Are all bike pumps equal? According to one pump designer we spoke to, yes. “They’ll all perform similarly,” he said—the designer didn’t want his name or company affiliation mentioned—“because they all come from the same factories.” He meant what he said, but after handling 25 pumps over two rounds of testing, we’ve learned that small differences can set a great pump apart from the merely adequate. This year, we convened a 10-person test panel, which included several professional bike mechanics, and the Bontrager Turbo Charger HP came out the unanimous favorite. We were surprised that everyone agreed so readily, but once you’ve filled a few tires using the Bontrager, the differences in quality and performance are obvious.
The Bontrager Turbo Charger HP is our pick for best floor-standing bike pump because in our tests its head was the only non-screw-on design that sealed reliably and completely on both Presta and Schrader valves every time on the first try. It also stows at the top, so it’s easy to reach for those who can’t touch their toes. While the head is surrounded in a plastic casing, its attachment points and moving parts are all made of metal. This sets it apart from the regular Turbo Charger, which is only $5 cheaper, but uses more plastic parts that won’t hold up as well over time. In addition to its reliable head, testers appreciated the pump’s stable, three-way base, comfortable handle, an easy-to-read gauge, and a longer hose than almost every other pump we tested. Finally, we were pleased that Bontrager offers easy-to-find replacement parts, which ensures affordable repairability well beyond the life of the pump’s two-year warranty.
If our main pick is sold out, the Lezyne Classic Floor Drive is a reliable choice—it’s the new version of last year’s pick, the Steel Floor Drive. Once you’ve mastered the quickly learned skill of getting the pump head installed properly on the valve, the Classic Floor Drive is an uber-reliable pick that will never, ever release the valve until you want it to (here is a how-to video from Lezyne). With its all-metal construction, extra-large pressure gauge, and varnished wooden handle, the Classic Floor Drive is sure to please seasoned cyclists and aesthetes alike.
If you ride your bike only a couple of times a year, pick up the Nashbar Earl Grey, which costs about half as much as our main pick. The pump from the bike world’s mail-order giant uses a lot more plastic parts compared with the Turbo Charger HP, so it likely won’t last as long, but all agreed it was easy to use and felt pretty solid despite having what some testers described as a “cheap feel.” Even so, the Earl is as inexpensive as a reliable floor pump can be and will probably serve light-duty riders for years to come.
If a portable pump is what you’re after, check out our guide Best Bike Patch Kit for the most up-to-date information.
I’ve spent four years in the cycling industry as a salesperson, mechanic, and amateur bike racer. Before that, I was a regular bike commuter in Washington, DC, and now I commute on bike in Portland, Oregon. I have reviewed cycling-related accessories for The Sweethome and spend most of my time obsessing over the normal cycling-related minutiae that typically doesn’t/shouldn’t cross the non-biker’s mind.
Beyond my own expertise, my colleague Eric Hansen interviewed some of the biggest names in bicycle maintenance for the previous iteration of this review to help establish what makes a great pump. These included Lennard Zinn, senior tech writer for VeloNews for two decades and author of the most popular bike-repair manuals in the United States, as well as Dameion Shanks, a former pro race team mechanic and owner of The Service Course, a high-end bike repair facility based in Boulder, Colorado.
The Bontrager Turbo Charger HP is our pick for the best bike floor pump. With a comfortably padded handle, stable triangular metal base, extra-long 45-inch hose, and reliably sealing head, the Bontrager was a unanimous tester favorite. Our 10-person panel consisted of men and women of various heights with cycling experience ranging from someone who bicycles three to four times a year to hardened year-round commuters. All agreed the Turbo Charger HP was extremely easy to use.
The attention to detail continues in the pump’s smaller, often-overlooked parts: The hose attachment point, valve port, and pressure bleed valve (to make it easier to remove and for getting the exact pressure you want) are all made of metal. This is important because these are the parts that tend to wear out, and they all look to be durable to start—and easy to replace when (or if) the time comes. We think there’s a strong chance the Bontrager pump will last a lot longer than pumps in the sub-$50 range, such as the Serfas FP-200 or Nashbar Earl Grey.
This is a minor difference, but testers appreciated that the head stowed at the top of the pump where it’s easy to reach without having to bend over. This gave it a slight ergonomic advantage over our runner-up and budget picks.
