pressure ranges:

  • Road bike: 80-130 psi / 5.5-9 bars
  • Cruising bike: 35-70 psi / 2.2-4.8 bars
  • Mountain bike: 30-60 psi / 2.1-4.2 bars.

* Pounds per square inch (psi) is the standard measure of the United States. Bars are the metric equivalent.

Volume of air generated by the pump

According to the capacity of the pump’s air chamber, it will be the volume of air that it generates.

So, a high volume air pump will require less pumping to inflate a tire. Take into account that a large volume will not necessarily mean that the pump can generate high pressures.

Since mountain bike tires have a much larger volume, but require less pressure, a large volume pump is more important here.

If you have tubeless or tubeless tires , a pump with a good volume may be sufficient to place a tire without the need for an air compressor.

Head for different valves

Currently most of the pumps that are within our reach already have dual heads, that is, they are suitable for working with at least two types of tire chamber valves without the need for an adapter. But when purchasing an air pump make sure that the head can at least work with “Presta” and “Schrader” valves, which are the most common.

And although the latest models of air pumps have an “intelligent head” that automatically adapt to these two types of valves, keep in mind that there are still for sale models where the “double valve head” will have two slots separate for each of the valves. Then there is the thread style, which offers a reliable fit, but must be “turned and changed” according to the desired valve. 

Different types of valves for bicycle chamber: Presta valve on the left, and Schrader valve on the right.

Manometer

To be able to inflate our tires with precision it will be necessary more than the touch to know if our tire meets the pressure requirements, and the pressure gauge is the one indicated for the task.

Not all pumps are equipped with a pressure gauge, nor is it an essential feature. However, it is highly recommended to look for a model that has one. Ideally, at least your floor pump should have a pressure gauge. Especially if your tires require high pressures. Choose a meter that is easy to read and offers a suitable pressure range for your needs.

In case the pump you have purchased does not have one, you can replace it with a car tire gauge, but this will not be as accurate and will only serve you for Schrader valves.

Materials and quality of the pump

The quality in the construction of an air pump is often linked to its price, and in general, the more expensive the pump, the more metal it contains.

For track or floor pumps, the cheapest options are plastic and will flex and move under heavy use, and eventually wear out and lose pressure until they stop working properly. The metal ones are much more solid, they are more resistant and in case of breakdown they can be repaired.

Dimensions

As for the size of the pump: if your pump is going to stay at home, the size will not be of great importance. But if you plan to take your pump on a trip or take it daily, then size will matter, so it will be advisable or a portable pump that can be of those that go in the box or a mini pump, which although they can inflate a tire They are obviously limited by the volume of air they generate which will cause you to have to pump more than at a regular size.  

How to determine which air pump is the most suitable

Anyone who has a bicycle should be prepared to inflate a flat tire or simply to complete or maintain the tire pressure to the recommended configuration. To do this, as a cautious cyclist you probably are, you will want a bicycle air pump for your home or workshop, and another to carry on your bicycle. 

Before purchasing an air pump, ask yourself the following questions: what type of tire and valve will you use it for? Do you need me to generate more pressure or volume? Are you going to take it with you daily?

If you already have an idea of ​​the type of air pump that best suits your needs, we invite you to review our selection of the best bike pumps of 2020 .

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