How to Choose the Right Bicycle Pump for You

In the world of bicycles and tricycles, a bicycle pump is a necessity. The most common problem with any bike is a flat tyre. A flat tyre can be caused by a myriad of issues, such as a poorly inflated tyre, debris in the road, running over something sharp, or even just old age. Regardless of what causes your bike to have a flat tyre, a pump will help you to get back on the road (or trail) quickly and easily.

All bicycle pumps work in the same manner, using air to inflate your tyres. However, some bicycles pumps are more efficient than others at doing this task. This guide will help you decide which type of bicycle pump is best for you!

Types of Bicycles Pumps

There are a wide variety of pumps available on the market, which can make it difficult to figure out which one is right for your application. The following will help you in selecting the correct pump for your individual needs:

Floor Pumps

Floor pumps for bike

Floor pumps, sometimes called track pumps because they’re commonly found in bike shops, are larger than hand pumps. They’re designed to be used primarily at home and at bike shops.

Most floor pumps feature a pressure gauge to help you get the right amount of pressure. The gauge can range in size from 2 inches to 3 inches, depending on the pump. The larger the gauge, the easier it is to read.

Many floor pumps have a built-in pressure release valve that allows you to remove air from your tyre if you accidentally inflate it too much. Most floor bikes also have a hose that is attached with a connector (or “head”) that fits both Presta and Schrader valves.

Hand Pumps

Hand pumps for bike

Hand pumps can be carried on a ride in case you need to fill your tyres with air or fix a flat tyre. Hand pumps come in different sizes and styles, but all feature an extendable tube, so you can easily reach your bike’s wheels and tyres. Bike hand pumps typically come with one of three types of heads: dual head, which fits both Presta and Schrader valves; Presta only; or Schrader only. Some riders prefer to carry two mini-pumps to ensure they’re never without the correct head on a ride.

Why Do You Need a Bike Pump?

Cycling a bike

Unless you’re one of those lucky few who can afford a carbon fibre bike that never needs to be tuned, and you ride exclusively on smooth surfaces, you probably require a bicycle pump. Bike tyres are filled with air for two reasons. First, air provides an absorbent barrier between the rider and the rough surfaces encountered during a ride. Second, because air is compressible, it helps to cushion impacts from potholes, rocks, bumps and curbs.

With each revolution of the wheel, the tyre compresses slightly at the point where it contacts the ground (the contact patch), reducing the volume of air inside the tyre cavity by a small amount. This causes air to flow out of the tyre and into the atmosphere through microscopic holes in the rubber, which are known as porosity. The rate at which air flows out of a tyre depends on several factors, including temperature and humidity.

What Kind of Bike Do I Have?

Many people don’t know how to identify the type of bike they have. If you need to know the outer diameter of your frame, measure the distance between your bottom bracket and the top centre of your seat post tube. Most bikes have their size stamped on their down tube (the one that connects your handlebars to the front wheel). If this is missing, measure the outside diameter of your seat post. For road bikes, the size is usually measured in centimetres, while mountain bikes are sized by inches.

If you have a bike with a suspension fork (one with shock absorbers in it), find out if it has a lockout lever. This allows you to turn off the shock absorbers, so they don’t sap energy as you ride. If you’re looking at a new bike, ask what kind of brakes it has (disc or rim) and whether it has an internally-geared hub.

What Kind of Valve Does My Bike Have?

Schrader valves

Knowing what kind of valve your bike has is important, so you can choose the right tyre pump. This guide tells you how to identify Presta and Schrader valves, as well as pumps that work with each.

Presta and Schrader valves are the two most common valve types on bicycle tyres. Each type varies in diameter and has a specific type of pump that works best. Presta valves are typically used on high-pressure road bikes, including most racing bikes, and require a particular type of pump head. They’re usually longer than Schrader valves for use with narrow rims. A cap keeps air from leaking out of the valve stem, so it’s best to unscrew it before inflating or checking the pressure. Schrader valves are similar to those found on car tyres, and are wide enough for them not to need a locking ring at their base as Presta valves do.