How To Choose a Bicycle Air Pump

Bicycle air pumps are an essential part of the basic kit of tools for cyclists, both for those who travel by bicycle, as well as for those who use the bike for exercise. And if we talk about a tool for the bicycle workshop, it is simply an article that cannot be missing.

Bicycle air pumps serve two purposes: to keep your tires at the recommended pressure level and to inflate the tire after repairing punctures. 

Keeping your bicycle tires at the recommended pressure level helps reduce rolling resistance and minimize the likelihood of punctures, increasing the life of your tires.

Not all air pumps are the same, that is why we prepared this guide that includes everything that must be taken into account when purchasing a pump for your bike.

Types of bicycle pumps

There are different options in terms of types and methods for inflating your bicycle tires. In this case we will mention the three most common and practical types to be able to keep your tires at adequate pressure.

Floor pumps

Also known as a “track pump”, this type of pump is the fastest, compared to portable pumps, and efficient way of pumping air into your bicycle tires. They usually have a long, flexible hose, a pressure gauge (an instrument that measures air pressure), and a large chamber or cylinder for generous air transfer, meaning you have more air in the tire for less. effort.

Portable pumps

Hand pumps are portable and designed for emergency and road use. Due to the small size of their tube or cylinder, they can take a while to inflate the tire of your bicycle. For this reason, it is convenient to have a floor pump for daily use and to reserve your portable pump for emergencies.

When looking for a hand pump, you should take into account the pressure your tire needs. If you have a road bike, look for a pump that accommodates high-pressure inflation (PSI), and if you have a mountain bike, look for a pump that accommodates high-volume inflation.

CO2 cartridges

An even more portable alternative to hand pumps is a CO2 inflator cartridge, as this can inflate a tire in seconds using compressed carbon dioxide.

A single container of 16 g. It will inflate a standard 700 x 23c road tire to approximately 100 psi. However, each container is for single use, so it is not very practical if you need to inflate more than one tire and much less if we think about the waste that the cartridges generate once they have been used.

Note that cartridges get very cold, so be sure to wear gloves or cover it with a cloth when using it.

Features of bicycle air pumps

Taking into account the type of tires and the pressure that each type needs, it is important that you take into account the different characteristics that different air pumps can offer you to make the right choice. 

Maximum pressure you can pump

Although it is not necessary to have a pump that can generate 260 psi, you should consider that the pump you choose is capable of generating the suggested pressure on the side of the tire of your bicycle. If you have more than one bike, you should take as a reference the one that requires the most pressure. For example, if in your case you have a road bike, you will most likely need a pump that generates at least 100 psi. On the other hand, for a mountain bike tire, 60 psi may be more than enough.  

Many brands offer specific air pump models for the different disciplines within cycling, which respond adequately to the air pressure required for the tires of your road, mountain or urban bike.

Taking into account the air pressure requirements that the different types of tires need, this table I believe will help you to have a greater compression of the type of pump that the tires of your bicycle need.

Examples of common pressure ranges:

  • Road bike: 80-130 psi / 5.5-9 bars
  • Cruiser bike: 35-70 psi / 2.2-4.8 bars
  • Mountain bike: 30-60 psi / 2.1-4.2 bars.

* Pounds per square inch (psi) is the United States standard measurement. Bars are the metric equivalent.

Volume of air generated by the pump

According to the capacity of the air chamber of the pump, it will be the volume of air that it generates.

So a high volume air pump will require fewer pumps to inflate a tire. Keep in mind that a large volume will not necessarily mean that the pump can generate high pressures.

As mountain bike tires have a much higher volume, but require less pressure, a high volume pump is more important here.

If you have tubeless or tubeless tires , a pump with a good volume may be sufficient to place a tire without the need for an air compressor.

Head for different valves

Currently, most of the pumps that are available to us already have dual heads, that is, they are suitable to work with at least two types of rim valves without the need for an adapter. But when purchasing an air pump, make sure that the head can at least work with “Presta” and “Schrader” valves, which are the most common.

And although the most recent models of air pumps have a “smart head” that automatically adapt to these two types of valves, keep in mind that there are still models for sale where the “double valve head” will have two slots. separate for each of the valves. Then there is the threaded style, which offers a reliable fit, but must be “flipped and changed” depending on the desired valve. 

Pressure gauge

To be able to inflate our tires with precision, it will take more than touch to know if our tire meets the pressure requirements, and the pressure gauge is the one for the task.

Not all pumps are equipped with a pressure gauge nor is it an essential feature. However, it is highly recommended to look for a model that has one. Ideally, at least your floor pump should have a pressure gauge. Especially if your tires require high pressure. Choose a gauge that is easy to read and offers a suitable pressure range for your needs.

In case the pump you have purchased does not have one, you can replace it with a car tire gauge, but this will not be as accurate and will only work for Schrader valves.

Pump materials and quality

The build quality of an air pump is often tied to its price, and in general, the more expensive the pump, the more metal it contains.

For track or floor pumps, the cheapest options are plastic and will flex and move under heavy use, eventually wearing out and losing pressure until it stops working properly. The metal ones are much more solid, they are more resistant and in case of decomposition they can be repaired.


Regarding the size of the pump: if your pump is going to stay at home, the size will not be of great importance. But if you plan to take your pump on a trip or take it daily, then the size will matter, so it will be recommended or a portable pump that can be one of those that go in the frame or a mini pump, which although they can inflate a tire , they are obviously limited by the volume of air they generate which will make you have to pump more than in a regular size.  

How to determine which air pump is the most suitable

Anyone with a bike should be prepared to inflate a flat tire or simply to top up or maintain their tire pressure at the recommended setting. To do this, as a cautious cyclist you probably are, you will want a bicycle air pump for your home or workshop, and another to carry on your bike. 

Before purchasing an air pump, ask yourself the following questions: what type of tire and valve will you use it for? Do you need it to generate more pressure or volume? Are you going to take it with you daily?

If you already have an idea of ​​the type of air pump that best suits your needs, we invite you to review our selection of the best bicycle pumps of 2020 .

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