Reviews You Can Rely On

How We Tested Floor Bike Pumps

By Clark Tate ⋅ Senior Review Editor
Friday October 8, 2021
When it comes to testing bike pumps, you've got to step up to the...
When it comes to testing bike pumps, you've got to step up to the plate and start inflating.
Photo: Clark Tate

We tested floor pumps by using them a lot. We inflated road and mountain bike tires of varying widths, with Presta and Schrader valves, to a wide range of pressures. We measured inflation speed by counting each stroke and checked accuracy with an independent pressure gauge. We noted how pleasant and simple each pump was to use and how likely they are to hold up to regular use.

After inspecting the quality of their construction, we treated them a little less gently than we would our own. We knocked them around, stuffed them into bags, and piled them in the bed of a few trucks. We observed how stable their bases are when standing on their own and when in use, noticed how our hands felt after pushing their handles, and examined the suppleness and sturdiness of the hoses over time.

To ensure our findings are quantifiable and reproducible, we put each pump through the same basic testing processes multiple times. Each pump was scored using our five different rating metrics — ease of attachment, inflation, stability, and the accuracy and quality of the gauge. Basically, we put these pumps through more than you will so you can be sure you are buying a quality piece of equipment.

The JoeBlow Booster seating a wheelbarrow tire. This pump costs more...
The JoeBlow Booster seating a wheelbarrow tire. This pump costs more than this tester will spend to heat his home all winter. It's pretty sweet though!
Photo: Julie Macan

Ease of Attachment


We weighted this metric heavily since getting a quick and solid seal is paramount to effective pumping. The more smoothly you can attach the air chuck to a valve, the less effort you'll spend pumping up your tires. On the other hand, if you struggle to attach the pump head, you'll inadvertently release air from the tire as you wrestle the lever closed.

Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge

We first considered how intuitive each nozzle head is to operate. Could each tester simply grab the pump and know how to attach it to the valve? Were there written instructions or diagrams printed on the head to help? We paid particular attention to this metric at the beginning of the test and asked less experienced friends to attach them as well. This helped us determine which nozzles are the easiest to use. Then we noted how quickly and consistently each pump's nozzle formed a solid, no-leak seal on each valve type.

We also listened for any air leaking while we pumped, which we only heard if we missed the initial seal. When you remove a valve, you often hear a rush of air released from the hose itself, so it can be tricky to tell if you lose any from the tire. We did note if we really had to wrestle with any of the nozzles to release them. We also paid attention to the accuracy, described below. If our independent gauge consistently showed pressures lower than the readout on the pump, we made a note that the nozzle may be a factor.

Getting a solid and quick seal on the tire's valve makes a big...
Getting a solid and quick seal on the tire's valve makes a big difference in your pumping experience.
Photo: Clark Tate

Inflation


We counted the number of strokes it took to achieve the desired pressure on the pump gauge to test inflation speed. We tested this with a road tire, pumping it from 20 to 80 PSI, and a mountain bike tire from 10 to 30 PSI. Since the MTB tire pressures are low enough that some pumps didn't register them on their gauges, we used an independent pressure gauge to help. We also used it to verify every pressure reached.

Other variables that may affect inflation speed in a real-world situation are hose length, ease of head attachment, improper valve seal, and fatigue. 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.

We tested high-volume pumps, which work best for high-volume mountain bike tires, and high-pressure pumps meant for high-pressure road tires. Testing them on both tire types quickly shows the advantage of using the correct type of bike pump for your needs. Some of the pumps did a pretty good job accommodating both tire types for those who enjoy both road and trail riding.

We tested inflation speed by counting the number of strokes required...
We tested inflation speed by counting the number of strokes required to get a tire up to a predetermined pressure.
Photo: Clark Tate

Stability


We judged stability by assessing each pump's base and observing its stability when free-standing and when in use. For our formal stability test, we took notes on each pump's design, including how wide and well-balanced the base appeared and how the weight was distributed vertically. For example, placing a large gauge higher on the pump makes it harder for the base to keep that weight balanced. Shorter pumps with larger bases and lower gauges that provide stability in at least three directions tend to be more stable.

Then we prepped the pumps for storage, securing their hoses and nozzles as intended, and knocked them with consistent force from four directions. We began by tapping them gently and then increased the force for three strikes total from each side. This helped us understand each pumps' overall storage stability and define any specific weak points.

More important, though, is each pump's stability while in use. A strong base and more balanced construction help provide more stability. Especially when pumping a road tire up to high pressures, those last strokes require a solid foundation to push against. For this reason, we took detailed stability notes during every test.

This Crankbrothers pump is quite stable, with a wide, tripod base, a...
This Crankbrothers pump is quite stable, with a wide, tripod base, a shorter height, and a relatively low gauge mount.
Photo: Clark Tate

Accuracy


We used each pump's built-in gauge to bring a mountain bike tire from 10 to 30 PSI and a road bike tire from 40 to 80 PSI. We repeated each test twice per pressure level, per tire. We double-checked them with an independent pressure gauge along the way.

We also verified pressure levels throughout testing to get an overall impression of each pump's accuracy. We didn't consistently record these numbers, though, and did not use them in scoring.

We used each pump's gauge to hit predetermined pressure readings...
We used each pump's gauge to hit predetermined pressure readings, then checked them with an independent gauge to test accuracy.
Photo: Clark Tate

Gauge


We tested how user-friendly and readable each gauge was and considered the quality of its construction. Some gauges are mounted higher on the pump, which makes them easier to read. Others are placed lower or built into the base of the pump, which can help to increase the overall stability, making the device less top-heavy.

We paid attention to how large and easy the numbers were to read, which color combinations helped, and which strained our eyes. Larger gauges tend to read out pressures more precisely. Smaller gauges can force you to guess pressures in increments of 5 or even 10 PSI. Better gauges also tend to be made of stronger materials and are solidly attached to the rest of the pump.

An adjustable marker on some gauges makes it easy to select your pressure and hit the mark accurately. We did not include gauge accuracy in this score.

Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge