Our Guide to Buying: Bicycle Pumps

To keep your tyres properly inflated and ready for whatever the road (path/track/mountain) may throw at you, a bike pump is an essential piece of kit. Bike pumps come in a number of styles to suit your own style of riding. Whether you’re looking for a hand or mini pump to back you up in case something happens while out and about, or you want something with a little more firepower, this buying guide will help you to choose the perfect bike pump for you.

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Track Pumps

Using a track pump is the most efficient way of pumping up your road bike or mountain bike tyres, and it’s an important piece of kit to have at home. Track pumps have a high volume shaft, which combined with the fact you use your body weight to press down on the handle, makes them easy to use for getting up to pressure.

What type of track pump will I need for my bike?

For accurate pumping, look for a track pump with a gauge. Gauges should be either mounted at the base of the shaft, like on the Lezyne Steel Floor Drive V3 ABS or at the top of the shaft, like on the Topeak Jo Blow Pro. It’s worth noting that some pumps will only be rated up to 70 or 80 psi – ideal for mountain bikes, but not if you ride on skinny road tyres, which require higher pressure.

A wide, stable base that you can put your feet on is ideal, and longer hoses add increased practicality. Pricier models like the Specialized Airtool Pro might have a high quality metal build, while cheaper models may be made of plastic.



Mini Pumps & Hand Pumps

Whether you're commuting, exploring a trail or getting some road miles in, if you’re heading out on your bike, a hand or mini pump is invaluable, unless you like a long walk home! There’s a wide range on offer, from super short examples like the Lezyne Pressure Drive V2 ABS to longer or wider models. The benefit of a small pump is that it can be easily carried in a jersey pocket or saddle pack for emergencies.

What type of mini pump will I need for my bike?

Short or small pumps are ideal for roadies or racers who want to minimise weight, and carry their kit in back pockets. Longer or wider pumps are ideal if you want to inflate tyres as fast as possible, although their size means you’ll have to pack them in a bag or attach them to a frame.

Some, like the Topeak Mountain Morph are like mini track pumps, with a fold-out handle, mini foot plate and pressure gauge.

CO2 Inflators

For the ultimate in speedy inflation, look no further than a CO2 system. CO2 inflation systems use canisters of compressed air to quickly inflate a tyre. They’re ideal for racers or anyone who wants to ride light, because the canisters weigh very little and the inflators can be nice and small. With CO2 systems, there’s generally less opportunity to fine-tune your tyre pressure, but if you’re racing and need to get back on the bike quickly to recover position, that shouldn’t be a concern.

What type of CO2 inflator will I need for my bike?

Most riders will want a 16g cartridge like the FWE 16g threaded cartridges, which can inflate a tyre to rideable pressures in a few seconds. Some inflators will look like a regular mini pump, providing storage for a cartridge. Others will be more minimal – a small device with a port for the CO2 cartridge to screw into, and another port which connects to the tyre valve.

It’s worth remembering to be cautious using CO2 inflator – the rapid depressurisation of the canister can leave ice on the outside of the canister, so make sure you’re not holding it with bare hands when you reinflate your tyre.

Suspension Pumps

Virtually every mountain bike will have front suspension, and many will have rear shocks. If your suspension is air-sprung, having a suspension pump is vital for fine-tuning your shocks. Despite their diminutive size, they pack a real punch, enabling you to reach the high pressures required in suspension systems. Gauges are very important because knowing how much pressure you’re putting in will play a big part in getting your forks or shock set-up the way you want.

What features should I look for when getting a suspension pump for my bike?

It is important that your suspension pump has a bleed valve to help you get an accurate pressure by gently reducing the pressure in the fork/shock without letting it all escape at once. An example of a good suspension pump is the Fox shock pump – which comes with a flexible hose and gauge. It’s also got a flat end to push against when pumping. Most suspension pumps will have an analogue gauge, but some now come with digital displays too.

Most suspension pumps will also have a flexible hose, which will allow you to easily access shock valves that may be located awkwardly in complicated suspension linkage designs.