While most of the pumps we looked at had bases with two feet to save space, pumps with three feet, like the Turbo Charger HP, felt much more stable and weren’t that much larger. The reason a third foot makes a pump more stable is that the tripod-like base prevents front-to-back sway during use (you anchor the pump by standing on the left and right side legs). Testers noted that the added stability is especially noticeable when straining to get that last psi of pressure into a super-skinny road tire.
The top-mounted pressure gauge was easy to read, even for those testers with poor eyesight. It was a welcome change from the typically base-mounted pressure gauges that can be too far away for some to make out, like those on the Lezyne Steel Drive or the Serfas FMP-550.
At 27.5 inches tall, the Turbo Charger HP is about an inch taller than the 26.6-inch average height of the other nine pumps we tested. When we tried it, it was tall enough to be efficient—taking only 20 pumps to inflate a totally flat 700x25mm tire up to the recommended 95 psi—but not so tall as to be annoying for shorter users. In comparison, the gargantuan 30-inch Nashbar L’Orange felt unwieldy to our 5-foot-tall tester and took 15 strokes to reach 95 psi. The only pump that was noticeably deficient in getting a tire up to pressure in a realistic number of strokes (20 to 30) was the Planet Bike ALX, and this was likely due to its very short 22-inch barrel. “But you pump eight times or 10 times—what does it matter?” asked race mechanic Daimeon Shanks. It’s really not a huge deal, but if you’re concerned with efficiency, you’ll definitely want to steer clear of shorter pumps.
The Turbo Charger HP has a maximum inflation pressure of 160 psi, well above any pressure needed by the average cyclist. To put it into perspective, typical bike tire pressures range from 20 to 40 on a fat-tire mountain bike, 30 to 60 on a beach cruiser, 60 to 80 on a hybrid, and up to 110 for a skinny-tired road bike. (How much air should you put in your bike tire? That’s a topic of near-dogmatic debate, but there’s some evidence that higher pressures don’t yield reduced rolling resistance, as conventional wisdom sometimes states.) One of the pumps we tested, the Serfas FMP-500, is rated to 250 pounds. Although you might encounter a few pro-level bike tires (mostly for track racing) that reach pressures around 200 psi, and although some shock absorbers on mountain bikes require up to 300 psi, such products are overkill for most riders—especially since the pressure gauge gets so crowded that you’ll find the half you’re actually using difficult to read.
Overall, the Turbo Charger HP is durable in all the right places, so it’ll last a lot longer than most pumps. But if you own a pump long enough you will inevitably have to replace something on it. Most often it’ll be either the pump head or the hose seals. You’ll know the head is going bad when it no longer seals reliably and you hear the sad sound of air hissing out, no matter what you do or what god you pray to. The good news is that a quality pump can be rebuilt. Bontrager’s replacement head/hose combos are available from Trek retailers and online for about $20. Replacing the hose is a snap. It usually just takes a few twists of a threaded connector, no tools needed.
Finally, Bontrager warranties pumps against defects in workmanship and materials for two years. While that isn’t as good as the unconditional lifetime guarantee provided by Blackburn, the Turbo Charger HP is a much better pump than a Blackburn and will almost certainly outlast the warranty period.
Despite the Turbo Charger HP’s overwhelming popularity with our testers, it did have a few downsides. One tester thought that the triangular base was a bit wobbly and could be improved with a little added heft to keep things grounded. On top of that, adding a bit of rubber to the bottom of the base would help keep things from slipping around in greasy or wet situations, although we had no problems with it during testing on a greasy bike shop floor.
The top-mounted pressure gauge was easy to read, but its location at the top of the pump shaft could make it susceptible to being broken if the pump falls over onto a hard surface, especially when compared with the protected designs located on the base like those found on the Nashbar Earl Grey and the Blackburn Airtower 3. We did not test for this specific problem, but my personal experience in a bike shop has shown that the pump head or handle usually takes the brunt of this force. Also, the Turbo Charger HP is less likely to fall in the first place thanks to its large, three-footed base.
The Lezyne Classic Floor Drive is our runner-up pick for this round of testing. Its larger gauge gives it a leg up compared with the new version of last year’s top pick, the Lezyne Steel Floor Drive. We like it for its fool-proof screw-on pump head, 43-inch-long hose, and solid build quality, but the Turbo Charger HP has an overall more user-friendly design.
