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Buyer's guide to track pumps, frame pumps, mini pumps and CO2 devices

The pneumatic tyre is one of mankind's greatest inventions, smoothing the ride and making bikes faster compared to the solid tyres that came before it. But it's also a pain in the neck, because its vulnerable to punctures and gradually loses air while your bike is stored. At home and on the road, you need a a way to replace the lost air.

There are three broad tyres of tyre inflator: portable hand pumps that you take along on your rides; portable carbon dioxide canister devices; and floor pumps for workshop and trackside use. Hand pumps in turn divide into full-size frame pumps and minipumps that are small enough to fit in your jersey pocket. Let's take a look at all the options and variations.

Floor pumps

Also known as track pumps because they're the most common way to get the very high pressures used in track cycling, floor pumps make it easy to get air into your tyres. A floor pump has a handle to help you get your weight behind the job, feet that are big enough to stand on to hold it in place, and a gauge so you can get the pressure spot on.

The narrower the barrel of a floor pump, the easier it is to get high pressures, but it will take more strokes.

All track pumps have some sort of chuck to attach to the valve, but there are many different designs. Some use a universal mechanism that will fit Presta and Schrader valves, while others have a separate attachment for each type. Almost all have a lever to clamp the chuck round the valve.

There's some debate about where the pressure gauge should be. Some manufacturers put it at the top of the barrel, which makes it easier to read, others put it at the bottom because it's less likely to get damaged there if the pump falls over. If you go for pump with a high gauge, make sure it has some sort of protection against falls.

Some pumps are definitely more robust than others, which is why you'll see a fairly small selection of models being used in bike shop workshops. Very few can stand being accidentally kicked around, an inevitable part of workshop life for a floor pump.

Beto CJA-001S Tubeless Air Tank Inflator — £42.50

Beto CJA-001S Tubeless Air Tank Inflator.jpg

Beto CJA-001S Tubeless Air Tank Inflator.jpg

The Beto CJA-001S Tubeless Air Tank Inflator is a workshop-quality tubeless air tank with well-thought-out features and excellent performance. It should last you a lifetime of tubeless setup, road or mountain.

Read our review of the Beto CJA-001S
​Find a Beto dealer

Cannondale Airport Carry On Floor Pump — £35.15

Cannondale Airport Carry on Floor Pump.jpg

Cannondale Airport Carry on Floor Pump.jpg

Most cyclists have a couple of pumps: a mini pump for road-side rescue and a track pump for home inflation. The cycling industry is nothing if not adept at creating niches, however, and the travelling track pump might be just such a niche - for when you're on a biking holiday or just need to cram a lot of stuff in a small car for an event. Cannondale's Airport Carry On floor pump is just such a pump, with a capacity equal to many a full-sized track pump and a clever folding design to make it more packable.

Read our review of the Cannondale Airport
Find a Cannondale dealer

Lezyne Alloy Floor Drive — £54

Lezyne Alloy Floor Drive

Lezyne Alloy Floor Drive

Thanks to its clever Flip-Thread chuck the Lezyne Alloy Floor Drive works with every type of valve and valve extender we've tried and without any of that fuss of wiggling the connector or refitting to get it started. Quite frankly it's brilliant.

The Lezyne Alloy Floor Drive is robust and well built with the barrel and base being CNC machined from aluminium. With the base measuring 220mm in width it's stable in use thanks especially to the large diameter pressure gauge bezel creating a kind of tripod effect.

Find a Lezyne dealer
Read our review of the Lezyne Alloy Floor Drive pump

SKS Rennkompressor — £48.49

SKS Rennkompressor

SKS Rennkompressor

There's nothing terribly fancy about the Rennkompressor, though the latest version has a choice of chucks. What sets it apart and makes it a very common shop choice, is the durability that comes from its beefy cast aluminium base, fold-out steel feet, steel barrel and wooden handle. If you want a track pump you can leave in your will, this is the one to buy.

Find an SKS dealer

Topeak Joe Blow Sport II — £26.46

Topeak Joe Blow Sport II

Topeak Joe Blow Sport II

You don't have to spend the thick end of fifty quid to get a decent floor pump. Topeak's Joe Blow Sport II is deservedly popular for its sturdy construction, double-sided chuck and comfy elastomer-covered handle.

Topeak has put the gauge halfway up the barrel so it's easy to see but not so high that a trivial topple will smash it. Good thinking.

