In the last 7 years, we've bought and tested 26 of the best bike pumps side-by-side. When we say we're impressed by the 18 in this review, we mean it. Perhaps one of the least exciting pieces of essential mountain biking gear, the floor pump is clutch when you need it. To make sure you hit the perfect pressure for every ride, we tested gauge accuracy with a separate digital control. We counted the number of full compressions it took to get road and mountain bike tires to standardized pressures. We even tested a few models made to produce the massive blast of air it takes to set the bead on tubeless tires. After mercilessly evaluating performance, we factored in price to find the perfect floor pump for your needs.
The Best Bike Pumps
Best Overall Bike Pump
Blackburn Piston 4
We found the Blackburn Piston 4 to be an excellent choice. It performed extremely well across all of our tests and left our volunteer testers discussing amongst themselves about who might be ordering this model when they get home. The base is wide and stable, with plenty of space to stand on it, and the overall construction is robust and sturdy. It pumps tires shockingly quickly with a buttery smooth pumping motion, and it's super easy to connect and disconnect from any type of tire valve. The top-mounted gauge is crystal clear, easy to read, and highly accurate at reporting tire pressures high and low. This pump's construction uses a smart mix of metal parts to enhance durability and longevity, and plastic to keep it from becoming too top-heavy.
Read review: Blackburn Piston 4
Best Bang for the Buck
The Crankbrothers Gem is not the least expensive pump we tested, but it's very affordable and performed well in all of our tests. The Gem uses a smart mix of metal and plastic to help keep the cost down; it feels noticeably higher in quality than the other low-cost models we've seen. Its biggest downfall is the pump head, which has separate holes for Presta and Schrader valves next to each other on the same side, not a design our testers generally enjoy using. Its gauge is highly accurate, it's stable, and everything works as intended. An especially interesting feature is the unique HV/HP switch, which allows the user to change on a dime between a high volume or high-pressure setting, depending on the type of tire and the PSI they're aiming to reach. The switch works well and makes this pump operate almost like two pumps in one. It's an extremely versatile pump at a very reasonable price.
Read review: Crankbrothers Gem
Best for Seating Tubeless Tires
Topeak JoeBlow Booster
With tubeless tires becoming mainstream in recent years, more and more riders are discovering installation is a bit more complicated than a traditional tubed tire. Tubeless tires require a sudden blast of air to seat the tire bead onto the rim, with an air compressor typically being needed for this job. The JoeBlow Booster functions in the same manner as a regular floor pump but also features an additional high-pressure air chamber that can be "charged" and released in much the same way as a noisy, corded, expensive air compressor. It takes about 50 pumps to reach the 160 psi that the chamber holds. A selector dial surrounds the elevated, easy to read gauge; when rotated, the air rushes out and snaps the tire bead onto the rim. Construction of the Booster was top-notch, as is its stable base. With a 59-inch hose, you can inflate tires from the neighboring zip code, while fine-tuning the pressure is a breeze. Is it worth the price tag? Yes indeed. It's heavy, but you can still easily bring it along on a road trip to Moab. Recently, the nozzle was redesigned to feature a lower profile air release button.
Read review: JoeBlow Booster
Why You Should Trust Us
Our head tester for this review is Mark Schanzenbach. Mark has been moving himself around on bicycles for most of his adult life, and especially since 2011 when he traded his car straight-up for a new bike. Since then he has been a daily, year-round bicyclist in all types of weather, for commuting and recreation, in both Minneapolis Minnesota and New York City. Over that time he's patched a lot of tires and pumped a lot of pumps.
Our floor pump tests involved, as one might expect, a great deal of pumping. We tested for quantifiable factors like inflation speed and gauge accuracy, and also made observational judgments about things like weight, dimensions, handle comfort, and quality of construction. Friends and fellow bicycle enthusiasts of varying levels were also recruited and consulted for their opinions to get some different perspectives on which features may be best for novices versus pros, as well as components that work well for everyone at all levels of expertise.
