Turning an obstacle into an opportunity is mostly a matter of mindset, but when it comes to repairing a flat in the middle of a ride, a reliable pump sure helps keep things in perspective — it's a lot easier to grin and bear something when you've got the equipment to get you back on the road, rather than camping in the bike lane until help is secured.
Cyclists of all stripes know that one of the keys to maintaining an upbeat attitude is to prepare your bike before a ride, and to bring along a little help in case of unforeseen challenges. That's where the humble bike pump comes into the picture: maintaining tire pressure is undoubtedly a large piece of the cycling puzzle, and a reliable pump is an indispensable addition to any kit.
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What kinds of bike pump designs are there?
There are two main types of bike pumps: floor and mini. Their respective names don't leave much to the imagination — the floor pump is the quintessential pump design, with a two-pronged handle and chamber that stands on the floor as your pump air into your tire. The mini is either a hand-held pump or a small cartridge of air that can be used once or twice to fill your tire on the go. The floor pump is going to be more efficient, faster and accurate, while a mini pump is best for on-the-go emergencies and quick fixes.
What features should you look for in a bike pump?
Depending on how you'll use the pump, there are a few features to keep an eye out for. Unless you're a total bike nerd (erm, enthusiast), the terms Schrader and Presta won't mean much to you, but they should: they're the two types of valves you'll find on tires, and knowing which you roll with will determine which pump you choose. Presta valves are found most often on performance mountain bikes and road bikes, while Schraders are more commonly seen on hybrid models and kids' bikes. A Schrader valve is the same circumference from top to bottom and has a center pin that can be pushed in to add or release air. A Presta, by contrast, is a long and thin valve with a tapered head, made entirely of metal. The tip must be unscrewed to add or release air. The Presta is found most commonly on performance-oriented bikes because of its smaller diameter: the reduced size of the opening is able to handle more pressure, making for a stronger wheel.
It should be noted that there's a selection of pumps that have both Schrader and Presta valves, so you won't have to choose.
How should you choose the best bike pump for you?
In most cases, it pays to be prepared — in the spirit of accounting for all possibilities, it's best to have a floor pump at home, and a mini you can take on the road (or trail) with you.
Below, we've picked out the best floor and mini pumps for every rider and budget.