Hand/frame pumps - CycleBlaze

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Hand/frame pumps

Robert Ewing

Well it seems high time that Cycleblaze has a few ongoing gear conversations and reviews.  So to start things off, let’s consider the lowly bicycle frame pump and perhaps an aside to the CO2 inflator.

 

Over my many years (decades) of riding I’ve gone through dozens of pumps and never been completely happy with their performance. This is especially the case when touring.  Maybe three decades ago frame pumps bifurcated into two groupings. One for the low volume, high pressure skinny tires on road racing bikes and two for the high volume, low pressure fat tires on mountain bikes. And nothing in between for the medium pressure/volume tires range used by most touring cyclists.

 

This situation was particularly frustrating for my touring because I typically tour with two set of tires and will often switch from road to dirt and back to road the same day. One set of sealed road tire (currently Continental 4-Seasons 28f & 32r typically around 90+ PSI) and a matched pair of dirt/gravel tires (currently Continental Crossrides 42mm f&r inflated from 75 to as low as 30 PSI depending on conditions).

 

For a few tours, I would strap both road pump and mountain pumps to my frame, both two-stage systems. Starting with the mountain pump then switching to the road pump would give me in essence a three stage system to inflate my medium width road tires – not ideal but got the job done. But two recent innovations in the cycling world have changed the picture. First the near universal adoption of disk brakes on all but the most specialized top end road climbing bikes has the UCI allowing the use of 28mm racing tires during sanctioned events. And more importantly the advent of the “new” class of all-round bike the gravel bike, which typically run between 35 and 45 mm tires.

 

A third class of frame pump is now needed and the industry seems to be providing them, which brings me to my first gear review here on Cycleblaze – the Crank Brothers Sterling Long with gauge two stage pump.

 

I’ve been using it for a couple of year without incident. Stage one inflates quickly to 40 PSI. The barrel is narrow enough and the stroke long enough that reaching the top limit of 100 PSI is possible without too much unflattering vocabulary being uttered. The qualaity is better than any of the four 2-stage pumps I’ve used I the past. I particularly like the accuracy of the pressure gauge as I am not one to suffer needlessly and will drop 20 to 30 PSI if I hit some particularly rough chip and seal surface and then pump back up when the road smooth back out.

 

5 Stars is my rating. I well understand that cycling gear is a moving target and this pump may well be eclipsed in the future are just be dropped from the Crank Brothers lineup of pumps just because touring cyclists have to accept the hand-me-downs from their more profitable siblings, road racing and mountain bikes.

 

So whatcha pumping with these days? Anyone bringing CO2 on tour?

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2 weeks ago
Mike AylingTo Robert Ewing

Still using a number of Zefal HPX pumps on my various bikes. We have a #4 size on our tandem and it has no trouble getting up to 60 psi for the 26 X 1.75 tyres.

This pump is advertised as being able to pump to 120 psi for narrow tyres.

Mike

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2 weeks ago
Jacquie GaudetTo Robert Ewing

I have been using a Lezyne Micro Floor Drive HP pump for touring and it's been great.  It actually works, which makes it *much* better than the Blackburn one it replaced.  The Lezyne pump is much lighter than it looks, attaches to the valve with a hose (very important for not damaging valves) by screwing on (I don't get on well with the press-on types).  There's a little foot thing that folds out so it works like a mini floor pump.

The version I have has an inline gauge which is accurate enough for touring purposes.  I also have the HV version (with no gauge) for mountain biking.  It might end up going on my next tour since my new bike runs tubeless tires.

And because we now both have tubeless tires on our newest bikes, we carry CO2 in case we need to reseat a tire.

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2 weeks ago
John PescatoreTo Jacquie Gaudet

For many years I carried a cheap (Planet Bike?) frame pump on my Trek 520 for all multi-day tours and just plain road riding. Worked fine, had a reversible head for Presta/Schrader for when my wife would be riding my son's old mountain bike on C&O Towpath multiday rides, etc. Volume-wise, it wasn't really made for mountain bike tires. It would heat up but keep on pumping.

The one feature it was lacking was flat protection - carrying that pump did not cause my bike to avoid road crap and I would get a flat or two per year.

I bought a new road bike a few years ago, frame pump didn't fit and I would only use a saddle bag - no rear rack/trunk bag on that bike. So I joined the CO2 side of the world - a not a flat in three years and over 8,000 miles on any of our 5 bikes, except for one tube valve failure on a bike that is mostly used on an indoor trainer!

I am sure I have now jinxed it, but CO2 seems to have flat prevention capabilities!

On multiday rides, I now carry the CO2 (Topeak) plus a very cool Crank Brothers KLIC hand pump/CO2 inflator that has a good enough gauge in it.

One thing I also carry: a plastic sandwich bag with the printed instructions on how to use the fancy pump and the CO2 inflator. On a local group ride I stopped to help a guy who had flatted and he had used up his CO2 and thought his inflator was broken. I had tested the Topeak inflator out when I first bought  it, but it had been preventing flats for 3 years and I had no idea how to make it work - had to get out the cell phone, find the .pdf instructions and peer at the tiny type on the side of the road...

