The world's most in-depth and scientific reviews of outdoor gear

How We Tested Floor Bike Pumps

By Mark Schanzenbach ⋅ Review Editor
Thursday July 18, 2019

We tested floor pumps by using them for what they are made for: inflation, inflation, inflation. We inflated bike tires of different types, widths, and pressures, with both Presta valves and Schrader valves. We tested pump heads' ability to consistently form solid, no-leak seals on the valves. We tested gauges' accuracy and simplicity. We knocked the pumps around, stuffed them into bags, dropped and tossed them a few feet onto the pavement to judge their durability. We observed how stable their bases are, inspected the quality of their construction, noticed how our hands felt after pushing on those handles over, and over (and over), and we examined the suppleness of the hoses over time. Hopefully, we put these babies through more than you will so that you can be sure you are buying a quality piece of equipment.

The Joe Blow Booster seating a wheelbarrow tire.  This pump costs more than the author will spend to heat his home all winter.  It's pretty sweet though!
The Joe Blow Booster seating a wheelbarrow tire. This pump costs more than the author will spend to heat his home all winter. It's pretty sweet though!

We tried each pump out in several different ways to get a feel for each one and identify any potential problem areas, but in order to make our quantified findings verifiable and reproducible, we put each pump through the same basic testing process. For each of the pumps, we had two different testers inflate a 23mm road tire and a 37mm winter tire (referred to usually just as a "hybrid tire" for simplicity's sake) two times. Inflation speed was measured by counting the number of strokes taken to reach a desired pressure and accuracy was checked with a Pro Bike Tool Pressure Gauge. Pressure accuracy was checked and recorded at 30 PSI and 80 PSI, while inflation speed was tested by pumping tires from 20 PSI - 80 PSI.

The road tires used are Continental Gatorskins, 700 x 23c, mounted on Alexrims DA22 rims. The hybrid/winter tires are Continental Top Contact Winter Reflex, 400 x 37c, mounted on Velocity Deep V rims. Of course, using different combinations of tire and rim sizes could produce different findings. Nevertheless, our test used common, modern, middle-of-the-road components that will give our readers a close approximation of the performance they can expect from any of these pumps.

Each pump was scored using our five different rating metrics; stability, ease of attachment/detachment, gauge, inflation speed, and accuracy.

Stability


Stability is one of the more subjective rating metrics, judged by an assessment of each pump's base, and observing its stability both when free-standing and when in use. Pumps were pushed sideways in different directions while standing on their own to see how often they recovered and how often they ended up horizontal. This was also observed passively over time, during several months of shuffling pumps around. More important though is each pump's stability during pumping. A strong base and overall solid construction help provide more stable pumping experiences. Especially when pumping a road tire up to a high pressure, those last strokes require a solid foundation to push against.

Ease of Attachment/Detachment


This was a heavily weighted scoring metric. Getting a tight, secure seal on the valve is paramount to effective pumping. The smoother the air chuck can be taken on and off the valve, the less effort you'll spend pumping up your tires. Think about it this way: are you struggling to attach the pump head, inadvertently releasing air from the tire as you wrestle the lever closed? Once you start pumping, is air escaping the seal every time you depress the handle or just constantly hissing out? Finally, are you again losing air from the tire as you forcefully yank the head from the valve? In this example, the user starts pumping at a lower psi, races against the leaking seal, and then must pump beyond their desired pressure rating in order to counteract the air lost during detachment.

Another consideration in this category was how intuitive the head was to operate. Could each tester simply grab the pump and know how to attach it onto the valve? Were there written instructions or diagrams printed on the head to aid in familiarization? All these things were taken into account when scoring this category.

Gauge


Another rather subjective scoring metric, this category assessed how user-friendly and readable each pressure gauge was for our testers, with some consideration for the quality of their construction as well. Some gauges were mounted higher on the pump, making them easier to read; others were placed lower or built into the base of the pump, which can help to increase the overall stability of the pump, making it less top-heavy.

An adjustable chronograph dial on some pump gauges made it easy to select a certain pressure and hit the mark. Certain color combinations seemed easier to read, while others strained our eyes. Better gauges also tend to be made of stronger materials, and are solidly attached to the rest of the pump.

Gauge accuracy was not included in this score, since we have a separate scoring metric for it.

Inflation Speed


To test inflation speed, we counted the number of strokes it took to achieve a desired pressure on the pump gauge. We tested this with our road tire and hybrid tire, and pumped each from 20 to 80 PSI. Pressures were verified with our independent pressure gauge from Pro Bike Tool.

Cycling is such a leg-dominant sport. It's a good idea to balance out muscle groups.
Cycling is such a leg-dominant sport. It's a good idea to balance out muscle groups.

Other variables that may affect inflation speed in a real-world situation are hose length, ease of head attachment, improper valve seal, and fatigue. High volume pumps' inflation speeds tended to be best at lower pressures; as pressure climbs, it becomes tough to physically continue pumping, so inflation speed takes a hit. Poor pump stability can also hurt inflation speed, as it's challenging to get into a groove with your pump strokes if the handle is wobbling around.

Accuracy


Our road and hybrid tires were pumped to 30 and 80 PSI according to each pump's built-in gauge, then the pressure was verified with our independent gauge. Each test was repeated twice per pressure level, per tire. Pressures were also measured from time to time during another testing to get a general idea of the gauge accuracy, but these readings were not consistently recorded and were not used in scoring.