The Best Bike Pump Review
We put eight of the top-performing floor pumps to the test and measured their performance in five categories. We believe these metrics will make all the difference when you are pondering which contender to buy: stability, ease of attachment/detachment, gauge, inflation speed, and accuracy. Happily, no contender failed miserably in any of our categories. Every pump succeeded in placing more air into the tire than it had before; some came up a little short, while others scored perfect tens. Most of the models we tested are solid, good quality pieces of equipment, but we did notice some key performance differences in our tests. Read on to discover how all competitors fared in our comparisons!
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Test Results and Ratings
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Analysis and Award Winners
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Analysis and Test Results
Pumping up a bicycle tire to full pressure can be a full aerobic workout. It looked like a CrossFit class pounding out sets of burpees with our testers side-by-side, madly pumping away. The base of a floor pump needs to be just as strong as you in order to hold up to pumping forces and provide a lifetime of service. Bases take a pretty good beating; they comes in contact with the ground and you stand on them. For these reasons, we found the best bases to be made from metal.
Our top ranking pump in this category was our Top Pick winner the behemoth Joe Blow Booster. This was one of the two pumps we tested that was designed with an additional high-pressure air chamber used to seat the bead on tubeless tires. This is a tall, heavy pump, with a large steel base that provided a great foundation. There is plenty of room for your feet, as the base measures 10 inches across and about 4 1/2 inches front to back. An overbuilt plastic cradle mounted directly on top of the base, which holds the barrel and high-pressure chamber in place. There is no rubber or plastic protection to the underside of the base.; it's not the base that needs protection though, just use caution when using this hefty pump on delicate surfaces. The other compressor-type pump in our test, the Bontrager TLR Flash Charger also had a top scoring base incorporating a robust stamped aluminum tripod base. Our Best Buy winner, the Topeak Joe Blow Sport 2, featured a strong aluminum base, though we were not as pleased with the ovoid shape. Standing on its own, it was a bit tipsy; fortunately, the issue was largely resolved when standing on the base during pumping. The svelte, minimalist, tripod aluminum design used for the bases on the Lezyne pumps were a favorite as well.
The pumps scoring the lowest in this category were the ones that featured fully plastic bases. Both the Park Tool PFP-8 and the Serfas TCPG had lightweight plastic bases that resulted in these pumps feeling less "grounded". It only took one toss into the truck to snap the fragile base of the Park in half. The slim design of the Serfas did have some benefits; although we don't prefer it as our everyday pump, its lightweight and slim base made it easy to pack in a suitcase for travel.
Ease of Attachment/Detachment
The ABS2 (Air Bleed System) air chuck on our Editors' Choice winning Lezyne Steel Floor Drive was hands down our favorite pump head. This head fits both Presta and Schrader valves in the same port without swapping or flipping any parts around.
The heads of the Flash Charger, Joe Blow Booster, and Serfas all have a single head design, but are more difficult to attach and detach. With the other pumps, once the head is pressed onto the valve, flipping the lever to secure the head onto the valve is most often a two-handed procedure that often creates air leakage. By contrast, the knurled aluminum locking sleeve on the ABS2 chuck slides forward and back; a simple twist locks it onto the valve stem. Aluminum couplers are used in place of plastic where the head meets the hose; the ability to fine-tune pressure by releasing air from the tire lies directly under your thumb. Our other award winners set themselves apart by using a more durable design in comparison to their lower ranking competitors. Both The Booster and the Joe Blow Sport made use of metal, where other pumps like the Serfas, Park, and Nashbar Earl Grey all used plastic and were more finicky to attach.
Like we mentioned above, pumping up a bike tire can be a pretty good workout. With sweat already starting to sting your eyes, it's no fun to have to squint or bend down further to check what pressure the pump gauge is reading. Height, color combination, and print size are a few of the important factors that can make the difference between a good gauge and a bad one. Our test favorite gauge goes to the Top Pick Topeak Joe Blow Booster. Located at the top of the high-pressure compressor barrel, the elevated position minimizes the distance from the gauge to your eyeballs.
Like the other highly ranked gauge on the Joe Blow Sport 2, the white numbers (on the black background) and yellow needle seemed to "pop" and stand out for clear, easy readability. The Sport 2 also features a handy chronograph dial that can be set at a desired pressure; even those with poorer eyesight can preset the dial and not worry with the numbers. The gauge on the Nashbar Earl Grey also uses a black background with large, silver/grey font and a chronograph dial. Unfortunately, the gauge would later prove to be the most inaccurate of the test. Often times when a gauge is mounted towards the top of a pump, although it may be easier to read, it is more subject to damage should the pump fall over. The thick plastic selector dial used to release air from the compressor chamber fully surrounds the gauge on the Booster. The gauge suffered no damage during repeated "chuck it in the truck" testing or while during our even more formal method of kicking it over in the driveway.
Our Editors' Choice Lezyne Steel Floor Drive has its gauge mounted atop the front tripod leg and is fully encased in metal, thwarting lots of potential damage. The bold black print against a polished metal background gave this gauge a quality appearance.
