No one want to be stuck, away from home, with a flat tire. That’s what makes a frame pump such a popular and essential accessory. There are two types of frame pumps, those made for off road and those made for road biking. The difference has to do with the difference in tires. Off-road tires are fatter, require more volume and are run at lower pressures. Conversely, road tires are skinnier and take less air, but at much higher pressures. Frame pumps are designed for these differences.
Big Barrel Versus Small Barrel
For example, off-road pumps typically feature larger-diameter barrels (aluminum barrels are best), which thrust more air into the tube with each stroke. Road pumps have the opposite, a narrow barrel that pushes less air in. This smaller-diameter barrel, though, makes it possible to insert higher pressures because you’re pushing less air in with each stroke.
Check The Chuck
The pump head (also called the chuck) is important, too. Choose a pump with a head that quickly converts between Presta and Schrader valves if you have bikes in the family with both valve types (illustration) or want to be prepared for everything (you might get a chance to rescue some other cyclist whose pump fails). Some pumps automatically adapt to the appropriate valve. Another clever new frame-mount pump design includes a convertible head, plus a T-handle, fold-down feet and a long, flexible hose, features that turn the inflator into a veritable take-along floor pump!
Not all pumps fit all frames. If you’re not sure what to get, ride your bike in so we can take a look and recommend a pump. Usually, mini pumps fit best because they come with a bracket that attaches to the bottle-cage screws. Once this bracket is installed, you just snap the pump into it to hold it securely (sometimes there’s a little Velcro strap to help keep the pump in place). Or, you might prefer to carry your mini in your hydration pack or your jersey pocket (this can get uncomfortable on long rides).
Some Suspension Gets Pumped, Too
A special type of pump you might need is one designed for suspension forks and rear shocks. These have very small-diameter barrels, gauges that may go as high as 300 psi and bleed valves to let small amounts of air out of the shock for fine-tuning the setting. These special tools are important if your bike is equipped with air shocks because regular frame pumps usually cannot achieve high-enough pressures.
Floor Pumps Rule
For all-round ease and speed of use, versatility and durability, few cyclists ever regret also owning a floor pump. Weight and compactness isn’t an issue for something you carry in your trunk or store in your home, so these are designed with larger barrels, two-hand handles and sturdy stand-on bases to deliver larger amounts of air with each stroke. The better ones have a gauge you can view at a glance and are made from high-quality metals and composites. The best of this type will be serviceable for a lifetime of use. Use yours before every ride and save your frame pump or carry-along inflator for on-ride emergencies.
If you’re still not sure what you need in an inflation device, check our excellent selection or ask us. We’re pump pros!