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 as strong as you are to hold up to pumping forces. Bases take a pretty good beating; they come in contact with the ground, and you stand on them. For this reason, we found most of the best bases to be made from metal.
Several pumps with metal tripod designs used for their bases were the highest-scoring favorites. The Lezyne Steel Floor Drive, Crankbrothers Gem, Silca Pista Plus, and Blackburn Piston 4 pumps all have excellent tripod bases which do a great job of keeping pumps upright while they're standing on their own; the weight of the gauge built into the base also adds to the stability in some cases.
The benefits of tripod style bases are especially apparent when pumping outdoors on a less-than-level surface. The less stable pumps can be very quick to topple over if sitting on a grassy hillside covered in sticks and leaves, for instance. Tripod-based pumps are much more resilient in such scenarios.
One other top-ranking pump in this category was our Top Pick winner the behemoth JoeBlow Booster. This pump 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 provides a great foundation. There is plenty of room for 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 pumps scoring the lowest in this category were frankly those for which stability was not a design priority. The tiny Lezyne Micro Floor Drive and the old-school Rennkompressor have fold-up feet attached to their bases, which provide no support to the free-standing pumps.
Several of the other pumps we tested had only moderately passable scores in this area; most utilized a lot of plastic in their bases. Those with essentially thin plastic rectangles for bases were about as easy to knock over as one would expect.
Ease of Attachment/Detachment
The easiest pump heads to attach and detach from both Presta and Schrader valves in our tests were the Editors' Choice Blackburn Piston 4, as well as the AerGun X-1000. Both use straightforward and simple head designs which automatically accommodate either type of valve with no adjustment by the user…just push the head onto either valve and lock the lever in place. It's a shockingly easy process, and for our testers, it worked like a charm with both of these models.
The "SmartHead" of the JoeBlow Pro X is similarly designed, but didn't perform quite as well in our tests.
The best pump heads attached easily to either Presta or Schrader valves with little or no air leakage, and with locking levers that were easy to move. Ideally, there is no little or no manual manipulation of the pump head required to switch back and forth between valve types.
Testers were generally not crazy about the common pump head design with both Presta and Schrader valve holes on the same side; this design is often clumsy to use and lends itself to accidental air leakage when using Presta valves. Our Best Buy award winner Crankbrothers Gem uses this design, but its other great features shine through in spite of this shortcoming.
Pumping up a bike tire can be a workout; with sweat already starting to sting your eyes, it's no fun to bend over and squint to check what pressure the pump gauge is reading. Height, color combination, and print size, as well as construction materials, are some of the important factors that can make the difference between a good gauge and a bad one. Three of our testers' favorite gauges were all made by ToPeak, on the JoeBlow Sport III, JoeBlow Pro X, and the Top Pick Joe Blow Booster. Large, clear, elevated gauges on these models are very attractive and easy to read. These folks know what they're doing in the gauge department.
On all three Lezyne gauges, white numbers on a black background with a yellow needle seemed to "pop" and stand out for clear, easy readability. The Sport III also features a handy chronograph dial that can be set at the desired pressure; even those with poorer eyesight can preset the dial and not worry about the numbers. The AerGun X-1000's otherwise uninspiring gauge is salvaged somewhat by a similar presettable dial.
The Editors' Choice award-winning Blackburn Piston 4 also features an excellent gauge; large, high contrast with black print on a silver background, and mounted at the top of the pump for crystal clear readability.
The sleek and sexy 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 gauge on this model has recently been upgraded from a moderate 2.5" to a humongous 3.75" diameter, adding additional heft to its base as well as increasing readability from a distance. The bold black and silver color scheme on polished metal gives this gauge a quality appearance.
A few of our lowest scoring gauges were those of the Schwinn Air Center Plus (designed for simplicity but lacking precision), the Lezyne Micro Floor Drive (designed for extreme portability but basically unusable), and the Rennkompressor (accurate, precise, but tiny and illegible from a distance). Other small, flimsy, or unimaginative gauges predictably failed to impress our testers as well.
