A tire pump is useful for recovering from a flat tire and for periodically topping up your tires. Several different types of tire pumps are available for your consideration.
Floor pumps are very large pumps that usually make pumping up tires very simple especially since most of them have handy platforms for you to stand on while you pump and each stroke of the pump moves a lot of air into your tire tube. Often an integrated tire gauge is available making your pumping chores as simple as possible.
Unfortunately for most tours the bulk and weight of a floor pump usually force it to stay at home while you and your bike take off for the great beyond. As you read through various online journals you will start to notice that the people who seem to experience a lot of flat tires eventually seem to strap a floor pump and carry it for the rest of their tour.
Historically a type of pump called a frame pump was used for bicycle touring. This type of pump would usually hang horizontally beneath the front tube or stand vertically on a special peg behind the seat tube. With the long air chambers of these devices it was usually relatively easy to pump your tires up to the required pressure.
Mini-pumps are another option that have become more widely available with the advent of the mountain bike. These pumps are light weight, compact and good at pumping up low pressure tires. Many of these pumps also feature multiple heads or an easy conversion method meaning that you can use them with either Presta or Schraeder valves. Unfortunately these pumps are generally not very good at pumping touring or road tires to the higher pressures that we seem to prefer although there are exceptions to this very general statement.
So with all this variety what are some of the things that I look for in a tire pump for use during a bicycle tour?
I have experimented with a few different kinds of tire pumps during the past few years. I have had several break and more then one that proved unable to pump the tires up to the desired pressure during a tour. As time progressed I picked up a Topeak Mountain Morph for use on my Round Lake Huron tour. Prior to purchasing this pump I had heard good things about both the Topeak Mountain Morph and the Topeak Road Morph pumps from other cyclists.
I really liked using the Mountain Morph during the Round Lake Huron tour and if I hadn't found a Road Morph at MEC for a good price then I would probably still be using it today. The Road Morph has the advantage of being a bit narrower giving me a more compact pump to stow away.
Both pumps are nice in that they feature the best attributes of a mini pump in terms of size, weight and durability while also having some of the features of a floor pump. These features include a pump head nozzle hose that allows you to easily attach the pump to the tube while still being able to use the built in platform to help with pumping. This platform really helps you to easily achieve higher tire pressures.
Although I carry my pump inside a saddlebag these pumps also come with an adaptor to make mounting them directly on the bike frame possible. I typically don't use the mounts because the pump seems to stay cleaner and more secure when stowed away in a bag.
Like many pumps the Topeak products also have maintenance parts consisting of some replacement seals for the pump. The parts cost very little and since flat tires are so common and the consequence of a non-functional pump so terrible I prefer to carry them along with me when I tour.
Some pumps have the ability to attach directly to a CO2 cartridge. While I appreciate this feature for racing bikes and when mountain biking with friends I don't see it as a big deal for a touring bicycle. The cartridges add weight and cost while forcing you to repump the tire relatively soon anyway when the CO2 seeps out through the tube walls. With the other bikes you are likely to be home long before this happens but on tour within a day or two at most you will be replacing that CO2 with normal air pumped in by hand. Why bother with the expense, added complexity or cost in this situation?
One last word of advice. If you are about to depart on a tour with a new pump spend some time before the tour making sure that the pump works. Empty one of your touring bike tires and pump it back up to your normal tire pressure using your new pump. The obvious reason for doing this is to make sure that the pump will actually allow you to pump to the pressure you want but another equally important reason is to make sure that your pump is working correctly before you are out in the woods far from a nearby bike shop or helpful cyclist!
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