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With a whole range of sizes, features and designs available, there really is a bicycle pump for every occasion. To help you pick the pump that is right for you, we’ve put together a handy guide, starting with the workshop staple, the track pump.

Track pumps

Track Pumps
Track Pumps

Track (or floor) pumps like the legendary SKS Rennkompressor are great for at home use: their large air chambers and overall design mean that you can pump your tyres up with the minimum of effort. Good quality options will have a pressure gauge as standard so you can be confident that you are pumping your tyre to the right pressure. If you don't already have a track pump at home you're missing a trick - it's a great way to ensure you keep your tyres at a good pressure, making your bike easier to ride and less likely to puncture, as well as ensuring you get the maximum life out of your tyres.

A decent full sized track pump will set you back around £60 or so - there are cheaper options out there, but build quality is noticeably better once you reach this level of spend. Additionally, a greater initial investment is likely to pay its way over time as a higher quality track pump will be more durable and serviceable, with better after sales support if something does go wrong in the future.

What the mechanics say

Go for a sturdy pump with a metal barrel, comfy ergonomic handles and a strong, stable base - look out for large footplates or a triangular base and the pump will seem really stable when you're using it, so you can focus your energy on maximising your pump strokes.

One of the most noticeable differences between track pumps at different price points is the design of the pump head. A good pump head will work with different valve types without you having to fiddle around swapping over pump head internals and will also be easy to attach and detach from the valve, taking the faff out of pumping your tyres up.

If you're looking for a track pump which you can more easily take away with you, a travel pump (effectively a shrunk down track pump) offers almost the same quality of experience as a full size track pump but in a smaller package. Travel pumps are ideal for taking on trips away with the bike where their smaller size makes them much easier to stuff in a holdall or the boot of a support vehicle.

Hand pumps

Hand (or mini) pumps come in many shapes and sizes. Compared to a track pump, they are much less efficient at getting air into your tyres (hence the recommendation for an at-home track pump), but are much more transportable and so are the go-to option for taking out riding. They range in size from super small mini pumps which are designed to slip into a jersey pocket (such as the teeny weeny PDW Ninja), to larger options which can be mounted onto your bike (such as the Silca Impero Ultimate frame pump).

Generally a hand pump is either smaller and provides less air per stroke or is larger and provides more air per stroke, although there are some pumps (such as the Blackburn Airstick Anyvalve mini pump) which have a dual chamber so the tyre is inflated on both the in and the out stroke, making them more efficient for their size.

What the mechanics say

A hand pump which incorporates a rubber hose will be much easier to use and the chances of bending or snapping the valve whilst pumping will be much lower. A multi-valve pump head which works with different valve types without needing to swap any internal pieces over is a definite bonus and a pressure gauge will mean you can be confident of the amount of air you have put into your tyre, instead of having to guesstimate by relying on 'the squeeze test'.

If you are planning on getting a pump to stash in a rear jersey pocket, you'll also want to pay more attention to weight and overall size. Additionally, many pumps are optimised either for high pressure tyres (i.e. road) or high volume (i.e. MTB) tyres, so this is another thing to look out for when picking a hand pump. If you want to carry your pump on the bike itself, make sure that your pump of choice comes with a mounting bracket so you can easily fit it.

Pump Bracket

There are also some other features which might make one pump more attractive than another based on your needs. Some of the larger hand pumps (such as the Lezyne Micro Floor Drive High Pressure pump) have track pump-esque features (such as a fold out handle or foot peg) to make roadside pumping easier and more efficient. Others (such as the PDW Magic Flute mini pump) include an integrated CO2 inflator which allows you to use CO2 canisters to pump your tyres up, with the pump available as a back-up if you run out of cartridges. These are a good option if you have high-pressure tyres or if you just want to minimise the time you have to stop to fix a flat, but would like the peace of mind of knowing the pump is available too for if you do run out of cartridges. Look out for options with a control knob for regulating the amount of CO2 going into your tyre, and a pressure gauge for getting to the right pressure.

Finally, don’t forget to pick a pump which you like the look of: there are some really swish pumps out there so you can fix your flat in style!

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About the Rider: Anne
Domestique-in-training, Anne’s unique selling points are her super-strong thumbs (a hangover from her days as a beefy bike mechanic) and her enthusiasm for cake (both baking and eating). When she isn’t sorting out returns or writing for the website she can be found working to make the transport system better for cycling (in her non-Always Riding role as a transport planner), fixing up friends’ bikes or enjoying the ride.
@alwaysriding
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