Monday, December 28


In bicycle school, AIR is the first of the "ABC's" you get taught. You're supposed to check the air in your tires every time you ride. In my case, that'd mean pretty much every day. I don't follow this rule very closely, but I have adopted a routine that works well and accomplishes the desired result.

The FIRST THING is GET A FLOOR PUMP! In this regard, I agree with "BikeSnob NYC," here, in concluding that you cannot be a cyclist without a floor pump  (that post also explains part of my prejudice against triathletes). I used to use a little electric pump. No more. The floor pump is easy, quick, and portable. It sits right next to Buddy. I suggest you get one, with a gage, that'll pump to 160psi. Get that kind even if you have a cruiser you only pump up to 30psi. It'll take less strokes to get that 30 psi than a lower capacity pump. I'd ignore the dual action models unless they're not more expensive. Those are easier but you're into diminishing returns on your investment. ON THE OTHER HAND, if you read too much "Buycycling Magazine" and have gotten attracted to a carbon body pump, just send me a check instead for half the difference and I'll paint your pump black. It's a FLOOR pump, for crying out loud. I keep a second floor pump at work. It's a cheap Walmart floor pump (Bell) I originally purchased when I discovered about Armadillos and hook bead rims. It's better than nothing, and has occasionally proved handy to have around. I would not want to use it regularly. It would not last. A coworker told me the gage exploded on his.

When it comes to tire pressure, I've been influenced by Jaguar autocrossing, using high aspect ratio concours tires. In that regard, I use the maximum tire pressure provided on the tire sidewall as a starting point. In a Jaguar, you do this so you don't scrub the sidewalls right off the front left tire in the corners. On Buddy or my road bike, in the case of the more highly loaded tire (the rear on bikes), I'll often run about 5psi over that specified maximum pressure. What that means is that on my daily commuter, Buddy, with a maximum pressure of 116psi (8 Bar), I run with the front tire at 115 and the rear at 120psi. Some of you may wonder if I'm courting disaster by running with an overinflated tire. I suggest you read Sheldon Brown's page on tires and tire pressure, here. If you're a flyweight, you might want to run a little lower pressure. If you're carrying a LOT of stuff on the back, you might want to go a tad higher. If the ride is too harsh, back off on the pressure a bit.

Anyway, on my commuter, I rarely check air pressure. I've learned what the proper pressure feels like, and it's part of my Monday morning drill to pump both tires back up to the requisite pressure. It takes between three and six strokes of the pump, depending on whether I lost air when attaching the pump to the valve. If it takes more, something's wrong. Monday's easy to remember.

On Frankenbike, I follow a different routine. Frankenbike has Armadillos, and they don't take kindly to high pressure. I run Frankenbike at 80psi and use the floor pump every few weeks, or if it seems something's low, whichever comes first.

On the road, both bikes also follow a different pump strategy. Buddy and the road bike both carry lightweight pumps. When I commute with Buddy, I carry a CO2 pump (which I now know how to use) and a Topeak pump. I also carry a Presta/Schrader adaptor in my patch kit. In the case of Frankenbike, I do not carry a pump unless I'm going a long way. Frankenbike has Schrader valves and air can be obtained at almost any gas station as long (so, tell me again why "Presta is Besta?") as I have a tube and patch kit along. If I have a flat on any bike, all the stuff above about tire pressure goes out the window. I no longer care about any of that stuff, and my objective is merely to get enough air into the tire so the bike is rideable to someplace I can be pickier about such things. I'll just be extra careful over rough pavement.

Why should all this matter? I don't like fixing a flat out in the middle of nowhere, and especially not out in the middle of nowhere when it's cold and dark and maybe raining. I like to buy bike stuff as much as anybody, but I'd rather not buy things more often than necessary. I expect to get 6000 miles out of my Continentals on Buddy. I think the Armadillos on Frankenbike may survive the next ice age.


Keri said...

Heh, I used to use an electric pump, too. It takes a long time to fill a 110psi tire! I have the pump in your picture. I carry the Topeak Morph on the Surly, it snaps right onto the frame between the downtube and front tire. I carry CO2 on the road bikes.

