Bicycle pumps come in a variety of designs and if your are new to owning a bike it is probably not immediately obvious why there are so many different types of what is one of the most basic of cycle tools. To help explain the differences we have divided bike pumps into three basic groups:
- Floor pumps
- MTB pumps
- Road bike pumps
These are the most efficient pumps but are not what you would take out riding as they are a bit on the large size to fit in your pack or on your bike. A floor pump is ideal to keep at home to quickly top up your tyres to the correct pressure before going for a ride. They usually feature a pressure gauge so you can pump your tyre to the pressure recommended for your tyre type and the riding you will be doing. Check the sidewall of your bicycle tyre to find it’s recommended pressure range. This will be indicated as a number range in pressure units of either psi, kPa or bar.
These are portable pumps which are designed to clip to your bike frame or be stashed in a pocket on your jersey or in your riding pack. They are designated as MTB pumps as they are designed for higher volume tyres which run at lower pressures which is typically what you find on a mountain bike – road bikes run lower volume tyres at higher pressures. So they can fill a big mountain bike tyre more quickly than a road bike pump, but many cannot pump to as high a pressure as you might require for efficient road cycling.
Road bike pumps
These are similar to an MTB pump, but are designed to achieve higher pressures in the tyre. They usually push less air per stroke to achieve this so they typically take more pump strokes to fill a big volume mountain bike tyre than a low-pressure, high-volume MTB pump would.
Another consideration when purchasing a pump is to be sure it can connect to the style of valve on your bicycle wheel. Most pumps these days have connections which are compatible with the two common valve connection types, Schrader (like your car) and Presta valves.
Another type of pump is available which is used to pressurize your suspension components. Shock pumps are specifically designed to pump to high pressure and are not suitable for pumping up a bicycle tyre. They may have a pressure gauge built in, which is ideal for maintaining your bike suspension at home. Compact shock pumps without gauges are also available for carrying when you ride, to fine tune the suspension on the trail.
CO2 inflation kits
Finally, if you want to inflate your tyre extremely quickly (for example in a race situation), you have the option of carrying a CO2 inflator kit. This consists of replaceable pressurised CO2 cartridges coupled with a device to attach the cartridge to the tyre valve and control inflation.