Types of bike pumps

So, now you know how often you need to pump up your tyres, you possibly also want to know about what to use to do it!


There are different kinds of ways to inflate your tyres, broadly grouped into pumps and CO2 inflators.  Pumps are the most popular way of inflating your tyres, and there are two main types of these two .   Track pumps – which are floor based pumps, and hand pumps.

Track pumps

These are great for keeping at home to check your tyre pressure on a regular basis.  They are quick to pump up tyres as they have a lot of volume, so they pump a lot of air at each stroke. They also have a gauge on them so it is easy to tell exactly how much air you’ve put into the tyre.    However, they are large, so you wouldn’t want to be carrying one of these on the back of your bike.

Track Pump

Hand pumps

These are smaller pumps, usually designed to be carried on your bike.  They often come with a mount that you can mount on the side of your water bottle cage, to allow you to carry it on your bike.  They come in various sizes, and come with or without a gauge. They are small and light, however they can be a real pain to pump up tyres with.  As they are small, you don’t pump much air with each stroke (especially as the pressure gets higher)  so it takes quite a while to pump up your tyres.  In addition to this, you don’t have much leverage, so if you are trying to pump up a skinny road tyre, although your pump might be labelled to pump to 110 PSI, you’ll probably feel like pumping your tyre up was more of a workout than the ride itself.

Hand pump - closed

Hand pump open

CO2 inflators.

These are small gas inflators.  They come with a valve, that you put onto a gas canister, then plug it onto your tyre.  They are super quick to inflate your tyre (faster than just about anything), but as they don’t have a gauge on them, you can’t be 100% sure of what you are inflating to.  In addition to this, you have to keep buying replacement CO2 canisters.  Air is free, but CO2 canisters aren’t.  Lastly, you have to figure out how many of them to carry.  1 canister does 1 tyre.  If you get a 2nd flat on the ride, you are in trouble.  Oh, and make sure you wear gloves when you use one of these.  As the compressed gas escapes into your tyre, they get really cold.  In short, these are good for racy roady types, where time and weight are an issue, but I wouldn’t bother otherwise.

CO2 inflator

Ideally, you want a CO2 inflator for racing, a track pump for home, and a hand pump for emergencies on the bike, but if you only have one?  Buy a hand pump.  You can still pump up your tyres at home, and it will get you out of trouble if you get a flat tyre.


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