Getting your tyre pressures right is critical to having a good ride. Too low and you will have sloppy handling and heavy road feel; too high and you will be bumped around and uncomfortable while handling suffers. You also need to adjust your tyre pressure to the conditions: in winter, you should run lower pressures to improve grip on wet roads, whereas in summer slightly higher pressure means less rolling resistance and helps you cover longer distances more easily.
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Our pick of the best track pumps
Topeak JoeBlowMax II track pump
If you’re looking for something towards the budget end of proceedings, then this may be the one. Affordable but still finished with a steel barrel and a quality gauge. That, plus available replacement parts if anything stops working is pretty nifty.
Topeak JoeBlow Booster reservoir track pump
A more expensive option from Topeak but this track pump comes with a reservoir tube that holds air in making seating tubeless tyres more of a doddle. Good option if you’re serious about going tubeless.
Zefal Profil Max FP60 track pump
The follow up to the successful Zefal Profil Max FP50, the FP60 now features a sophisticated wooden handle to go with the efficiency.
Lezyne Steel Travel Drive track pump
This compact floor pump is a great choice if you’re move around a lot and want bring some serious pumping power with you.
Birzman Maha Apogee III track pump
Birzman loves turning boring cycling accessories into something a bit more special with just a few design twists which really make a difference to usability.
Axiom Propelair 160 track pump
From the same creators of the Annihilateair track pump, Axiom not only have a knack for placing ‘air’ in their pumps but also creating some quality track pumps.
What to look for
Making sure you have the right air pressure is key to having a comfortable and easy ride. Road users will know all too well the problems of not having a properly inflated wheel feels like. On the other hand, if it’s too pumped up you bum will certainly feel every bump in the road.
For those who ride off-road, either on a mountain bike or a cyclo-cross or adventure road bike, getting the tyre pressure just right is even more important because it is critical to ensuring grip in loose conditions and — if you are using inner tubes — avoiding pinch flats.
Many mtbs come with Schrader rather than Presta valves, so you will need your pump to be compatible with both types. And if you intend to use it for a track bike, it will need to reach much higher pressures.
Inflating your tyres with a mini-pump before you set out is an option, but it’s a lot quicker, easier and more comfortable if you have a separate floor pump (AKA track pump) at home. Most track pumps come with a gauge, so that you can accurately determine the tyre’s pressure. They have a stable base, and most have a metal barrel good for longevity and pumping efficiency. The handle needs to be comfortable and wide enough that its ends don’t dig into your hands.
It’s helpful to have a long hose on a pump, so that you can find somewhere stable to place the pump body without needing to move the bike. If you use a bike stand, a long hose helps access the valve while the bike is lifted off the ground, without having to fiddle around with the valve’s position.
The connector from the pump to the valve needs to be easy to fit, without disturbing the core of a Presta valve, which can result in loss of air from the tyre. The connector should be compatible with Presta and Schrader valves, so that the pump can be used on mtb tyres too.
A floor pump should have a gauge so that you can easily assess what pressure you have reached. Often this is at floor level, so it needs to be clearly graduated and large enough to ensure that you can read it — particularly if you have poor eyesight.
None of these pumps falls flat on performance. They all get a road tyre up to pressure far quicker than does a mini-pump, and work with Schrader-valved mtb tyres. Each has a gauge, letting you set the pressure spot-on before you set out.