All the bike pumps in this test lack precision if you only have tubeless mountain bike tires. Because of the low pressures used in these tires, often the first pressure readings on the gauges are where these tires are ridden; a separate low-pressure gauge would be nice. The higher volume Schwinn and Bell pumps we tested are reasonably good at this, but both suffer from other gauge and accuracy-related shortcomings. Several of the companies making our more highly-rated pumps offer other high-volume, low-pressure mountain bike specific pumps as well.
When testing inflation speed, we counted the number of handle strokes that were used to reach a pre-determined pressure on different tires. We used mid-range pressures and pumped tires from 20 PSI to 80 PSI, for a consistent range that's available to all pumps tested. We also considered less quantifiable factors like the amount of strength used to push the handle across this range, and the stability of the pump entered into this as well--if a pump can't stop wobbling during pumping or feels like it's about to fall apart, the whole process is going to take longer.
We tested several high performers in this area, with the differences being just a handful of pump strokes in many cases, but the overall top performer in this area is the Editor's Choice Blackburn Piston 4 which manages to move the needle surprisingly quickly for a high-pressure pump rated to 220 PSI. Fan favorites like the ToPeak JoeBlow Sport III and Lezyne Steel Floor Drive both were high performers as well; with all of these pumps the number of pump strokes was low, and the comfort and quality of those pump strokes was very high.
The Best Buy award-winning Crankbrothers Gem deserves a special mention in this area for its unique HV/HP switch which allows pumping in either high volume or high-pressure mode, and quick switching between the two. Using a hybrid pumping method beginning with the HV mode and switching to HP when the former became physically strenuous yielded very impressive results. This pump also has a smooth pumping motion, especially compared to other models in its price range.
Also worth mentioning, the purely higher volume pumps we tested naturally used the fewest pump strokes to reach desired pressures, but you'll need some superhuman strength to reach high pressures at all using these models. The extremely high volume Bell Air Attack 650 and moderately high volume Schwinn Air Center Plus used 12 and 15 pump strokes respectively to pump a hybrid tire from 20-80 PSI, whereas the top performers listed above each used about 20. However, it was physically very challenging to pump to that pressure using either pump, and both are rated to higher pressures. The quality of pump strokes was also much lower, and both struggled to reach higher pressures, even relative to their reduced ranges.
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.
Frequently when pumping up tires with all of these different pumps, including during testing of other metrics, we would cross-reference the pressure readings from pump gauges with a reading from our independent gauge (a humble gauge from Pro Bike Tool). Over the course of our testing, we amassed a number of readings for each pump; we also conducted a more direct comparison, pumping different tires to 30 and 80 PSI with each pump (according to its gauge), then comparing the reading with our own little gauge.
We had several high scorers in this area, which were generally in agreement with our independent gauge, off from our readings by anywhere from 0-2 PSI. The top-performing pumps in terms of accuracy were the Editor's Choice Blackburn Piston 4, ToPeak's JoeBlow Sport III and JoeBlow Pro X, Best Buy Crankbrothers Gem, the former Best Buy pick AerGun X-1000, and the German-engineered SKS Rennkompressor. The Topeaks and our Editors' Choice and Best Buy award winners are high quality across the board, and the supremely manufactured Rennkompressor was no shock either. We were surprised to see the AerGun make it to the top of this list, at its low price point and with its humble and unexciting gauge, but numbers don't lie and the AerGun's readings were right on the money.
Some of our overall lowest-rated pumps were also the worst in accuracy. The Bell suffered from major issues, it was frequently off by 10 PSI or more and would show different readings after detaching and reattaching the pump head. The Lezyne Micro Floor Drive honestly may or may not be accurate, we'll get back to you as soon as we figure out how to read its gauge with any precision, but ultimately that's the point.
Alternatives to Floor Pumps
These are not nearly as convenient as floor pumps, but much better for bringing along on the road; 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 ten 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.
— Mark Schanzenbach