It’s time to pump up the jam and get some fresh air on board with these, our tried and tested pick of 13 top track pumps, priced up to £90. An essential piece of kit for every cyclist, Rob Hoyles piles on the pressure and gets inflating
If there’s one item of equipment that gets more use than any other, it’s the track pump. Or at least, if you value your bike’s handling and your own safety, it should be. A decent pump with a solid base, easy-to-use connector and an accurate gauge is an absolute must for any cyclist’s shed.
Here at Cycling Weekly, we get through more track pumps than most. With over 30 members of staff cycling to work daily, we’ve seen collapsing connectors, hissing hoses and gauges give up the ghost. And heard a lot of post-puncture profanities to boot when they cry enough.
So, we’ve gathered together a baker’s dozen of high- quality pumps to please, varying in design but each promising performance, durability, accuracy and the ability to work on the two most popular valves, Presta and Schrader.
For our test we concentrated on the Presta performance. In the name of fairness, we tested each pump multiple times, on different valves to ensure parity and consistent readings when checking accuracy against our calibrated control gauge. We also counted the number of strokes to a claimed 100psi and measured the height of the handle at its lowest point — taller riders in particular may wish to take note of this particular stat.
We soon discovered that the more use the pumps got, the better they worked. As the pistons and chambers bedded in, the action became smoother, the number of strokes to 100psi more consistent. Similarly, many of the connectors that at first felt stiff and difficult to use, soon wore just enough to fit perfectly, so it’s worth bearing this in mind if your new pump doesn’t feel perfect the first few times you use it.
While we’re on the subject of wear, we’ve found that it’s often the smallest part that after a year or two of hard use results in a pump being rendered fit only for the skip. With that in mind, we’ve checked to see which pumps have spare parts available making them serviceable and ultimately, better value.
For what is essentially a very simple piece of equipment, the marketing departments still manage to come up with all sorts of acronyms, initialisms and trade names for their connectors and suchlike. The bottom line is that the pump should be solid and stable in use, with a connector that goes on and off easily, and can be removed without losing air. It really is that simple.
The price usually reflects the type of material the pump is made from and while only making a small difference to functionality, there’s a tangible difference to how a pump made from aluminium feels compared to one that has been moulded in plastic. Features to look out for are an air bleed to drop the pressure should you go over without having to disconnect the hose, an easy-to-read gauge, preferably with a marker bevel, and simple hose storage.
Unless you’re a track racer or regularly run tubular tyres, don’t get too hung up on the maximum operating pressure. The lowest can still inflate to 140psi so for the vast majority of riders on clinchers it’s more than capable of exceeding the highest recommended pressures. For those that are racing on the track, then the Birzman, Lezyne and Truflo pumps will all reach the big numbers needed for specialist track tubs. For other road tubs, check with the tyre manufacturer first, but generally anything that can push up to 160psi will be more than sufficient.