Ask a Mechanic apump

Published on January 5th, 2017 | by Luke

How To: Bicycle Pump Basics

Tires are perhaps the most important component on your bike, and keeping them properly inflated is an absolute must. You’ll need a pump to do this before each ride, and to repair flat tires out on the trail or road. Every cyclist should have at least one pump, and ideally two: a floor pump for home use and a hand pump for taking on a ride.

High-pressure floor and hand pumps are for road tires or narrower tires running pressures above 60 PSI, and are generally smaller and narrower. They push less air, but can inflate tires to higher pressures.

High-volume floor and hand pumps push more air per stroke for faster inflation of wide tires, and are used for mountain tires or road and cyclocross tires running pressures under 60 PSI. High-volume pumps will generally not inflate road tires to adequate pressure within a reasonable amount of time and effort.

Floor Pumps have a tall barrel, usually around 25 inches, a large handle with room for two-hands, and a pressure gauge. They push a lot of air very quickly and can fully inflate a tire in under a minute, and so are the best pumps for making sure your tires are at their optimum pressure before each ride. High-volume mountain and high-pressure road pumps are available.

Hand pumps are small, portable pumps that can be taken on a ride. Some are small enough to fit in a jersey pocket. Most come with a bracket which mounts underneath a water bottle cage, and holds the pump next to the water bottle. Obviously much smaller than floor pumps, hand pumps require a lot more effort and time to inflate tires to their proper level. Specific high-pressure road bike and high-volume mountain bike hand pumps are available.

Frame Pumps are the most effective portable pump, but aren’t as common as they used to be. Wedged under a bike’s top tube between the head and seat tubes using a spring-fit mechanism, frame pumps are not compatible with many modern frame shapes. Frame pumps are usually used on aluminum or steel road bikes.

Watch our videos about what to look for when choosing a pump for your mountain bike or road bike, and then find what you need at

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About the Author


appreciates the climb and its challenges, but is convinced the only reason to pedal faster up the hill is to start your descent sooner. While he has sampled the joys of long rides on the tarmac, the dirt is where you’ll find him. When not on the trail or in the water, Luke likes to drive off into the wild to take his daughter camping in his cherished 1987 Volkswagen Westfalia.

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