Be Prepared, Pack a Pump
One of the most useful tools any cyclist can carry while riding is an air pump. Pumps come in many shapes, sizes, and prices; and different kinds of pumps serve different kinds of needs. Most floor pumps are too bulky to carry around while riding, so a more compact “mini-pump” is often the best answer for the bicycle commuter or recreational rider. Once equipped with air power, the bicyclist can combine forces with handy inner-tube patches or sealants to handle life’s roadside punctures. Patch kits are a great way to reuse punctured inner-tubes, but patches are useless unless the rider has an air source. Also, sealant products like Slime require pressure in the tire to repair punctures, so sometimes repeated applications of air are needed for inner-tube sealants to work properly. For these reasons, carrying a pump is a great idea for repairing flats or just topping off. Most mini-pumps can be attached to the bicycle with an included frame bracket, but these pumps are also small enough to fit in backpacks, messenger bags, purses, pannier bags, etc…
Air pumps are a pretty good example of the old saying: “You get what you pay for”- Cheap, poorly constructed pumps (especially mini-pumps) are frustrating to use and are a good way to give yourself a sore arm while struggling to get the bike rolling again. Money spent on a well designed pump with quality materials will always be money well spent, especially when bicycle commuting.
Here is what to look for in a pump:
• You want to look for metal parts. Pumps that are all plastic are often built poorly and can be more frustrating than helpful. The head and lever on the end of the pump should be sturdy and feature as many metal parts as possible. Note- Not all plastic pumps are bad, but generally they are a cheap alternative and can tend to wear out and break-leaving you flat.
• Presta VS. Schrader- A good quality pump is compatible with both types of valve stems: the skinny metal presta valve (sometimes called a Euro valve) or the “standard” Schrader type that is generally rubber coated and looks like the valve stem of an average car tire. A nice feature to look for is automatic adjustment between the two valve stem types. However some pumps have two holes, one for each size; this works just as well- compatibility is the key factor.
• Size is important, very small pumps are easy to carry, but can take a very long time to inflate a tire to full pressure. Large pumps generally get the job done quickly, but can be bulky to mount on the bike and can be difficult to fit into smaller shoulder bags and backpacks. A good compromise is somewhere in the middle. Look for a pump that will fit on the bike or in your bag easily.
• Price: Pumps can be expensive, but they don’t have to be. Anything cheaper than $15 is probably not very reliable, so shoot for a pump that cost between $20 and $50.
And just to help you out, we have a recommendation: Topeak Master Blaster DX II mini - in stock at our store for only $20(don't forget-students always get 10% off retail). You can get more details about this pump here. Mention this blog when you buy a pump and get a free Peak Adventures patch kit.