Floor Pumps My Foot

You non-cyclists won't get this. Skip it. I just had to vent.

The hilarious video by MC Spandex aka Robin Moore, "Performance" displays a very good use for flakey floor pumps. 

I can't believe it.
I get home last night late after trying to fix the flats on both my
Crusoe and the showroom Pro Petite.
What should have taken me just a few minutes (even if I was not using
the Jim Langley leverless tire removal technique) took over an hour,
and I still left with deflated tires. Why? Frigging floor pumps.
And as if by divine cosmic resonance, the first YAK! item of the day is
all about ... floor pumps!
I don't know who is responsible for designing floorpumps, but if I get
a hold of him (it's gotta be a him, women would not put up with a
gadget that poops out just by looking at it) I shall insert the long
tube somewhere narrow and I will not even remove the valve first. And
I'll continue inserting it until the entire pump has disappeared into
the place it belongs.
At Bike Friday, we go through floor pumps like people go through
Pringles ...
I am talking Topeak, Jo Blow, Specialized ... especially those Topeak
guys who have a nerve to put out so many different models with names
like Turbo blaster only to have them break and dent and augment our
They break. They always break. They break just by looking at them.
It's the bit that goes on the valve that seems to break.
It goes PSSSSHHHHHHTTTTTT! when you're trying to pump no matter what
you do.
The fast you pump, the more it goes PSSSSHHHHTT!
So you clamp it tighter and end up bending that spindly presta valve
thingo. And then you can't bend the @#$% thing back.
And then you go plunge plunge plunge and it's like trying to push down
on a overpumped beach ball.
You know what I'm talking about - the gauge swings up to 100 psi and
the tire's still flat.
Oh yeah, we have a compressor at Bike Friday, but the compressor was
off, and the Service guys say it only pumps up to around 80 psi - they
110psi tires have to be lovingly pumped by hand.
I notice that the array of pumps that once graced the front room, have
since been spirited away to that great landfill in the sky .. and
there's a fancy Italian-made one there now. Silva?
It looks like something someone with a name like Cippolini would use.
Black. Chrome. A wooden handle. And a big, brass valve. Sexy.
You stick it on. It's supposed to suck on without any lever to lock it
on. It looks promising.
Pump pump pump. PSSSSHHHHHHTTTT!
I give up.
No matter how fast they make bikes, carbon uber fiber whatever, the
thing that slows you down faster than Lance with diarrhea sprinting for
the restroom is a flat.
I wish they'd stop putting all that effort into fishbone-weight frame
technology and garishly patterned rims and colored spoke nipples and
improve tires and yes, pumps.
I know why they do it - to keep us purchasing pumps so they can stay in
business. Like batteries. Batteries have a calibrated life so you keep
coming back to buy more.
I am going to try the mouth to valve technique. It's gotta work better
than this.
Sorry for the rant. I was going let Fred the BF Snitch rant about this
but the YAK is just to easy to vent on. Feel free forward this to every
pump manufacturer you know and tell them I am coming to get them with
plunger poised.

Sometime later ...

I was flooded with responses to my floor pump fit .... thank you ...
but no offers to change my tire!
I've compiled these technical tips into a mini e-guide as to the
selection, care, feeding and final flinging of a floor pump - feel free
to add your own comments. Floor pump manufacturers, put that hoagie
down ...


Well, I received a number of pump-praising emails after my massive vent yesterday. I sent it to a few people hoping that it would reach the hoagie-strewn workbenches of the offending floor pump flunkies, and protect the Galfromdownunder from being a target of a retaliatory Zefal frame pump insertion herself. I list below the hot-air favorites among respondents, followed by some PhD theses on this topic of national security.

Praiseworthy pumps were:

* Park Tool Professional Mechanic Floor Pump $64.90 Item #40-1604
* Specialized Pro
* Blackburn - an olde onne
* Silca - which we have, but it requires someone else to hold it! How backward is that!
* Cannondale

My opinion: We have broken all of these except the sexy new Silca, at Bike Friday, but give it a few days ... Someone pointed out you CAN screw that brass cap it down, despite initial appearances ... well I'll be darned - let me try burring my thumb and forefinger again since it was the obvious thing to try ...

I was told that the gasket on all floor pumps has to be replaced often - so, next time you go pump shopping, buy a truckload of replacement gaskets! I was also tacitly told I should review my technique by - you guessed it - a bike shop maven. I'm sure he'd take issue with my clogged toilet plunging technique too - All together now: DESIGN THE MACHINE TO FIT THE HUMAN, NOT THE HUMAN TO FIT THE MACHINE!

Now to the responses on this topic:

From Lon Haldeman, www.pactour.com

I burn through a lot of floor pumps on PAC Tour also. During our tours each
of our three pumps inflates about 40 tires per day. One of the best is the
PARK PRO model. Still the gasket plunger wears fast if it is not greased
often. I need to grease it about once a week or every 300 tires.

The Big Brass Silca Pump Head is the industry standard. They wear about as
fast as PARK plunger gaskets. For home use your gasket should last several
years. For PAC Tour I replace them each week during a busy tour or every
300 tires filled.

