Bontrager Charger Review
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$45.00 at REI
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|Bottom Line||A simple pump with one of our favorite technological innovations, the auto-selecting nozzle||This light and little pump is optimized for high volume and high pressure and features a universal nozzle||A thoughtfully constructed, accurate pump that’s great for high pressure tires up to 220 PSI||Built to last, this popular model brings a lot of performance per dollar to the table||This bike pump offers a combination of accuracy, excellent user-friendliness, and affordability|
|Rating Categories||Bontrager Charger||Crankbrothers Sterling||Lezyne Sport Drive||Topeak JoeBlow Spor...||AerGun X-1000|
|Ease of Attachment (25%)|
|Specs||Bontrager Charger||Crankbrothers Sterling||Lezyne Sport Drive||Topeak JoeBlow Spor...||AerGun X-1000|
|High Volume or High Pressure||Both||Both||High Pressure||Both||High Pressure|
|Weight||3.1 lbs||2.7 lbs||3.3 lbs||3.8 lbs||2.4 lbs|
|Height||27 in||25 in||30 in||27 in||24 in|
|Hose Length||38 in||36 in||50 in||30 in||34 in|
|Accessory Inflators Included?||No||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
Our Analysis and Test Results
The Bontrager Charger offers an auto-selecting nozzle and a very stable base, all for an unbeatable price. The nozzle can be finicky, particularly with flat tires and Schrader valves, and the budget price tag means you don't get any extras like adapters, but for the basics done very well, this is a fantastic choice.
Ease of Attachment
The autoselect nozzle on the Charger makes this pump incredibly simple in some ways, but it can be tricky to get a good seal. It doesn't matter if you're dealing with a Schrader or Presta valve, just press the nozzle down in line with the valve, make sure it connects fully, and flip the lock up and away from the nozzle. The lock's action is smooth, and the big, flat handle is easy to maneuver. When heavily pressure-loaded, though, it can smash your fingers, so be mindful.
Unfortunately, we had a hard time getting this chuck to properly connect with both Schrader and Presta valves with deflated tires — and even sometimes when they had some air in them. You need more of the valve accessible to get a good connection than you do with other options with similar auto-selecting nozzles.
The pliable hose is 38 inches long. While it seems like a reasonable quality hose, it's already trained to bend up and over the pump's handle. That ingrained curve limits its maneuverability. You could try shifting where you clip the hose in so it doesn't get so stuck in one position, but we're not optimistic.
The Charger earned high marks in our inflation testing, requiring the fewest strokes, 12, to inflate a high-pressure road bike tire from 40 to 80 PSI. It also did well when tackling our high-volume mountain bike tires, taking about 20 strokes to go from 10 to 30 PSI. We also really like this pump's feel. The action is smooth, the handle is comfortable, and the sturdy base angles toward the user, providing a comfortable stance that doesn't pull your body too close to gain leverage.
A few pumps in our review have dual chambers, allowing them to optimize their pressure and volume for either mountain bike tires or road tires. They outperformed every other pump when it came to inflating mountain bike tires. Of the rest, the Charger was the fastest.
The handle is one of the largest in the test. It's 10.5 inches wide and flaring, letting your hand relax in a more open position. We found that this helped prevent fatigue. Its smooth surface is comfortable in hand and has just enough grip to keep sweaty hands from sliding around without making it hard to wipe off grease and grit.
This is one of the most stable pumps we tested. A large, three-legged base offers a lot of stability standing on its own and resists tipping over in any direction when tapped. The gauge lies flush against the base, which isn't great when you want to read it but helps keep all the weight low to the ground.
The Charger is also very stable when using it since two of the three legs jut towards the user; they are easy to hold down with either or both feet. This seems like a given, but it isn't. Pumps that force you to stand right on top of them to hold them in place don't let you use your body weight very effectively.
Again, there are two clips that secure the hose and help protect the chuck from clanging around when you're not using the pump. The hose is long enough to cause the loose nozzle to knock against the shaft, unless you leave slack in the line. Just place the nozzle right below the clip on the far side of the shaft to ensure it's secure.
The Charger did well in our accuracy tests, nailing the lower pressures. When we pumped a mountain bike tire from 10 to 30 PSI, the secondary gauge we used to double-check the tire read 30 every time.
This pump lost a bit of accuracy at higher pressures. A lot of pumps struggle with this, since any trouble releasing the nozzle can let more air out more quickly. Still, the Charger outperformed most of the pumps, reading just 4 PSI under the target pressure on average.
The occasional difficulty of getting the nozzle to properly engage either a Presta or Schrader valve was this pump's one weakness. We mainly ran into the issue with underinflated tires.
The gauge is flush against the base on this pump, keeping it as far from your eyes as you can get. It's 3 inches across, though, and the PSI numbers are a reasonable size against a bright white background. While the gauge is demarcated at increments of 2 PSI, it's only labeled at every 20.
Since the Charger doesn't have a marker you can set at your desired pressure, it takes more effort to see the pressure you're aiming for than those that do. This is true of about half the pumps in our review, though, so we don't take too many points off for this. The numbers are big, and the markers are easy to see.
Should You Buy the Bontrager Charger?
While this pump is relatively inexpensive as far as pumps go, it's still not dirt cheap. Still, we feel you're getting a really good value here. It feels sturdy and seems durable. The pump is made out of steel, except for the handle, which is plastic, and the rubber hose. Bontrager will also replace the "internals" if they fail. Beyond the finicky auto-selecting nozzle, this pump performs well for the price.
What Other Bike Pumps Should You Consider?
If you're willing to spend a bit more, the Crankbrothers Sterling is the next step up in price with a more secure nozzle and excellent high-volume pumping performance. If you swap out tubeless tires at home, a model like the Bontrager TLR Flash Charger is a great option to seat the bead while also functioning well as a regular pump. It costs quite a bit more, but will likely be worth it's weight in gold to many home mechanics.