Floor Pumps

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I have gone through a ton of pumps in my lifetime.  And each and everyone initially seems like it is “the pump”, then it just becomes another one that is eventually going to fail me at a very inopportune time.  And anytime is inopportune when you need to pump up your tires.

I’m talking mainly about floor pumps.  I really don’t put too much emphasis on hand pumps any more.  I’d have to just state categorically that there isn’t a good hand pump available nowadays. Silca hand pumps were cheap plastic, but worked great.  When I rode for Schwinn, our frame pumps were painted the same as our bikes.  That was pretty cool. But, since then, I have never had an adequate frame pump.

I think anyone my age started their career with an orange Silica floor pump.  These were the pumps of choice for years.  They were serviceable, with replacement leather washers readily available, plus replacement rubber washer for the pump head too.  They were pretty bomb proof.

The pressure gauge never seemed to fail and with the availability of the two parts that wore out, the pumps would last forever.

But, the industry started coming up with newer, “better” pumps.  Pumps that were dual action, putting air in on the downstroke and upstroke.  Huge volume pumps.  Ones that would take 5 strokes to fill a tire.  But these pumps, all of them, never aged appropriately.  They would wear out so quickly, that you soon forgot how well they initially worked.

I went through a huge amount of Blackburn pumps.  I had a slew of them, think I won them or something, but they were substantial and seemed like they were going to be great.  But no, they failed big time.  I actually saved all of them and have been meaning to send them back to Blackburn and say that they should be ashamed to have produced such a product.  One that woos the consumer with beauty and function, only to fail dismally.

When I was riding for Specialized, I had a bunch of their floor pumps.  They worked adequately, but eventually their feet would break off.  I think they were made of the same aluminum as their frames were and they were too brittle to last, just like their frames.

Recently, I had a nice Park pump.  It was holding up great and the chuck would grab ahold of just about any valve stem, no matter how short.  But alas, right when I need it the most, the night before Berryman, it sprung a leak.

Bill Woodul was a pump snob.  He was a snob concerning a lot of things.  He used to search for old floor pumps out of Rolls Royces.  They came in the trunk and were beautiful.  I’m not sure if they worked very well, but they looked cooler than shit.  I think they were dual action too, taking 9 or so pumps to get to 115 psi.

I don’t really throw away my old floor pumps.  I’m not sure why that is.  I think I have the intention of fixing them, but very rarely do that anymore.  I’m not even sure if these pumps have parts that are replaceable.  Most don’t I’d assume.

I have never had the opportunity to use the new Silca $$$$ pump.  Josh Poertner, previously of Zipp, bought the rights to Silca and produced a Rolls Royce type of pump.  Here’s a link to that story.   Maybe it is the one?

So the quest for the elusive perfect floor pump continues.  But, it isn’t that active.  Unless I happen to win the pump or happen upon it, I doubt that it will be successful.   But that is the thing with quests, you don’t have to ever complete them to enjoy the adventure.

The go to pump, the original Silca. It eventually came in a bunch of different colors, black, even pink, but orange was the most common.

The go-to pump, the original Silca. It eventually came in a bunch of different colors, black, even pink, but orange was the most common.

I'm using this pump now. I won it at Chequamegon. I didn't take the packaging off because I had no intention of using it much, but that hasn't panned out.

I’m using this pump now. I won it at Chequamegon. I didn’t take the packaging off because I had no intention of using it much, but that hasn’t panned out.

Fix for the Specialized pump.

Fix for the Specialized pump.

A couple pumps the had potential, but didn't work out.

A couple pumps that had potential, but didn’t work out.

The Rolls Royce pump.

The Rolls Royce pump.

The new Silca floor pump. Just maybe?

The new Silca floor pump. Just maybe?

  Home Depot pumps today.  


37 thoughts on “Floor Pumps

  1. Barb

    This pump head fits a number of generic floor pumps. I bought a bike shop floor pump (maybe rebadged Park?) for $30-something dollars about ten years ago. The head went out after 6 years and I replaced the head with this one, and haven’t had an issue since.

  2. Bryan

    I don’t recall the brand of my floor pump, but it is probably 15 years old and wtill works great. My frame pump is a Zefal HP-X series. Every years I break it down, oil the washer and put it back together. It is now at least 20 years old. I do not want to think of what will happen if I lose it or it finally breaks down as is hands-down the best frame pump I’ve ever used (I’ve used others with other riders).

  3. orphan

    The Topeak pocket rocket hand pump is great. I never use co2 unless i’m racing a mtb. Mine has pumped up 100’s of flats of mine and my mates.

  4. Rob Smallman


    I own one of the old Silca’s and to this day it still functions very very well. As for the new Silca pumps. We have one in the office here at backcountry. and it works just well and fine but I’ll have to write a review in 30 years to see if it spans the test of time.

    1. channel_zero

      Unfortunately, the guy’s target customer for that product needs the gauge at the top so they can read it without their glasses. 😉

  5. Krakatoa East of Java

    I have used the Performance Bike “Hurricane” line of pumps for approx. 15 years. Lifetime warranty. I bought ONE pump, and I’ve brought 5 or 6 of them back in to be replaced, no questions asked.

    Silca was the only “good” pump ever sold (IMHO). The frame pumps were only good if you bought a replacement Campagnolo head for them, tho. I use quickfills today.

    1. Neal

      Same for Bike Nashbar pumps, they have a lifetime guarantee. Had one of their top of the line L’Orange pumps from 2009, when it broke this year they took back for a full refund and I bought the newest version which seems like it will last for a while.