Schwinn used to sell an orange Taiwan pump with a reservoir and a thumb lock
for the valve. I bought one in 1975 for $14. I used it for years. My dad
still has it and it works fine. I wish I could find them again. I would
try them on PAC Tour. I bet PAC Tour riders could still break it in a week.
[We have an orange Taiwan PEDRO pump with curvature of the spine and a missing handle. A sad sight - LC]

From a bike shop:

We have been using a Specialized pro model floor pump in our shop for 2 years with no problems what-so-ever. We have pumped up thousands of tubes with it. We have had similar luck with the Silca Pista pump. I would review my technique if I were you.

From Michael O:

There have been many approaches to the "floor pump problem" which, as you pointed out, boils down to the pump nozzle not staying on the tire valve stem. Go to any velodrome and you will see men and women pumping up track tires to 140 psi and beyond, one hand holding the inflater head in place and the other on the pump handle. It's called the "Silca Straddle" and it takes practice. The Silca inflater head has knurled end cap that tightens down on the stem when twisted, but most racers ignore it.

There are two kinds of floor pump, Silca and everything else. The Silca
pumps are rebuildable; you can buy parts for them in any catalog.
Everything else is throwaway. The big problem is that the throwaways had a
better idea, the locking inflater head, but cut corners on the execution.
Push the inflater head down onto the valve stem, flip the lever and you're
ready to go. Until the 4mm plastic rod that the locking head pivots on

I am using a Silca pump with a plastic head from a throwaway pump. I
replaced the plastic pivot rod with a 4 mm machine screw and mounted the
head onto the Silca hose with a small hose clamp. It's ugly but it works.

There is a market here. Get your friends at Bike Friday to start looking at
making a "flip lock" inflater head out of brass. [Think I can get the guys to give up their daily foosball game to braze a brass flip lock? - LC] Or better yet, come up with a foam-filled tire that rides like regular tire and do away with the need for floor pumps altogether. [Ha! I thought of that. What about a honeycomb structure that expands and squooshes to fill the spot where a sac was punctured? - LC

Remember that progress is made by people who got tired of how things were

From Ivan M:

I have an off-brand MEDAI pump I have been using for 9 years: works
I replaced the valve connector to a SILCA pump-head to allow ease of use
in disk and tri-spoke wheels.

I have a Topeak pump with two outlets (Presta & Shrader) which I have
been using for two years; it too works good and doesn't require that
someone hold the pump-head on the valve.

Note that frequent use of any pump may require the replacement of the
rubber gasket on the pump-head, since the threads on a valve-stem will,
over time, diminish the gripping/sealing ability of the pump-head.
[I recommend they supply a grab bag of these items with every new pump - LC]

From John S Allen, http://www.bikexprt.com

I agree with you about the difficulty with pumps. They've gotten worse as they got shorter and lighter -- the ZĂ©fal HP actually was reasonably easy to use. If scuba diving equipment were designed like this, divers would drown regularly! The Topeak floor pump dual Presta/Schraeder pump fitting is nasty -- really hard to get mine to put air into a Presta tube: usually, for no reason I can determine all the air comes out the Schaeder chuck, as you say, PSSSSSSHHHT. That I have hands that true wheels and tune pianos doesn't seem to help with this. [Maybe try blowing in one end and see if it plays Chopsticks .. - LC

But there is as much of a problem with valves as pumps. Most Presta valve stems have threads that go all the way down so you can screw down that little knurled nut that doesn't have any useful function. But on the other hand, I've seen a few tubes with Presta valves whose stems only have threads that go down far enough to hold the valve cap. The rest of the valve stem is smooth. The pump gasket gets down past the threads and seals much better to these valves. So, you might suggest that BF specify tubes with such valves.
[I had an additional problem - M14A rims are deeper things that swallow most of the valve stem. 'Get a tube with a longer valve stem .. well, actually they're hard to get' - BF Service Guy Ian]

Frm Jeff B:

Floor pumps are like women. They need patience, care and the occasional caress. If this is done, you won't have to put up with their PSHHHT! In bike shops, especially ones that employ a lot of macho riders that race around at noon every day and don't have time for petty maintenance stuff, will go through gaskets like a beaver goes through bark. Why do you keep trying to use these? No one around there cares enough to fix or replace them! I'm currently on my second floor pump in my 15 year riding history. The first one was perfectly good when I finally gave it up, I just couldn't find anymore replacement parts for it (this could be another "women" analogy, I guess).

Tube valves stick, bend and generally make life harder. Don't blame the floor pump on that! Poor thing! The gasket needs to be connected appropriately, otherwise it can't pump. Give up on the Bike Friday pumps. Mine is a "Wrench Force" and it holds a protected place of honor in my house, just like my women. When buying your new one, use the same method I use when buying a prostitute: spend the money and get a good one. [Ohh. la. la. = LC]

From Carl B:

So why don't you come right out and tell us how you really feel about it? (Chuckle, chuckle)


So there you have it. Floor pumps 101. Manufacturers please note. I wasted an entire blog entry on this for a worthy cause ... you better get cracking. I shall place useful or juicy responses as they come to hand as comments below - or you can 'Leave a comment' and save me the trouble. The Galfromdownunder, www.galfromdownunder.com


me said…
i have the original silca (pista?) i got 15-20 years ago. Still working fine after changing of the gaskets in the head. Found one recently in a thrift store - same thing. replace gaskets in the head, the thing lasts forever. made of real metal. years ago, i had one of those zefal dual cylinder plastic nightmares...didnt last a week. useless.

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