I run my tires with a little bit lower pressure than is stamped on them.

Filigree said...

I have floor pump. Therefore I am cyclist! Now using the floor pump is a different story...

I have nice little frame pumps on my Pashley and my vintage Raleigh, but no pump on my Motobecane. I should really carry one in the saddle bag, even thought the Pasela Tourguards I have on that bike do offer pretty good puncture protection.

Steve A said...

Keri, I carry a Topeak Miniblaster on the Tricross. It uses the bottle cage mount. I also carry a "Genuine Innovations" CO2 on the Tricross and the road bike. It's the smallest pump I've ever seen. The pump head will actually fit into my patch kit, though its sharp edges tend to poke holes in the glue tube. I also have a Trek "Wrench Force" pocket pump, but it puts out so little air, that I rarely take it along.

Filigree, if the Motobecane uses Schrader valves, a pump mainly avoids a walk to the nearest gas station in the event of a puncture. A good alternative would be a CO2 pump with head suited to the valve you're using. They're very small and don't take up much room. They're also very quick and easy once you learn how they actually work. The down side is you only get one shot to refill the tire per CO2 cylinder.

Keri said...

I use the Serfas Mikroblast CO2 inflaters. They're tiny and don't have any sharp edges to poke things in my saddlebag. I've also found them very easy to use.

After using CO2, you have to inflate the tires with a real pump once you get home. They don't put full pressure in, but the air also contracts... or something. The tire will be mushy the next morning.

The Topeak Morph is a mini foot pump. It will put 110lbs into a road bike tire. That takes a lot of pumping, but I've done it. I love it for traveling because the airlines won't allow you to check CO2 on the plane. I used to buy cartridges and then give them away a the end of a trip. That got old.

Apertome said...

I have a much different tire pressure philosophy than you do. I vary things depending on what kind of riding I'm doing, but generally, I like to run low pressures. One of the big advantages of pneumatic tires is the ability to soak up bumps in the road. If you run your tires too hard, you miss out on this. I like a nice, cushy ride for everything but fast road rides.

Also, traction is generally better at lower pressures. More of the tire contacts the road (or trail, etc), and it conforms to the bumps in the road better, as well. I find this especially makes a difference in rain, snow, or ice.

I'm guessing you've already seen this, but Bicycle Quarterly did an interesting article about tire pressure (warning, it's a PDF). See here. I'm not sure I completely agree with their results, but it's an interesting read.

Filigree said...

Steve - Thanks, I think I will get a CO2 pump for the Motobecane.

Steve A said...

Apertone, my tires lose 10psi a week. After 2.5 weeks, pressure is now 95 in back; still safe for a heavy load. Upon consideration, I do think I'll start running the front at 100. After 4000 miles, the one on back showed no indications its been too high. Off road or in hot weather I back off the pressure.

I like that CO2 pump Keri has. Its not much bigger than mine. I've never seen one at a LBS, though.

cycler said...

I _do_ have a floor pump, so I guess I qualify, but to be honest I never carry a pump with me unless I'm going on a long recreational ride into the middle of nowhere. Everywhere I ride in town is close enough to a MBTA station that in a pinch I could take the bike on the train, or lock it to the station's racks and take the train or bus where I'm going. I'll be late of course, but people plead "car trouble" all the time.

If I get a flat with the Schwalbe Marathons, it's likely to be serious enough not to be something I can just pump up, and if it's a rear tire- well, let's just say it takes me at least 30 minutes to remove and replace the rear tire when it's on a stand, let alone by the side of the road.

twister said...

What's a good floor pump that, in your opinion, has a good price to quality ratio, and where to purchase this item? Bike inc's pump seem, to me, to be a little pricey.

Steve A said...

Dick's Sporting Goods seemed to have a good pump for a reasonable price. My own pump was free as a present at Christmas 2007. I think they got it on sale at Bicycle Inc. You may also be able to score something good via eBay, but you'll have to do extra checking.

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