Find a Topeak dealer

Mini pumps

A scaled down version of a frame pump, a mini-pump is small enough to fit in a bag or pocket, or clips into a mount that fits under a bottle cage. Mini-pumps are popular because they're light and tidy. They don't get a tyre up to pressure very quickly, but their fans see this as worth putting up with given how rarely they need them.

Mini pumps vary widely in how well they work. Some just won't get your tyres up to recommended pressure, so you'll have to ride carefully after using one to avoid a pinch flat, but there are a few gems out there that work almost as well as frame pumps.

GT Attack Mini Pump — £16.99

GT Attack Mini Pump

GT Attack Mini Pump

Getting high pressures out of a pump small enough to fit in a jersey pocket is always a challenge, but GT have nailed it with their Attack Mini Pump. Maximum tyre pressures are achievable and you don't have to have arms like Popeye to make it happen.

Read our review of the GT Attack Mini Pump
Find a GT dealer

Lezyne Road Drive L Alloy — £31.99

Lezyne Road Drive Large

Lezyne Road Drive Large

At 297mm, the L-for-Long version of this mini-pump isn't terribly mini, but it works well. It comes with its own bracket and it's very shiny and beautifully made with some well thought out little details. Both ends of the CNC-ed aluminium pump are protected by rubber caps to stop road gunk getting inside and the connecting hose screws securely inside the handle.

For pocket-stowage, try the 216mm-long M version

Read our review of the Lezyne Road Drive Alloy
Find a Lezyne dealer

Frame pumps

Your classic frame pump is intended to fit along the seat tube, between the top tube and down tube. Problem is, almost all bikes have two water bottles these days and one of them is on the seat tube. That means you may need to get imaginative to carry a frame pump, fitting it along the top tube, perhaps with the help of straps or a clamp-on pump peg.

The length of a frame pump means it's a fairly quick way to inflate a tyre out on the road, and it doesn't cost you the price of a carbon dioxide cartridge every time. Some riders feel a frame pump spoils the look of their bikes though.

Frame pumps usually come set up for Presta valves, but can be switched to Schrader by swapping round some parts in the chuck.

Topeak Road Master Blaster — £16.99

Topeak Road Master Blaster frame pump

Topeak Road Master Blaster frame pump

Topeak's Road Master Blaster is a well-thought-out frame pump that's a reliable companion for longer excursions. Well built and capable of high pressures, it's a great touring or Audax pump.

The Aluminium-barrelled, plastic-ended Master Blaster has a sprung handle and comes with a strap to keep it snugly attached to your bike; there's four sizes to fit pretty much any frame. Once removed you can lock the handle and pump either Presta or Schraeder tubes (via interchangeable internals) to a claimed 160psi. As usual this is a wildly optimistic maximum, but I stuffed 100psi into a 700x23c tyre in just over 100 strokes without any problems at all.

Read our review of the Topeak Road Master Blaster
Find a Topeak dealer

Zefal HPX — £19.99

zefal-hpx-vintage-frame-pump

zefal-hpx-vintage-frame-pump

Legendary US bike shop Rivendell Cycles calls the HPX "the biggest commercial mainstream normal zero-snobbeury bicycle success that has ever come out of France" and we can't argue with that. The narrow barrel makes high pressures easy, the thumblock grabs the valve firmly and the switchable sprung handle means no wasted effort.

The design's been around since the early 1970s. HPXes are tough and durable enough that we wouldn't be surprised if there are still a few of the first batch in use.

Find a Zefal dealer

Carbon dioxide inflators

With the work done by a small bottle of compressed gas, carbon dioxide (CO2) inflators are the fastest way of getting back on the road. They're perfect for sportives or fast training rides where you don't want to be holding up the rest of the group.

As a gas expands it cools, so look out for CO2 inflators that protect your fingers from the canister, either with a rubber cover for the canister or by enclosing it in a plastic shell.

Some inflators only pop open the canister when you use it, and don't allow you to use only part of the available gas, others have a trigger so you can use just part of the contents.

A 16g cartridge will get a 23mm tyre up to 90-100psi, which should be plenty to get you home. Threaded cartridges are usually slightly more expensive than unthreaded. Buy in bulk if you're relying on CO2 as your main way of fixing flats on the road.

Bontrager Air Rush Road CO2 Pump — £19.99

Bontrager Air Rush Road CO2 Pump.jpg

Bontrager Air Rush Road CO2 Pump.jpg

The Bontrager Air Rush Road CO2 Pump is a nifty little dual design that won't leave you deflated on the roadside.