  6. Larry T.

    What’s wrong with the original SILCA? Both original and modern parts are available to rebuild ’em. Like you I went through plenty of freebie newfangled “smart pumps” which quickly died, bringing me back to the old original, reliable Silca. Of course you could spring for the new ULTIMATE – which makes you look around for tires to air up! It’s that nice. The only issue with it is worrying about someone borrowing it….forever. I’ve been pestering Josh since its debut to come up with a “Chorus” version to complement the current “Super Record”. One with the same quality barrel and guts, but without the fancy wood handles and colored hose and a more friendly price tag. But in these days of $15K bikes, a $500 pump’s not too much different than a $2000 bike and $50 pump from back-in-the-day?

  7. Bill K

    I still use my Silca Track pump that I bought 30 years ago on sale for $29. I’ve only had to replace the pump gasket once in all that time. The chuck gaskets would last around 2-3 years until I started to use only tubes with non-threaded valve stems. (then they seem to last forever)
    Silca frame pumps really sucked. Once you got over 85psi you had to really grunt to get close to 100. The old Zefal HPX was much better for getting over 100psi.
    Been using CO2 for the last 15-20 years. Only downside is that you better let out most of the CO2 when you get home and re-pump with air. CO2 leaks out of a butyl tube as fast as air leaks out of a latex tube.

    1. daveeckstrom

      Not sure why this should be. Leak rate should be inversely proportional to the square root of density and CO2 is about 1.5 x as dense as air, so air should leak about 25% faster than CO2. However, I have noticed that I can never get a tire higher than about 80 psi with a CO2 cartridge, so maybe you’re just seeing that low pressure when you get home and pump up with air.

    1. Bill K

      That’s about the time I got mine.
      Black with red letters.
      I’m not sure, but didn’t Silca start selling Track Pumps with a plastic base, a few years before they discontinued them????….Somehow, that sticks in my head.

  8. Christian Davenport

    I bought a Zefal Husky in 1992 or so that held up beautifully for about 20 years until the hose developed a bunch of leaks. Cast iron base, leather washer in the cylinder, nice wood handle with plenty of handroom.

    1. William M. deRosset

      RE the husky

      Still available in SKS’s line. Still don’t like the folding feet, and the combi head wasn’t as nice as the Topeak one.

      The Topeak high-end one worked beautifully until it didn’t (bleed valve started leaking). The gauge is accurate, though.

      The silca track pumps? Gauge is inaccurate, or becomes so quickly. Otherwise, they’re great, though they’re short, and you’ll spend plenty of time pumping as a result. I replaced the thirty-year-old press-on head with a Hirame.

      The HPX (now “classic”) wins the “Republic of insects and grass” award for frame pump post-doomsday durability and effectiveness.



      William M. deRosset
      Fort Collins, CO

    2. daveeckstrom

      I have the same pump. I bought in 1997 and just developed a tiny hose leak this summer after 18 years of totally trouble-free use. Anybody know if parts for this pump are available?

  9. Michael koerschner

    You don’t mention zefal – and I’ve always been a big fan. I like their aluminum frame pumps – not even sure if they’re still available? But I always thought it was about the only thing French that was superior to …(insert any other country here)-made items.

    1. Steve Tilford Post author

      Michael- I’ve had a bunch of Zefal pump. Their floor pumps were just middle of the road, but lasted a long time. Their frame pumps, as previously stated here, are pretty good.

      1. Larry T.

        Zefal frame pumps are pretty good as everyone knows. Park’s “one-size-fits-all” pump is pretty good too, though I don’t have any that are really old to compare with the longevity of Zefal.
        Silca’s new IMPERO is…well…the Ferrari of frame pumps…with a price to match.

  10. Neal

    Same for Bike Nashbar pumps, they have a lifetime guarantee. Had one of their top of the line L’Orange pumps from 2009, when it broke this year they took back for a full refund and I bought the newest version which seems like it will last for a while.

  11. Ken

    I have had two pumps: a Silca and a Blackburn. I’ve had the Silca for more than 30 years and the Blackburn for probably 18. I think you’re a bit unfair to Blackburn because their pump has a lifetime warranty and whenever a part wears out I send it to them and they send me a replacement. They’ve probably sent me more in replacements then I spent on the pump. So A+ service from Blackburn. I actually feel guilty about having them send replacements anymore and will probably just buy one of their pumps when it finally goes.

  12. Steve

    Lezyne hand pump works fine. Been using Topeak Joe Blow floor pump for 16 years…only issue is that the pin in the head slips out. Never had to do a repair.

  13. paul

    performance bike run of the mill floor pump of 10 years still works fine other than having to account for the gauge starting at 11

  14. zeke

    I have two of the old Silca floor pumps. I replaced the cheap heads with good brass presta heads right from the start. I have one at home, and keep the other in my car (along with some spare tubes and tires) in case I encounter any broken-down riders on the road.
    Also, the Silca mini-pumps are great to keep in a jersey pocket. Better than any other mini-pump I’ve ever used.

  15. Dave

    I have a black 33 year old Silca floor pump, still with the Columbus sticker and still going strong. In fact I need to replace the leather pump washer for like the 3rd time. I’ve never seen a reason to get anything else.

  16. Telford

    Just ordered a new gasket for my Silca brass pump head that is 30+ years old. The new ones are made of silicon or some 21st century miracle material vs. rubber. I’ve replaced a Silca gauge and a coupe of leather washers, otherwise they’re the gift that keeps on giving…air.

  17. Mike the Bike

    As soon as I saw the title I knew there would be loads of comments. Where else on the web can you have a discuusion about bike pumps – that’s why I come here every day!

  18. Mr. De Facto

    I have a Silca pump sitting in the corner of my room. It was my first pump I bought… it’s maybe 20 years old. It still works but I prefer a Specialized pump which is a little newer that I use everyday. As for frame pumps Park Tool makes one of the nicest low cost pumps. It’s hit a few dogs and has saved many peoples CO2 fails. It’s lasted about 6 years so far.


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