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Bontrager Charger Review

A comfortable pump with an auto selecting nozzle and low price tag
Bontrager Charger
Photo: Bontrager
Best Buy Award
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Price:  $45 List | $45.00 at REI
Pros:  Inexpensive, stable, comfortable, auto select nozzle for Presta and Schrader valves
Cons:  Nozzle can be tricky to use, no ball or bladder adapters
Manufacturer:   Bontrager
By Clark Tate ⋅ Senior Review Editor  ⋅  Oct 8, 2021
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69
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#2 of 11
  • Ease of Attachment - 25% 5
  • Inflation - 25% 7
  • Stability - 20% 9
  • Accuracy - 15% 7
  • Gauge - 15% 7

Our Verdict

The Bontrager Charger is one of the least expensive options in the test but provides one of our favorite innovations, an auto-selecting nozzle that works with either a Schrader or Presta valve. No adjustments required. The rest of the pump's construction is less flashy but just as function-forward. It's one of the most stable options we tested as well as one of the lightest. Though not very large, the Charger is efficient, particularly with high-pressure road bike tires. Its gauge is simple, but it's quite accurate, and the large letters are easy to see against the bright white background. The nozzle can be hard to attach to flat tires when the valve sinks too far below the rim but, all told, this pump is a steal.

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Bontrager Charger
Awards Best Buy Award Best Buy Award    
Price $45.00 at REI$69.99 at Amazon
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Pros Inexpensive, stable, comfortable, auto select nozzle for Presta and Schrader valvesWorks great with high volume tires, stable, universal nozzle works with Presta and SchraderRelatively affordable, accurate, secure connection, valve core tool and pressure relief valveMetal base, solid performance across the board, good valueLight, easy-to-use universal nozzle, accurate
Cons Nozzle can be tricky to use, no ball or bladder adaptersNot so great with high-pressure tires, gauge is harder to read than someNot meant for high volume tires, not the most precise or easiest gauge to readHeavier than most, short hose, not as up to dateLess durable, small gauge, slightly slower inflation
Bottom Line A comfortable pump with an auto selecting nozzle and low price tagThis high-value pump works exceptionally well with high volume tires and features a universal nozzleA thoughtfully constructed, accurate pump that’s great for high pressure tires up to 220 PSIBuilt to last, this popular model brings a lot of performance per dollar to the tableThis 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%)
5.0
8.0
7.0
5.0
9.0
Inflation (25%)
7.0
5.0
5.0
6.0
4.0
Stability (20%)
9.0
8.0
8.0
7.0
4.0
Accuracy (15%)
7.0
7.0
8.0
5.0
7.0
Gauge (15%)
7.0
5.0
5.0
7.0
3.0
Specs Bontrager Charger Crankbrothers Sterling Lezyne Sport Drive Topeak JoeBlow Spor... AerGun X-1000
Max PSI 160 160 220 160 160
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
Tubeless Recommended? No No No No No
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 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.

Performance Comparison


Though the auto-selecting nozzle can be finicky, mostly when your...
Though the auto-selecting nozzle can be finicky, mostly when your tires are really flat, this pump earned high-performance scores in all other areas.
Photo: Clark Tate

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.

When you get a good seal, the nozzle works great, just flip the...
When you get a good seal, the nozzle works great, just flip the lever up to lock it in place. The lower quality hose isn't as supple as some higher-cost options.
Photo: Clark Tate

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.

You can use the  auto selecting nozzle with a Presta or Schrader...
You can use the auto selecting nozzle with a Presta or Schrader valve without adjusting a thing.
Photo: Clark Tate

Inflation


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.

The large handle is one of our favorites in the test.
The large handle is one of our favorites in the test.
Photo: Clark Tate

Stability


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.

One of the lightest options in the test, the Charger never makes you...
One of the lightest options in the test, the Charger never makes you feel like you're lugging it around.
Photo: Clark Tate

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 large base plate's three-pronged design and the pump's light...
The large base plate's three-pronged design and the pump's light weight makes it easy to keep stable.
Photo: Clark Tate

Accuracy


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 Charger was very accurate in our lower pressure tests (at 30 and...
The Charger was very accurate in our lower pressure tests (at 30 and 40 PSI), and only lost a couple of pounds in our 80 PSI road bike test.
Photo: Clark Tate

Gauge


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.

The simple, bright white gauge makes it easier to see, but the large...
The simple, bright white gauge makes it easier to see, but the large numbers could be bolder.
Photo: Clark Tate

Value


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.

We did struggle to get this nozzle to engage with valves that aren't...
We did struggle to get this nozzle to engage with valves that aren't fully exposed above the tire rim, which is common when your tire is really flat. Other than that, this pump is awesome.
Photo: Clark Tate

Conclusion


We love the auto-selecting nozzle, the comfortable ergonomics, and the easy reading and fairly accurate gauge of the Bontrager Charger. We just wish it had a little less trouble getting a good seal on those valves.

If you can keep your tires from getting fully flat or don't mind...
If you can keep your tires from getting fully flat or don't mind finagling a connection point every now and again, you'll really like this pump.
Photo: Clark Tate

Clark Tate