Hands-on Gear Review

Silca Impero Ultimate Review

Silca Impero Ultimate
Top Pick Award
Price:  $165 List | $165.00 at Competitive Cyclist
Pros:  Durable, pumping performance
Cons:  Heavy, large size, expensive
Bottom line:  The best frame pump on the market; it has a beautiful design that is built to last a lifetime.
Editors' Rating:   
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Weight:  289g
Length:  52cm Max, 47cm Min
25C Road Tire Pressure following 200 Pumps:  103 at 112 strokes
Manufacturer:   Silca

Our Verdict

Silca pumps have one of the best and longest running reputations in the industry. Founded in 1917, Silca is known for quality and durability; it is not uncommon to see a Silca floor pump from the 1960s still in use. Silca was sold to Joshua Poertner in 2013 and the company was moved to from Italy to Indianapolis, Indiana. In 2015, following the re-release of the Super Pista floor pump, Silca rolled out the Impero frame pump. The Impero is a lust-worthy piece of equipment, with a price tag to match.

Beautiful design and industry-leading pumping performance set the Impero apart from its competitors. While the aesthetics of frame pumps can be a polarizing issue, there is no disputing that the Impero is far and away the best looking frame pump on the market. The Impero is the clear winner of our Top Pick Award for Frame Pumps.



RELATED REVIEW: The Best Bicycle Frame and Mini Pump Review


Our Analysis and Test Results

Review by:
Curtis Smith

Last Updated:
Saturday
December 17, 2016

Share:

Performance Comparison


The Silica Impero is the most efficient frame pump we tested  reaching 103psi in only 112 pump strokes.
The Silica Impero is the most efficient frame pump we tested, reaching 103psi in only 112 pump strokes.

The Silca Impero Ultimate is a top-of-the-line frame pump with excellent pumping performance. If getting back on the bike as quickly as possible is your primary concern, then the pumping performance advantages of this frame pump will amaze you. All-aluminum construction and a simple push-on pump head make the Impero easy to use and durable. The silicone wing flex bumpers provide a rattle-free, solid interface between the frame and the pump, and fit a wider variety of tubing shapes than competing designs.

Ease of Use


Attaching a frame pump to the frame should be easy and intuitive. The Impero uses a spring-loaded handle to apply outward pressure and hold the pump securely to the frame. The other frame pumps we tested operate on a similar principal, but the silicone bumpers on the handle and head of the pump set the Impero apart. The silicone is soft and flexible, allowing the material to mold to the shape of the frame tubes and providing a superior connection to the hard plastic found on the Zefal HPX. The pump head also enhances ease of use with a push-on design; valve attachment is as simple as it gets. The other frame pumps we tested utilize a locking lever that must be flipped to ensure a seal with the valve. Pumping with the Impero is easy, with a minimal ramp up in effort as pressures increase.

The Silica Impero uses a press on air chuck with a two stage seal for leak-free inflation.
The Silica Impero uses a press on air chuck with a two stage seal for leak-free inflation.

For optimal ease of use, check out the Lezyne Road Drive and the Lezyne Pressure Drive; both of these contenders scored a 9 out of 10 in this metric, ensuring that your need will be met if you're on the hunt for an easy to use pump.

Pumping Performance


The Impero is by far the best performing frame pump we tested. We were able to hit 103psi at just 112 pump strokes. If we had continued to 200 strokes in our 25c road tire inflation test, we would have blown the tire off the rim. The Zefal HPX was the closest competitor, reaching 95psi, but that was at 200 pump strokes. The achievable tire pressure is only part of the story when it comes to pump performance. Pumping effort is equally important, and the Silca Impero requires the least amount of effort per stroke of any pump we tested.

Also impressive is the minimal increase in pumping effort as pressures increase. The Topeak Road Master Blaster and the Zefal HPX both require more effort per stroke as pressure increases. The Impero is designed for high-pressure road tires, but it is also a capable pump for mountain bike tires, bringing a 27.5" x 2.3" tire up to a respectable 34psi at 300 pumps.

The Silica Impero has an integrated pump head that must be stabilized at the discharge to prevent tire valve damage.
The Silica Impero has an integrated pump head that must be stabilized at the discharge to prevent tire valve damage.