The huge 3.5-inch base-mounted pressure gauge is super clear and readable from nearly any height when pumping. Despite our preference for a top-mounted gauge, no tester had issues reading the Lezyne gauge. But the real benefit is there’s basically no way you can break the gauge by knocking the pump over.
One minor annoyance: The pump head’s storage hook at the bottom of the pump shaft requires the pumper to bend all the way over to detach it for pumping. Not a huge deal, but a little irritating compared with pumps that store their heads at the top like the Turbo Charger HP.
Aesthetically and functionally, the painted steel barrel, steel piston, aluminum base, and all-aluminum couplers give the Lezyne a sleek look and mean this pump is built to last. Should anything go wrong, the manufacturer offers a two-year warranty. Replacement parts are available direct as well.
If you’re looking for a pump that isn’t as expensive and you can live without some of the features like the self-selecting head, longer hose, and top-mounted gauge and pump head storage, the Nashbar Earl Grey is a good value. The Earl Grey features a rubberized non-slip base and comfy handle that impressed many testers, even on a greasy bike shop floor. The triangular base is actually 2 inches wider than the Turbo Charger’s and features an integrated pressure gauge. The hose is 42 inches long—3 inches shorter than the Turbo Charger’s hose—but comes equipped with a plastic double-sided pump head that cheapens it noticeably.
However, like the Lezyne, the head stows annoyingly at the bottom of the pump. And the hose attaches at the underside of the base, making replacement a more involved job than it should be. Even so, the Earl Grey is a great value for a pump in the $40 price range.
As for the rest of the pumps we tested, truth be told, they’re all pretty decent. But that’s to be expected. “Anything you get at a bike shop, if you don’t use it as a hammer, you’ll be fine,” said Lennard Zinn, senior tech writer for VeloNews for two decades, author of the most popular bike-repair manuals in America, and owner of high-end bike builder Zinn Bikes. He’s not being glib. “I’ve got a Pedros that I use every day, and the only reason is because it happens to be here. I don’t see it being that different from anything else.”
The younger brother of our top pick is the more basic Bontrager Turbo Charger, but it falls short on numerous levels. Most notably, the pump head—which appears similar on visual inspection—actually employs a few cost-cutting substitutions that aren’t worth the $5 savings. The HP’s metal locking lever and hose attachment are replaced with plastic versions. The HP is also easier to pump at higher pressures.
The Lezyne Steel Floor Drive was our pick from last year’s testing because of its foolproof screw-on head. It’s been updated with the new ABS2 head but still retains a ton of the good features from the last iteration, namely the steel barrel and piston, long hose, and aluminum base with attached pressure gauge. It remains a decent value but lacks the upgrades of the new Classic Floor Drive, such as the aluminum couplers and extra large pressure gauge. For those reasons, we think you’re better off springing for the Classic Floor Drive if you like Lezyne pumps.
Since we had such good luck with the Nashbar Earl Grey last time, we decided to check out Nashbar’s more promising and taller pump, the L’Orange V.2. The L’Orange was the tallest pump we looked at by far at 30.5 inches, towering a full 3 inches over the Bontrager. It has a wooden handle and an all-metal reversible pump head like the old Lezyne design, and it comes with a long 38-inch hose. Disappointingly, during testing the pump felt very cheap and light. On top of that, when the pump handle was fully extended it towered over our 5-foot-tall tester, making it a bad choice for shorter users (unless looking like an old-timey, hand-cranked–railcar operator is a good thing).
The Serfas pumps we chose to look at seemed to be overkill for the average cyclist. We looked at the FMP-500 and FMP-550. At $70 and $80 respectively, the Serfas pumps had a lot to prove. Unfortunately, they did not live up to the hype.
The FMP-500’s steel-braided hose seemed like a silly security feature, something you’d see on a pump locked up outdoors overnight, until we realized that the pump had a maximum pressure rating of 260 psi! That’s crazy high and totally overkill for the average bicycle owner. (Some track bike tires do take as much as 200 psi. If you’re riding those tires, you’re probably not the target audience for this guide.) Cramming all those extra digits onto the dial made the gauge hard to decipher—there’s not enough resolution in the key 50- to 100-psi range. To its credit, it did seem to have a very sturdy base.
