A track pump, also called a floor pump, is designed to inflate your tyres quickly and easily. A small, lightweight pump is great for carrying when you ride, but a track pump is the best tool for the job when you're at home.
It doesn’t need to be especially portable so, unlike most things in cycling, weight isn’t an issue. Instead, you want something that’s built solid so it’ll last you years.
The base needs to be stable so wide is good. You usually put a foot on either side of the base to hold the pump steady. If you’re likely to use your pump on polished floors inside your house or flat, check for non-slip rubber contact points that won’t cause scratches.
One of the advantages of a track pump is that you get a gauge that allows you to inflate your tyres to the correct pressure (some hand-held pumps have gauges but most don’t). Some are digital but most are dials.
The ability to set a marker to show your target pressure is handy. Some people prefer a gauge positioned at the top of the barrel rather than at the bottom for easier reading. A gauge at the top can be damaged if the pump gets knocked over so needs to be well protected. The important thing is that you can see it clearly, wherever it is.
The barrel – the main body of the pump – can be made of various different materials. Because weight isn’t usually an issue, strong steel and aluminium are good options. The larger the barrel, the more air you can pump into your inner tubes with every stroke.
As well as getting your tyres pumped up more quickly, a large barrel will allow you to seat tyre beads in tubeless tyre systems, but beware if you're a very small rider: you might struggle to get higher pressures into your tyres with an oversized barrel.
Most track pumps are suitable for both Presta (road type) and Schrader (car type) valves. Some have a dual head with different holes for different valves, some have a single hole that works with both, some have a chuck that you turn around according to the valve type. Sometimes you have to unscrew a cap and flip over a bung to swap between valves. That’s not a problem if you use the same type of valve all the time but it’s a bit of a pain if you use both.
If anything is going to fail on your track pump over time, it’s likely to be the valve head, so it’s a good idea to check that you can buy spares separately to save you buying a whole new pump.
Birzman use a Snap-It head on many of their pumps that locks onto Presta valves superfast and is equally easy to remove.
Lezyne use an ABS Flip-Thread Chuck that screws in place one way around for Presta, the other way around for Schrader. You can press a button to let air out of the hose making for easier removal from the valve.
A bleed valve is a handy feature if you want to be very precise with the air pressure in your inner tubes. It allows you to let a little air out without removing the valve head from the valve.
The piston is the rod underneath the handle that forces air out of the barrel and into your tyres. Some pistons can be flexy meaning that you have to pump carefully to avoid destroying the whole pump. Go for something as sturdy as possible.
Handles come in a variety of different materials. Choose a handle that’s comfortable to use and, again, go for something sturdy that’ll stand the test of time.
A long hose – one that stretches the full length of the barrel and back again – can make life slightly easier although it’s unlikely to be a deal breaker.
Tubeless air tank
The growing popularity of tubeless tyres has led to a new pump category, with an extra chamber that provides a big burst of air to get a tubeless tyre seated. You pressurise the tank, and then release all the air into the tyre in one hit, blowing the tyre bead up on to the rim seat.
Weight and portability
The weight of your track pump probably isn’t much of an issue for you because it’s likely to live most, if not all, its life in your house or garage. You might want something relatively small and lightweight if you’re likely to take it with you when you travel to events/races, particularly if you’re flying.
Check that the pump is capable of getting your tyres up to the pressure you need. The chances are that it will be, but bear in mind that some tubulars require very high pressures and some manufacturers exaggerate their pumps’ capabilities.
It used to be that track pumps were purely functional (or ‘boring’, depending on your point of view). Now you can get ones with polished steel or anodised aluminium barrels, wooden handles, and so on. They actually look cool.
Why pay more?
Pretty much every track pump out there will get enough air into your tyres relatively easily, so why not just buy the cheapest you can find and be done with it?
Well, pay extra and you're likely to get something made from better quality materials so it'll probably be more robust and last longer. If you only cycle rarely, that might not be much of an issue, but if you're a year-round cyclist, perhaps with several bikes to keep on the road, a better pump is more of an asset.
Plus, paying for a decent pump with a good head that locks firmly in place on the valve without leaking or working loose is definitely worth having. It makes life that little bit easier.
If you want a pump that's shiny and/or anodized with a wooden handle and a cool-looking gauge, it'll cost you more than a basic plastic pump, but you might not be interested in how the pump looks, especially if it's going to spend its whole life in the shed or garage.
Here are 13of our favourite track pumps at various different prices.
Topeak's Joe Blow Booster is an easy to use, all in one solution for anyone that wants to seat tricky tubeless tyres or just inflate them, using a high-pressure reservoir to provide enough of a blast of air to get even the most stubborn rubber seated. It's expensive but it's the best all-in-one unit we've used, by some way.
If you regularly inflate tubeless tyres and need a quality track pump anyway, it makes a lot of sense to plump for this. Even if you've already got a decent track pump, the ease of use makes it highly tempting too.