The high-tech brother of the Lezyne Steel Floor Drive, The Lezyne Steel Digital Drive was the only pump in this test to use a digital gauge. The gauge was simple to use with one button to turn the unit on and another to switch between psi and bar. A few caveats were that when left in the hot sun, the digital display window would develop a black spot that obscured the reading and would remain until the unit was removed from direct sunlight. Additionally, much in the same way some lighting conditions make reading a cell phone screen difficult, the same was true for the digital gauge. Lastly, although the pump still functions without the gauge, should the battery die, you'll need to replace it or check tire pressure with a different device.
Our lowest scoring gauges were those of the Serfas TCGP and the Bontrager Flash Charger. The Serfas gauge had tightly spaced black print on a white background, giving it a crowded appearance that proved difficult for many testers to read, while the Bontrager had miniscule black print on a silver background. Most dreadful was the spacing of the pressure readings. Pressure readings increased in increments of 20, with no intermediate markings severely decreasing accuracy and forcing the user to make a best guess reading.
With exception of the Digital Drive, all the bike pumps in this test are somewhat lacking in precision if you only have tubeless mountain bike tires. Because of the low pressures these tires run at, often times the first pressure readings on the gauges are where these tires are ridden; a separate low-pressure gauge would be nice. Lots of these companies offer high-volume, low-pressure mountain bike specific pumps as well.
When testing inflation speed, we decided to count the number of strokes that were used to reach a pre-determined pressure on both a tubeless mountain bike tire and a road bike tire. Specifics on the tire/wheel set combo we chose can be seen in our How We Test article. The mountain bike tire was taken from a zero pressure reading (flat tire) up to 25 psi, while the road bike tire was taken from a soft 60 psi to a firmer 120 psi.
The surprising top performers in this test were two bike pumps that otherwise ranked lower on a number of other scoring metrics. The Park Tool pfp-8 pump took a scant 14 pumps on average, while the Earl Grey took 16 to take our road tire from 60-120 psi. By comparison, the Lezyne Digital required 38 strokes along that same journey. Both the Park and Earl would prove to be chronic over-reporters of their actual pressures, so perhaps a stroke or two should go against their records. Our Editors' Choice Lezyne Steel Floor Drive matched the paltry 16 pumps of the Grey, while the Joe Blow Booster, Serfas, and Joe Blow Sport 2 fell somewhere in the middle.
The Bontrager Flash Charger draws air from the tire into the pump upon attachment, causing a drastic reduction in the starting tire pressure. In our road tire test, after attaching the head to the tire inflated to 60 psi, tire pressure dropped to 15 psi and required 23 strokes just to get back to our starting pressure of 60 psi. An additional 32 strokes were needed to reach the final pressure of 120 psi, with those numbers adding up to 55 strokes! A pump that costs 3x the cost of our least expensive Park Tool PFP-8 ($120 vs. $38) required 4x as much effort to pump up a tire. Those numbers don't work for us.
During our testing we had great success using the Booster pump and installed 29 inch, 27.5 inch, plus, and fat sized tubeless tires. Out of all the tires we seated, only one set (2 tires) of Continental Trail King 27.5 x 2.4 inch tubeless mountain bike tires refused to comply. This tire has a burly sidewall and is folded for packaging. Despite trying a bunch of tricks like setting the tire out in the sun, using Windex on the tire bead, using a tube to seat one side, etc., etc., we never got the tire to snap. To the Booster's credit, an air compressor didn't do the trick either. A couple shop mechanics had a try and neither could get the tire on; it took a combination of riding the tire with a tube installed for a couple rides and leaving it in the hot car to get the pesky sidewalls to settle down.
One major difference between the Booster and the Bontrager Flash Charger, as well as the other tubeless compressor-type pump we tested, was that the Booster didn't rob the tire of a huge amount of air when the head attaches to the valve. This annoying design of the Flash Charger resulted in a far greater amount of pumping.
Whenever we inflated a tire, we would detach the head and then cross-reference the pressure reading from the pump gauge with a reading from the Topeak Smartgauge D2 digital pressure reader. Over the course of our testing, we amassed a great number of readings to ensure our findings were significant and representative.
Our findings suggest that accuracy tends to increase as price increases. The old adage, "you get what you pay for", seems to hold some water err air here. The three pumps that were the least accurate in our test were also the three least expensive pumps; the Park, Nashbar Earl Grey, and Serfas. All of these pumps' gauges displayed pressures up to 6 percent different than the pressures we got from Topeak Smartgauge D2 we used for verification. The Lezyne Digital and our Best Buy winner Topeak Joe Blow Sport 2 were the most accurate pumps with less than a 1 percent difference in readings. Our Top Pick Joe Blow Booster and Editors' Choice Lezyne Steel Floor Drive were a mere percentage point or less away in accuracy.
Alternatives to Floor Pumps
These are not nearly as convenient as floor pumps, they are more compact, and can be less expensive. If you only have one bike and limited storage, you may just want to have a hand pump. That said, they take about 10 times longer to inflate a tire, especially a larger mountain bike tire. See our Frame Pump Review.
These plug into an AC outlet or your car. If you have Presta tires, it can be a hassle to buy the right adapter. The upside is they will inflate just about anything: car tires, rafts, air mattresses etc. The Kensun Portable is highly rated by users and comes with a carry case. It also only costs $50.
Buying Advice article for additional tips!
— Sean Cronin
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