The problem with a mini pump is that they are slow, and also an unnecessary upper-body workout for the weedy cyclist. The problem with CO2 canisters is that they are a one hit wonder. Combine the two and you might just have the ultimate solution.

Read our review of the Bontrager Air Rush
​Find a Bontrager dealer

Genuine Innovations Proflate 16 — £17.99

Genuine Innovations Proflate

Genuine Innovations Proflate

 

The Genuine Innovations Proflate 16 may not look the smartest, but it's a very cleverly designed CO2 pump that instils trust and makes you feel in control. It uses 16g non threaded cartridges (which are slightly cheaper than their threaded equivalents) and works on both Schrader and Presta valves.

The Proflate 16 has a host of really well designed features: it auto-detects Schrader or Presta valve; it's got a little indicator that tells you if the cartridge is punctured and the pump is therefore charged; it's got a trigger, protected by a security catch; you can store cartridges upside down in the body avoiding the risk of accidental puncturing; you can't accidentally unscrew the body with a charged/punctured cartridge; and it's got an automatic dirt/water shield.

Read our review of the Genuine Innovations Proflate 16
Find a Genuine Innovations dealer

Lezyne Control Drive — £15.45

Lezyne Control Drive CO2 Inflator

Lezyne Control Drive CO2 Inflator

Lezyne's Control Drive CO2 Inflator makes it really easy to get any Presta or Schrader inner tube fully inflated. It provides easy control of the flow of gas and has a jacket to protect your hands from freezing to the canister during use.

The Control Drive is as simple as they come, is very nicely designed and works effectively. The dual head screws onto any standard threaded CO2 canister and provides Presta and Schrader compatibility. You simply push the Control Drive onto the valve, and turn the inflator head to release air.

Read our review of the Lezyne Control Drive
Find a Lezyne dealer

Birzman Infinite — £24.98

Birzman Infinite Road and CO2 pump

Birzman Infinite Road and CO2 pump

The Birzman Infinite Road + CO2 pump is a 2-in-1 pump and C02 inflator that's a good-looking efficient machine to get you back on the road in the minimum of time. You can either inflate your tyres manually, use a CO2 cartridge or if you're determined to get to 120psi, start with the hand-pump and top off with CO2.

Read our review of the Birzman Infinite
Find a Birzman dealer

B’Twin CO2 Inflator and 16g Cartridge — £7.99

BTwin CO2 Inflator and 16g Cartridge.jpg

BTwin CO2 Inflator and 16g Cartridge.jpg

The B'Twin CO2 Inflator & 16g Cartridge Set is probably the best-value inflator on the market. At £8, fitting 16 or 25g canisters with precisely-controllable one-handed inflation, it's a great buy.

With the head threaded most of the way onto the cartridge it's 12cm long, and easily slips into a pocket. Removed from the cartridge it's as small as these things get, so easily put into a tool roll.

It's hard to imagine a simpler process: screw on the canister fully, press onto valve, done. Pressing down on the valve will push it through the rim if you've removed the lockring from your valve stem, or are running unthreaded valves. Either way, applying pressure opposite onto the tyre to keep the valve in place is dead easy, and as the tube starts to inflate, the valve very quickly resumes its natural position and pushes back against the inflator head.

Read our review of the B’Twin CO2 Inflator and 16g Cartridge
Find a B’Twin dealer

Our official grumpy Northerner, John has been riding bikes for over 30 years since discovering as an uncoordinated teen that a sport could be fun if it didn't require you to catch a ball or get in the way of a hulking prop forward.

Road touring was followed by mountain biking and a career racing in the mud that was as brief as it was unsuccessful.

Somewhere along the line came the discovery that he could string a few words together, followed by the even more remarkable discovery that people were mug enough to pay for this rather than expecting him to do an honest day's work. He's pretty certain he's worked for even more bike publications than Mat Brett.

The inevitable 30-something MAMIL transition saw him shift to skinny tyres and these days he lives in Cambridge where the lack of hills is more than made up for by the headwinds.

21 comments

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dafyddp [428 posts] 1 year ago
2 likes

 Track pumps costing £30 - £55 but  car foot pump costs about £10 - equally capable of high pressure and just as portable/robust - does make you wonder what you're paying for, doesn't it?