Of course, now that I have dared say "no f!@ts" I'm sure I will have regular practice in using it

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2 weeks ago
Jacquie GaudetTo John Pescatore

Those seem like nice pumps.  I especially like the flat protection option!  However, the styles that require you to hold the pump in one hand and operate the piston with the other require more upper body strength than I possess if I want to get the tire to operating pressure.

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1 week ago
John SaxbyTo Robert Ewing

Nicely written review, Robert -- thanks :-)

My history with pumps holds few memories for me, mostly 'cos the human brain seems to have a considerable capacity for forgetting Bad Things over time.  (Or maybe that's just another example of the A-word at work, eroding both Bad Things and Good...)

Anyway, for the past three years I've used the Lezyne Micro model which Jacquie endorsed, and hence I'd second her comment.  I use it almost exclusively to top up the pressures in my tires: "almost exclusively", because in that time, I've had just one flat between my Thorn Raven touring bike and my Eclipse ti-framed go(-slightly-)faster day rides & light touring bike.  The common factor here is Schwalbe Marathon Supremes on both bikes, 26 x 1.6 for the Raven, 700 x 35 for the Eclipse.

My recommendation, then, would be to buy pump & tires as a package  ;-)

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1 week ago
Mike AylingTo John Saxby

Re Supremes (which I also ride) - good tyres reduce the incidence of punctures and good quality tubes require topping up less frequently.

Mike

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1 week ago
Jacquie GaudetTo Mike Ayling

Funny, my Co-Motion touring bike is also equipped with Supremes(26 x 1.6).  I've had one flat since I got it in 2014.

I'm hoping to better that record with my new bike and its tubeless tires--meaning zero flats in 5 years.  We shall see.

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1 week ago
Robert EwingTo Jacquie Gaudet

I’ve been through a LOT of frame pumps over the years and most of them left much to be desired. A typical single stage pump that I could inflate tires to say 100 PSI might take 400 to 500 strokes. Multiply that by the above mentioned road to dirt back to road tires swapped out in a single day, and fatigue, repetitive stress syndrome and sheer boredom start to set in.

 

This is where the 2-stage pumps saved the day for me.  That and what my children refer to as my MacGyver invention, where I fashion an air pump hose to work with my 2-stage pump, thereby making it a “floor” pump. It works for me. I get to pressure fairly quickly with far few pump strokes and get to use more of my stronger lower body muscles and much less of my aging biceps.

A sampling of a few my pneumatic friends top to bottom:Celeste’ Silca Impero racing pump. This pump probably older than most of the members of Cycleblaze. Even in my youth, I was not strong enough to get my tires up to pressure. *** SKS PURO a great pump for modulating racing tires from say 119 PSI to 121 PSI. It’s rated at 150 PSI and would take you into the four digit zone to pump up touring tires.***The previous mentioned Banjo Brothers 2-Stage LS. High quality ($$$) with close to perfect pressure range for me, 40 low and 100 high. *** Blackburn Mammoth 2-stage big volume rated at 40 PSI low and 100 high but all my strength topped out at 70 PSI even with my floor adaptation 80 was about tops. It is well used and still in working order. The biggest design drawback is there is no hand grip at the valve end and I’ve gotten a couple of painful blood blisters using it.*** Blackburn Air Stick 2-stage – The low pressure is almost the same as the useful high pressure of the Mammoth. I used it as part of a three stage inflation strategy when touring. Like its high volume Mammoth brother it bites.*** CO2 inflator – I don’t carry CO2 but MJ does on her tri bike and if we are out riding together and we get a flat it is the go to answer to get back on the road with a smile on my face. I find CO2 has some drawbacks for touring, which I’ll go into in another post.*** And finally several attempts at fashioning an air hose for my frame pumps. The bottom hose started life out on a Blackburn Voyager or Traveler (?). The pump died on tour but the double-headed screw on hose worked great and on goes on tour.
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1 week ago
Jacquie GaudetTo Robert Ewing

If a frame fits me, there isn't space for a frame pump!  The ability to stand over my bike and to get two water bottles into the triangle trump use of the space for anything else.  So I'm limited to pumps with holders that can be mounted under a water bottle cage.  I keep a pump on every bike.

When I picked up my Co-Motion bike, I tried a two-stage Blackburn mini pump in the shop and it was the first one I'd ever used that enabled me to get my tires up to pressure.  I bought it.  It worked for its first tour and I took it on its second (my solo tour through the Pyrenees) but could ever again get my tires to a ridable pressure and visited bike shops to use their floor pumps.  Luckily I didn't have any flats on that trip!  I thought it was me (but why did it work for me before?), but when I got home my very strong, mechanically-minded son couldn't get it to work either.  That was when I bought my first Lezyne Micro Floor Drive.  I added the HV version later when I got a mountain bike.  After all, my mountain bike only needs 30 psi.

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1 week ago