There are lots of inexpensive floor pumps on the market, and this one from the mighty Chain Reaction/Wiggle mail order empire fulfils all the basic criteria, with a head that works with both presta and Schrader valves and a gauge at the top of the barrel.
Great performance and build quality from a home workshop favourite. The construction is all-steel, with the pressed base bolted to the barrel. The Sport uses Topeak's TwinHead adapter, with Presta and Schrader valves sitting opposite each other and sharing a locking lever. It's a simple design that's simple to use. Both sides of the head accepted all the valves we tried with no leaks.
Zefal's Profil Max FP60 is a decent floor pump and doesn't cost the earth. It's pretty well-made and is a pleasure to use. It looks like it'll go the distance and if the head wears out then replacement is available. The long hose, Z-switch head, big dial and smooth pumping action make it a pleasure to use, and it gets tyres to 120psi with ease.
The Crankbrothers Gem Floor Pump is a conventional track pump that offers both high volume for mountain bike tyres as well as high pressure for skinny gravel or road bike tyres. At a shade under £40, its pretty good value too.
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.
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.
Lezyne's Sport Floor Drive pump uses its new ABS2 head for a leak-free fit on any type of valve without any faffing or changing, plus should you need to get 200psi into your tyres it's got you covered. The ASB2 universal head is really very good, and easy to use on either presta or Schrader valves. You literally push the head over the valve, slide the anodised cover forward, give it a quick twist to the right and, voila! you're sorted and secure.
The three-pronged base, made up of the two feet and the gauge, gives a really stable feel to it when pumping up tyres. The wooden handle is comfortable to use too, and the hose is plenty long enough wherever the wheel valve is sitting.
The Topeak Joe Blow Elite brings with it the usual high level of build quality and easy usability Topeak has a reputation for. It has one very handy little addition, too.
The Elite has a really solid feel to it, from the steel barrel down to the steel base. All this adds to the weight, but what you get is a rigid platform when/if you want to get up to that 160psi maximum claimed pressure. It will happily reach 100psi on a 700x25 tyre in 27 strokes. Not market leading, but not something we'd grumble about.
The coolest thing about the Elite, and what sets it apart from the rest of the Joe Blow range, is that the gauge is mounted to the handle; not just to the top of the barrel – the handle. It's one of those things that you wouldn't think would make much difference, but not having to bend to see the needle doesn't half save you stooping over.
The classic pro workshop pump has its deficiencies — the gauge is relatively small and being at the bottom of the shaft is awkward to read — but it's tough as old boots, which explains its enduring popularity. The base is made from cast metal, the shaft is a hefty steel tube and the comfy handle is nicely turned from wood. The construction quality makes it highly resistant o the kind of everyday knocks and bumps that a floor pump has to endure in a pro workshop.
It's available with a selection of difference heads from a fits-everything 'smart' head to a simple push-on Presta-only attachment.
Birzman's Maha Push and Twist II Floor pump is a really high quality unit, and the new head is simple to use and effective for both Presta and Schrader valves. It's expensive, but a very nice thing and definitely worth a look if you're after a good-looking pump with performance to match.
If you've made the switch to tubeless road tyres and you're looking for a new track pump then the Bontrager TLR Flash Charger should be on your short-list. It's a good pump (admittedly with one drawback) but its ability to charge up and deliver a compressor-like stream of air to seat tubeless tyres is a really neat trick and one that it performs admirably, every time so far.
Silca makes super-high-quality tools and accessories, with the associated high prices. The Superpista Digital Floor Pump is the most expensive track pump we've ever tested (and probably the most expensive track pump ever made), but it is extremely nice to use, with a solid build quality. It's highly accurate and it offers a few neat tricks up its barrel.
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Acknowledged by the Telegraph as a leading cycling journalist, John Stevenson has been writing about bikes and cycling for over 30 years since discovering that people were mug enough to pay him for it rather than expecting him to do an honest day's work.
He was heavily involved in the mountain bike boom of the late 1980s as a racer, team manager and race promoter, and that led to writing for Mountain Biking UK magazine shortly after its inception. He got the gig by phoning up the editor and telling him the magazine was rubbish and he could do better. Rather than telling him to get lost, MBUK editor Tym Manley called John’s bluff and the rest is history.
Since then he has worked on MTB Pro magazine and was editor of Maximum Mountain Bike and Australian Mountain Bike magazines, before switching to the web in 2000 to work for CyclingNews.com. Along with road.cc editor Tony Farelly, John was on the launch team for BikeRadar.com and subsequently became editor in chief of Future Publishing’s group of cycling magazines and websites, including Cycling Plus, MBUK, What Mountain Bike and Procycling.
John has also written for Cyclist magazine, edited the BikeMagic website and was founding editor of TotalWomensCycling.com before handing over to someone far more representative of the site's main audience.
He joined road.cc in 2013 and these days he lives in Cambridge where the lack of hills is more than made up for by the headwinds.