Despite the many advantages of tubeless tires, it can be a real drag when you're excited to slap some new rubber on your ride and the bike shop is backed up with work and can't get you rolling until the next day or so. The Topeak Joe Blow Booster solves this problem with the capacity to store one liter of air at 160 psi in an integrated high-pressure chamber that works just like an air compressor (to seat tubeless tire beads). The sturdy design features an extra-long hose and SmartHead that fits both Presta and Schrader valves. When not used for installing tubeless tires, the Booster functions in the same manner as a regular floor pump, albeit a bit heavier. This pump was the most expensive in our test but its dual-functionality, quality, and convenience makes your hard-earned dollar go pretty far.
High pressure, enough for tubeless tires.
A wide, wing-shaped steel base measures nearly 10 inches across, allowing you to firmly plant your feet and blast away when filling the Joe Blow Booster's high-pressure chamber. The non-rubberized underside is best used outdoors on a surface you don't care much about marring; a mat or a towel is recommended for more delicate surfaces. The plastic plate that holds the pump and compressor barrel to the baseplate is deep with increased height at the front, providing further stability.
The wide metal base of the Joe Blow Booster was extremely stable. The plastic cradle holding the barrel and high-pressure chamber in place are ruggedly overbuilt.
Ease of Attachment/Detachment
Similar to the head on the Bontrager Flash Charger, the SmartHead on the Topeak Booster automatically adapts to accept both Presta and Schrader valves without the need to flip, unscrew, or otherwise manipulate the head. We complained about the thin plastic lever used on the Bontrager to secure the head onto the valve and were pleased that this pump employs a stronger metal lever. The portion of the head that inserts onto the valve and holds the internals secure is also alloy.
The 59 inch Python of a hose was a full foot longer than any other model we tested. Originating at the top of the pump, the hose has a much greater effective length and has no trouble inflating tires set on a workbench or when the bike is suspended in a bike work stand. Pressing the SmartHead onto a Presta valve was easy, although two hands are likely necessary to flip the lever without losing much air during attachment.
The top-mounting, analog gauge on the Booster was among our test favorites. The gauge is set high on the pump and the pressure values are printed in white along the perimeter, set against a black background. The gauge measures pressure up to 160 psi (11 bar); like the majority of pumps tested here, the gauge isn't idealized for low pressures. Such readings are relegated to a small segment at the beginning of the measured pressure values and plagued by broad intervals. Fat and plus-size tires would certainly benefit from a separate low-pressure gauge. The gauge is encompassed by a selector dial that is used to switch the pump between "charge" and "inflate" modes. By turning the selector dial to charge, the accessory air chamber can be filled to 160 psi. Rotating the selector dial to inflate will blast out the stored air all at once in order to seat a tubeless tire bead. When the red line is set to inflate, the pump also functions in the same manner as a traditional floor pump.
When used as a regular floor pump (with the selector dial in inflate mode), the large volume of the Booster offers plenty of volume per stroke. Despite broad pressure intervals on the gauge, filling mountain bike tires is a pretty casual task. Higher pressure road tires require a bit more effort, but a stiff plastic handle and super stable steel base aid inflation.
In order to seat tubeless tires with this pump, the selector dial is set to charge. Filling the accessory chamber to 160 psi for seating a tire bead can require a bit more elbow grease while filling the chamber up to about 120 psi is no big deal. As 160 psi approaches, a glisten will likely appear on your forehead with the last dozen or so strokes. Filling the chamber required an average of 50 pumps. Assuming that satisfying "ping, ping" of rubber snapping into place against the rim is achieved, determining final tire pressure is the next step. If the tire bead seated, but additional air is necessary to achieve a certain pressure rating, simply give the handle a few stroke and the pump functions like a regular floor pump. If pressure is too great, an air release valve located just below the gauge allows for minute pressure adjustments.
An air-bleed valve releases air directly from the tire at the push of a button.
We found this pump to be a bit lacking in accuracy compared to many others in our test, often showing pressure differences up to 3 psi when compared to our digital gauge readings. Like most pumps we tested, an additional low-pressure gauge would help for inflating tubeless mountain bike tires, especially fat and plus sized tires. Although skinnier road and cyclocross tires of the tubeless variety are fast becoming more prevalent, this pump will have great appeal to mountain bikers.
At home or on the road, this pump is an extremely useful piece of kit that can take the place of an air compressor when one is simply not available. Some may even prefer this pump over an air compressor as it appeals to the hippy-dippy values that lead many of us to cycling in the first place. Unlike a noisy power tool, this pump is quiet and requires no power source. Coming home from work late at night, the author set the bead on numerous tubeless tires in his living room while his girlfriend slept soundly in the next room. Now that we've found this pump, we will never embark on a mountain biking road trip without this pump again. Other pumps that share the dual-function properties from other manufacturers include the Bontrager Flash Charger and the Lezyne Classic Over Drive.
This was the most expensive pump in our test at 160 dollars. If you put a ton of miles on your bike and burn through tubeless tires quickly, you might break even saving money that otherwise would have been spent paying someone to install your tires. Compared to the cost of a garage-sized air compressor, you might be able to find a deal on a cheap unit, but you'll still need a floor pump to inflate your tires with any sort of accuracy and maintain proper pressure between rides.
This pump checks a bunch of boxes in terms of how useful it is. It can seat a tubeless tire bead, where beforehand your options were limited to paying a shop, buying an air compressor, or going anaerobic with a standard floor pump, failing, then choosing one of the previous options.