The FMP-550, while suffering from the same overly extended gauge, did offer some nicer features. Its “stretch valve head” claim of being able to grab on to as little as a quarter-inch of valve worked as promised, and is a pretty useful feature when a tube is completely deflated, or if you have to fit a pump with a short valve stem onto deep-profile aero rims. The pump’s all-metal shaft and fittings should allow it to stand up to the rigors of frequent use. Unfortunately, those elements are mated to an uncomfortable plastic handle that may not be as rugged. Overall, it doesn’t do enough to justify the $20 premium over the other pumps we considered.
We tested two Blackburn pumps, the Airtower 3 and the Airtower 4, both of which did reasonably well. The Airtower 3 has a huge 3-inch base-mounted gauge that was easy to read despite being close to the ground. The pump head sealed reliably on both Presta and Schrader valves according to testers. But the 35-inch hose was too short—especially coming off multiple pumps with hoses lengths of about 40 inches—and the locking lever on the pump head felt flimsy. The main kicker for this pump’s value comes from Blackburn’s lifetime warranty, which means if anything ever goes wrong, the company will take care of it.
The Airtower 4 showcased some major improvements over the Airtower 3 with a 40-inch hose, a top-mounted pressure gauge, and a magnetic pump head holder on the top of the shaft, nestled in with the dial and the handle. We like this feature a lot, and Blackburn deserves credit for coming up with it.
The Anyvalve head sealed reliably each time, but not as flawlessly as the Bontrager’s or the screw-on Lezyne types. One more experienced user reported that he disliked the play the lever had, which caused it to jiggle when not engaged. We didn’t catch this on the Airtower 3 and it didn’t affect the performance of the pump. But the tester felt it was a bad omen reliability-wise. Other dings against the Airtower 4 included a a less-stable two-footed base, an uncomfortable plastic pump handle, and the fact that it costs as much as the Turbo Charger HP, despite being an inferior pump overall.
The Planet Bike ALX pump was hands down the pump we loved the least. It was unstable and cheap, and our test crew’s dislike of it was almost as unanimous as their preference for the winning choice (the one holdout took into account Planet Bike’s policy to donate 25 percent to bike-related causes). While we love the charitable impulse as much anyone, we can’t recommend a pump that favors good works over working well. You’d be better off donating the money to a charity yourself.
We also tested a number of pumps last year that didn’t make the cut then, so we didn’t bother testing them again.
The head of the Park Tools PFP-8 blew off a total of three times for two testers—a surprise, given that Park has a reputation for making some of the best bike tools you can get.
The Park Tool PFP-7 wasn’t any better. It has an enormous easy-to-hold head, but each tester ranked it super difficult to get on and off. (It seemed the inner gasket was too small.)
The all-plastic Planet Bike Ozone Comp got universally bad scores for wobbling, not to mention astoundingly cheap all-plastic construction.
The Topeak Joe Blow Sport II is Outdoor Gear Lab’s Editor’s Choice, with 379 Amazon reviewers ranking it 4.5, but it slowly leaked for two testers. If we were only going to spend $35, we’d go for the Earl, which didn’t have any problems and comes with a lifetime warranty (compared with two years for the Sport) and a 44-inch hose (versus 31 inches for the Sport).
The Lezyne Sport Drive broke. The plastic fingers on the plastic base that holster the head snapped off while riding in the trunk of the car.
The Pedros Prestige comes from another highly regarded bike tool maker, but again, fails to surpass expectations. It has a good head (the same as the Earl) and a clear gauge mounted up high, near the handle. Some loved its visibility. Others worried it would crack as soon as the pump tipped over. It lost points for a wobbly plastic base.
On the other hand, the Pedros Super Prestige worked well and had a nice cohesive design but failed to justify its higher cost considering the Lezyne is better at the same price.
The Bontrager reCharger shared a similar design to the Prestige, with a similarly contentious gauge and wobbly base.
The Specialized AirTool Sport recommended by Shanks, scored well in all categories but lost points for its gauge. “Red on black is not an easily visible combo for the gauge,” wrote one tester. “The red is pretty but my eyes can’t focus on it,” wrote another.
The Spin Doctor Team HP just wasn’t quite right. One tester thought the base wobbly, one tester thought the head difficult (requiring three tries to install), and two testers found the gauge numbers cramped and really difficult to read.
Originally published: January 4, 2016
Please take your shoes off.