Looks/Design


The all-black finish of the Impero goes well with almost any color frame, and the red pump head accents add just enough flair. We like the understated simple look and feel it is by far the best-looking frame pump in the test. The pump is made entirely of aluminum and features a brass check valve that only allows one-way travel of air out of the pump head. The pump head has a two-stage push on gasket that Silca claims is more secure than the locking lever designs of their competitors. We agree, but have found the most secure air chucks to be of the thread-on variety found on Lezyne pumps, the Lezyne Road Drive and Lezyne Gauge Drive.

Silca uses a dome-shape leather washer rather than the rubber washers found on most other pumps. The leather washers are pressure treated and designed to outperform their rubber counterparts. As pumps heat up from use, the internal diameter of the pump barrel increases and rubber washers become inefficient. Due to the shape and material used by Silica, the leather expands to conform to the increased barrel diameter resulting in less loss of efficiency at high temperatures. We found the Impero to provide great efficiency even when hot and pumping against high tire pressure.

Portability


The Impero is designed to be carried on a bike frame either under the top tube or parallel to the seat tube. When used for its intended purpose it is very portable. We would even argue it is more portable than many mini pumps just due to convenience. Once in place on the frame there is no need to remove it until needed for use. With a mini pump you have to remember to put it in your jersey pocket on the way out the door.

One drawback to frame pumps is that they are size specific, meaning that if you have bikes with differing frame sizes it may not be possible to mount the pump on multiple bikes. Frame pumps are also not practical on most full suspension frames. If properly sized, the Impero is very portable for use on a road or cyclocross bike. The Impero out-scored the other frame pumps we tested due to the flexible silicone bumpers on the ends of the pump.

The soft and flexible material molds to the shape most bicycle frame tubing shapes and sizes providing a stable fit on a wide range of frames. Other frame pumps we tested, such as the Topeak Road Master Blaster, have a harder plastic that contacts the frame and provides a less secure fit. The Impero is heavier than the other frame pumps we tested, but we feel that the retention system benefits of the Impero make up for the 42g weight increase over the Zefal HPX.

The Silica Impero mounted under the top tube on a Trek Emonda.
The Silica Impero mounted under the top tube on a Trek Emonda.

Durability


The Impero has proven to be a reliable companion for long road rides and gravel adventures on the cross bike. We had no issues with durability during testing. The slip on chuck became a bit easier to press on the valve as it wore in from use, but the seal remained secure. The all aluminum construction makes for a sturdy, long-lasting pump. The Impero also scores points for being completely rebuildable internally. The leather washer can be replaced as well as the slip-on chuck internals as they wear over time.

Best Applications


The Impero is best suited to use on a road or cylcocross bike with a traditional uninterrupted front triangle. The Impero is a great companion for the competitive cyclist putting in lots of training miles or for the touring cyclist. It is heavier than a mini pump, but there is no comparison when it comes to inflating a tire. We would take the Impero any day over even the best mini pump when trying to inflate a tire on the side of the road.

Value


This Top Pick winner is the expensive pump we have tested, with a price tag of $165. Despite this, we would argue that it is an excellent value. We have old Silca Super Pista floor pumps in our home shops that predate every other piece of equipment we own by 30 years. Silca pumps are expensive, but they last and keep on working almost indefinitely if you replace the leather washer and air chuck every few years. Sure you can get a frame pump for less than half the cost of the Impero, but the Impero will likely be the last frame pump you ever need to buy.

Conclusion


The Silca Impero is made in the USA, using Alcoa aluminum and leather washers from Milan. No other frame pump on the market comes close to equaling the quality of the Impero. Best in class pumping performance and unrivaled frame interface and security set the Impero apart from competitors in both design and performance. Quality comes a price, but this pump is guaranteed to not leave you stranded.

Curtis Smith

You Might Also Like

OutdoorGearLab Member Reviews


Most recent review: December 17, 2016
Summary of All Ratings

OutdoorGearLab Editors' Rating:  
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
 (5.0)
Average Customer Rating:  
 (0.0)
Rating Distribution
1 Total Ratings
5 star: 100%  (1)
4 star: 0%  (0)
3 star: 0%  (0)
2 star: 0%  (0)
1 star: 0%  (0)


Have you used this product?
Don't hold back. Share your viewpoint by posting a review with your thoughts...