Likewise, a old-school zefal pump (the sort with a short pipe conveniently stored in the handle) is £8 in Evans and is seriously effective. 

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LarryDavidJr [347 posts] 1 year ago
0 likes

A track pump is just easier and more comfortable to work with IMO.  That said, I've been using my £10 Wilko one for a couple of years now with no problems (though I don't use any more than 110psi tops) so unless you are so ham fisted that you need a steel one to avoid breaking it .....

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LarryDavidJr [347 posts] 1 year ago
2 likes

Oh and it has to be a hand pump with a hose.  Bent too many valves being 'ham fisted' with those direct attach things!

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Augsburg [19 posts] 11 months ago
1 like

Don't understand listing pumps with O-ring seals like the Lezyne.  They're made to look nice on the outside, but the seal fails quickly.  To me, the hassle factor is not worth the cheap price.

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Farr [5 posts] 11 months ago
0 likes
Augsburg wrote:

Don't understand listing pumps with O-ring seals like the Lezyne.  They're made to look nice on the outside, but the seal fails quickly.  To me, the hassle factor is not worth the cheap price.

 

Agreed - I bought a Lezyne control drive recently and the o ring failed on the first cannister.

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Jharrison5 [123 posts] 5 months ago
1 like

I'm going to put the Edinburgh bicycle co-op's "Revolution Air Track Pump Sport" right out there. It does shraeder and presta without any fankle. £11. No problem inflating tubs up to 160psi.

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Grizzerly [362 posts] 2 months ago
1 like

Lidl do a track pump for  £7, it has an easy to read pressure gauge and will deliver 130psi with ease.  I've been using one for years! 

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Bristol Bullet [41 posts] 2 months ago
1 like

"The B'Twin CO2 Inflator & 16g Cartridge Set is probably the best-value inflator on the market. At £8" -  not so, a Wiggle Lifeline CO2 inflator costs £3.50 and a Lifeline 16g Cartridge costs £1.00 so that's £4.50 for probably the smallest CO2 inflator and cartridge and they work faultlessly. Just make sure you are wearing a glove when you use it. 

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pakennedy [170 posts] 2 months ago
0 likes
dafyddp wrote:

 Track pumps costing £30 - £55 but  car foot pump costs about £10 - equally capable of high pressure and just as portable/robust - does make you wonder what you're paying for, doesn't it?

Likewise, a old-school zefal pump (the sort with a short pipe conveniently stored in the handle) is £8 in Evans and is seriously effective. 

 

I just destroyed a foot pump. It couldn't cope with high speed pumping on a hybrid tyre at 90psi. The back section shredded. 

So i bought the Lidl track pump for £6. Sturdy and with a pressure gauge. 

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pakennedy [170 posts] 2 months ago
0 likes
Grizzerly wrote:

Lidl do a track pump for  £7, it has an easy to read pressure gauge and will deliver 130psi with ease.  I've been using one for years! 

 

£6 this year, but seems extremely solid.

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Valbrona [188 posts] 2 months ago
0 likes

Pumps!

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Vejnemojnen [240 posts] 2 months ago
0 likes

https://ebike.hu/products/accessories/pumps/floor-pumps/102187_extend-11...

 

easily suitable up to 9.5-10bars, although, I only pump up to 6.5 nowadays. Very easy to use, the head part works well even with presta valves, without braking the needle.

 

I have one since 2012, and never let me down, used it for 4 road bikes and 3 trekking (city) bikes, used it on my friend's bikes,.

 

never had any issue with it. back in those days, it was 5k huf (approx. 15 gbp)

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Danger Dicko [281 posts] 4 weeks ago
1 like

I have a Park Tools track pump.

Does exactly the same job as other track pumps.

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LastBoyScout [177 posts] 4 weeks ago
0 likes

Garage - ToPeak Joe Blow Sprint - slightly nicer than the Sport shown above. Replaced the seals once in 15-odd years of use.

Commuting/MTB - either a Blackburn Mountain Air MTB pump or Genuine Innovations Second Wind Road carbon. Hybrid pump, but quite long - they do a mini version, but seems to be very rare and expensive. Shoved in rucksack, so size not an issue.

For road riding, I carry a GI Air Chuck, similar design to the B'Twin one above, but even better value as it was a freebie from GI when I asked for a spare part for the Second Wind.

Backup pump is a Lezyne Sport Drive HP, which cost me £3 for a set including puncture kit and mini tool in Halford's bargain bin.

