Home » Road Bike » Track pumps and pocket mini pumps, CO2 canister pumps: an article with less hot air

Track pumps and pocket mini pumps, CO2 canister pumps: an article with less hot air

I’m not quite sure what the point would be of oozing for ages over pumps reviews.  The technology is improving all the while, but there are still some basics that you need to get.  Nor am I going to do create a hundred different pages covering all the models – I would appreciate it if readers would leave comments about their own pumps, so please include your make and experience of your pump in the comments section so that future readers can have a good idea what’s currently out there.

That said, it would be a pretty useless post if I didn’t actually make some sort of comment, so if you are an old hand looking for reviews, either read the comments (or be the first…to make one…) or go and have a look on Wiggle or bike radar for detailed pump reviews.

But if you are a cycling noob and not sure what to buy, or the point, then read on, and I will try to generally answer the main questions, which are as follows:

  • What pressure do they get up to before they blow off
  • how do I know when my tyres are at the right pressure
  • What pressure should I pump to
  • Portability
  • Speed

Some questions are more related to certain pump types than others.  So here we go.

Track pumps

A track pump sits at home or goes with you in the car.  You don’t otherwise carry them on the bike.  Advantage: pumps up your tyre really quickly, with less effort.  Sometimes referred to as a stirrup pump.  You can get them with double stroke, which means they inflate on the way on the upstroke as well as on the down stroke.

Even the cheaper models from Halfords come with a pressure gauge on them, so just keep going until you hit the mark of the pressure which you will find on the tyre wall.

Look our for a good length of hose, and that you can attach the pump to Presta and Schreda valves for home hobby use. 

Lastly, read on line for reviews and make sure that the handle is comfortable for pumping sessions, and you don’t get blow-offs before you have reached the required tyre pressure.  Have a look at the blackburn track pump.

On the bike pump

Traditionally a pump would sit between two little ‘hooks’ on the frame, but I’ve not seem pump mounting points like that for ages.  Some pumps are long enough so that they sit somewhere between the angles of a frame.  You squeeze the pump slightly and it’s the pressure of the spring which keeps it in place.  Look for specific pumps in this case that do this – they are shaped on the top and bottom to fit the angles.

Some pumps of this size have the familiar hose attachment, but you don’t get the option of Presta and Schreda, so make sure that you get the right one in the shop.  Presta are found mostly on thin tyre racing bikes, Schreda on the wider cousins with knobbly tyres.  Hybrids can be either.

Oh, noobies, undo the presta top by unscrewing it a little!  I remember first time I came across them I spent some unfruitful minutes trying to inflate them without unscrewing first!

Some pumps just squeeze straight onto the valve, which can be a bit awkward.  I find that for hoses you can have the wheel at any position, but for the non-hose variety either have the valve at the bottom of the wheel so that you can press downwards on the valve, more for stability than anything else, or around the tyre at a point where you can grab both wheel and the pump in your fist.  Again, avoiding blow off is important so that you can get the tyre up to pressure.

That’s another problem though, and even more pronounced in the mini-pumps.  Getting up to pressure before getting blow off, which is where the pump is blown-off the valve because of the pressure of the air and tyre.  As for taking the pressure, you will only find in built gauges on the track pumps, you will have to buy a separate gauge for everything else.  You can get digital and dial versions for less than a tenner. 

Otherwise, pump until solid. 

Final tip, make sure that it’s comfortable on your hand for pumping sessions otherwise you’ll tyre (scuse the pun) before you have enough pressure.  It’ll at least get you home.

Mini – pumps

Designed to shove in cycle bags.  Better one’s are telescopic and one or two are double stroke.  And occasionally you can even get them with a hose, those this is pretty rare.  Telescopic is supposed to effect the same as the full length of a bigger on-bike pump, but I personally don’t think that there is much difference.  You want really to get a good pressure in a tyre after about 200 strokes.  Again look at the forums at the time of buying.  Blow off seems to be quite a big problem with these mini’s, and when you get up to higher pressures just crushing the pump needs some effort.

CO2 pumps

I have to confess, I don’t have much experience of these pumps.  Basically they are designed for speed and compactness on the bike.  Just reading around the forums this confirms for me my suspicions.  It’s counted as good if your CO2 pump gets you over 30psi: my mountain bike goes to 65PSi, and racing bikes go over 100.  That’s a lot of canisters.  And what if you are out on the road, do a poor tyre repair, have no more patches or multiple damage points, and you run out of air?  Manual pumps, for want of a better word, never run out of air, period.

So it’s great as a MAMIL gadget in my opinion, and that’s about it.  If you disagree, then leave a comment.  Are you converted to or from a CO2?  I’d love to know.