Bike flats come unexpectedly. Every serious biker knows that a bike pump is a must-have bike tool. But with hundreds of bike pumps in the market, how will you know which one to get? Read on below and I will show how to choose a bike pump.
Is your valve compatible?
In the US, there are two types of valve stems — Presta or Schrader. There’s a third type called Dunlop but its commonly found in international bikes. Most bike pumps in the market are cross-compatible. This means they can handle both Presta or Schrader valve type.
When buying bike pumps online or in your local bike shop, keep an eye on bicycle pumps that may require you to use an adapter. This is common among cheap variants. Go for a pump that automatically fits Presta or Schrader valves without using any adapter.
Different Types of Bike Pumps
There are 4 types of bike pumps in the market. Let’s discuss each of them briefly.
Mini Bike Pumps
From the name, mini pumps are lightweight and compact. You can carry mini pumps in your bag — making it the perfect solution for flats on the road or in these remote trails. You can also attach mini pumps on your bike frame using a mount or a strong velcro strap. Most mountain bikers carry their mini pumps securely inside their hydrations packs (click here if you are looking for the best hydration packs).
Mini pumps come in various capacities. Knowing which mini pump to grab is important. Most modern mini pumps now come with a hose to prevent stressing the valve stem. The valve stem may break if too much stress is applied to it.
|Mini Pump Capacity||Ideal Use|
|Up to 90 psi||Perfect for comfort bikes and mountain bikes|
|Up to 120 psi||Grab this one if you are looking for the fastest solution for your comfort and mountain bikes. Not recommended for road bikes.|
|Up to 160 psi||Perfect mini pump for road bikes|
Frame Fit Bike Pumps
This type of bike pump is a favorite among road cyclists. They’re designed to snap directly under the top tube of a road bike’s frame without using any mounting hardware. Frame fit bike pumps are heavier and longer but they offer higher psi capacity (up to 160 psi for large models) than mini bike pumps.
These bike pumps come in three sizes: small, medium, and large. These dimensions are based on your total frame size (usually measured in cm) or the length of your bike’s top tube in mm. Keep your bike’s dimensions on hand when buying frame fit bike pumps.
This is probably the type of bike pump you are most familiar with. Floor pumps are bulky and you usually leave them in your garage or bike shop. Despite its weight and size, floor pumps deliver more air-filling capacity than mini pumps and frame bike pumps.
These pumps can deliver up to 220 psi of air pressure, making them a great choice for other pump jobs. Most floor bike pumps have easy to read pressure gauges. You’ll never go wrong with floor pumps. They will make a nice addition to your bike tools collection.
If you are looking for a quick fix that fits your minimalist lifestyle, then go for CO2 inflators. These bike pumps are a favorite among racers. CO2 inflators are so small they’ll fit inside your pocket — making them a great choice for someone who wants to ride light and fast.
The only downside for CO2 inflators is that air cartridge that comes with it is single use only. Once used, any remaining carbon dioxide in the cartridge leaks out over time. Fortunately, you can refill the cartridge with air once you’re home. Just be careful not to get another flat along the way!
Consider these tips when shopping for CO2 inflators:
- Pick models that come with shutoff valves. This makes inflation more precise.
- Some cartridges and nozzles are threaded while some are not. Make sure you pick the right type when buying replacements.
- A 16g CO2 inflator is perfect for one 700c road bike tire.
- A 20g CO2 inflator cartridge has enough air to fill one 26” or 29” mountain bike tire or two 700c road bike tires.
Choosing the best bike pumps can be challenging because of the myriad of choices out there. Ask yourself the following questions when buying bike pumps:
What’s my tire’s valve type?
Do I want portability or air-pumping capacity?
What’s my budget?
Adjusting Your Tire Pressure
Your bike tire’s pressure will depend on the factors below:
- Rider weight – the heavier you are, the higher your tire pressure should be so your bike tires can support you better.
- Tire type – most road bike tires need between 80-130 psi of tire pressure. Mountain bikes need 25-35 psi while hybrid bikes tires usually range between 40-70 psi.
- Tire volume – the rule here is simple: the larger the volume, the lower the tire pressure. How low? That will depend on the type of tire you are riding. Mountain bike tires usually require lower tire pressure than road bike tires.
- Tire drop – this refers to the degree of compression your bike tire experiences under load. Tire drop is dependent on body weight. Ideally, a tire drop should be about 20% less than the distance between the rim of your tire and the ground.
The above tips only serve as a baseline for fine-tuning your bike tire pressure. At the end of the day, what matters most is the tire pressure you are comfortable riding with.