Avatar
ibr17xvii [166 posts] 3 weeks ago
0 likes
Farr wrote:
Augsburg wrote:

Don't understand listing pumps with O-ring seals like the Lezyne.  They're made to look nice on the outside, but the seal fails quickly.  To me, the hassle factor is not worth the cheap price.

 

Agreed - I bought a Lezyne control drive recently and the o ring failed on the first cannister.

I'm glad I'm not the only one to have had trouble with this, thought it was just me.

Avatar
turboprannet [242 posts] 3 weeks ago
1 like
ibr17xvii wrote:
Farr wrote:
Augsburg wrote:

Don't understand listing pumps with O-ring seals like the Lezyne.  They're made to look nice on the outside, but the seal fails quickly.  To me, the hassle factor is not worth the cheap price.

 

Agreed - I bought a Lezyne control drive recently and the o ring failed on the first cannister.

I'm glad I'm not the only one to have had trouble with this, thought it was just me.

There are very few Lezyne products I've bought (foolishly I do keep buying them) that haven't failed. A saddlebag that opened mid ride and ejected everything into the road, Lights that just stop working, a mini pump that lasted about a week, light mounts that just fail and fire the lights into the road and, relevant to this, a CO2 pump that broke into several pieces and can't be put back together.

To be fair though two of my bikes have their bottle cages and they're ok. The big chunky plastic cage one was perfect for Flanders. It is hard to get bottle cages wrong though.

It seems to be a brand in my experience that is wholly form over function.

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TheScotsman [22 posts] 3 weeks ago
1 like

I bought a SKS Renkompressor years ago after reading review after review saying that it was the best thing since sliced bread.

 

Up until two years ago I hated the thing and was on the verge of replacing it. The reason? The head on it would only stay on the valve stem for a few weeks before it started popping off during inflation, as the rubber washer wore away by fractions of a millimeter after a few uses.  Even if I used the locking lever on the old metal push-on head, it would refuse to stay on.  I had to regularly buy replacements to enable me to keep my tyres inflated, as well as replacing a number of other internal washers and the entire head/hose assembly when it ruptured near the base.

 

At the point of throwing it in the bin, I read about the Topeak Smarthead Upgrade Kit and promptly ordered one as a last-ditch attempt to make the Renkompressor useable.  Wow - it transformed the pump from an infuriating pile of keech into a great, easy to use one.  Two years on, it still grabs onto the valves (even when not locked on) and has never required any replacement washers to keep that performance up. In two years of the previous SKS head, I reckon I'd have got through about 12  washers.

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nniff [149 posts] 3 weeks ago
0 likes

Surely there should be a mention at least for the recycled-fizzy-pop-bottle-tubeless-tyre-inflator?

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BehindTheBikesheds [328 posts] 3 weeks ago
0 likes

Still using a second hand 'oxford' branded digital track pump, the best small pump I've used (& I've tried many over decades) is the specialized Airtool MTB pump. Fits solidly in its clamp to any frame with bottle cage eyelets, can fit in a back pocket unlike the road variant but has more volume and will do  80psi in 28mm road tyres without having to need arms like Arnold S.

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Ad Hynkel [155 posts] 3 weeks ago
0 likes

Rejuvenated an old track pump that was suffering a failed rubber seal on the head, using the Topeak SmartHead Threadlock upgrade kit. Cost less than a tenner. It works really well, with the caveat that you have to make sure removeable cores are reasonably tight. It has a tendancy to unscrew loose ones if you are not holding it in line when taking it off.

Avatar
urbane [85 posts] 1 week ago
0 likes
dafyddp wrote:

 Track pumps costing £30 - £55 but  car foot pump costs about £10 - equally capable of high pressure and just as portable/robust - does make you wonder what you're paying for, doesn't it?

Likewise, a old-school zefal pump (the sort with a short pipe conveniently stored in the handle) is £8 in Evans and is seriously effective. 

I know the hard way Car pumps are absolute crap, including the 2 cylinder ones; they have poor pressure gauges, too short hoses, are harder to use and are much slower than a decent track pump!

Anything Zefal is crap; I discovered that the hard way too! Traditional cheap hand pumps are pain to use, slow and can stress the valve; there are much better hand-pumps now, some of which can be used as small track pumps for much faster pumping, with a pressure gauge, and longer retained air tube with a quick fit/release value connector.

Simply you get what you pay for so long, so long as you don't buy overpriced brands like Lezyme.