It was time to enter into the Great Pump Showdown. Gary and I got conscripted to give tire inflation/fixing demonstrations to a semi-local group of BoyScouts. We put together a fairly comprehensive lesson on tire repair, fixing tubes, inflating tires, and the use of all the tools involved. In preparation we gathered our floor and frame pumps. Gary has the Blackburn Basic Floor Pump. I own the Topeak Joe Blow PX.
When we showed up at the scene Carmelita assisted in our setup and donated the use of her floor pump as well. She has the Serfas Airbones.
Things started slowly as a few Boy Scouts meandered through but quickly things degenerated into us pumping tires like madmen. Roughly 200 scouts came through, 90% of which needed some form of tire repair or inflation. 200 scouts means 400 tires! Plus several parents brought their bikes as well.
So, the stage was set for the pump showdown. Both Gary and I came armed with our own familiar reliable pumps but with the hectic nature of the day, we each had to use which ever pump was closest to us. In the process we each gathered some observations about the pumps.
So as you might have guessed we spent about six hours at non-stop pumping. Due to the small nature of these tires and the limited room in which to work, the following observations were rapidly made.
1. The valve attachment device needs to be compact, the Blackburn was best in this area.
2. The valve seal mechanism needs to function easily with a minimum of clearance, the rotating collar arrangement of the Blackburn was best in this area.
3. The sheer number of tires we had to inflate required a large volume of air to be delivered with each stroke. The Blackburn once again prevailed in this area as well.
4. If you gave the Scout a chance to pump some of his own air, the force required to pump the tire to acceptable pressure had to be less than they weighed or they simply lifted themselves off the ground rather than delivering the final bolus of air!... OK the Blackburn did require more force than the rest so for diminutive pumpers perhaps the Topeak or the Serfas might serve better here!
So, for short answers I like the Blackburn basic floor pump. This product has been servicing my inflation needs for several years now, and in addition to my needs it has also delivered the goods for various riders on our club rides, and it got quite a workout this weekend as well. I have done absolutely no Preventive Maintenance on this pump, in fact the only time I think about it is when I use it, so it has performed a yoeman's service with nary a complaint.
The only shortfall I have discovered is that the schrader valve side of the valve attachment mechanism can be popped off at higher pressures if you are not careful in the attachment. This never happened at the lower pressure of the kids tires, but it has happened at road tire pressures of 90 lbs or more. Most road tires are now presta valves but if you have an old ten speed this could be a factor!
I rate the blackburn pump a ten out of ten! It works, it's cheap, it has lasted thus far!
I wasn't able to really gather too much info about the Serfas pump because on the 2 or 3 times I tried to use it, the valve head popped off or wouldn't seat well enough to actually pump a tire. If I didn't have access to another pump that I knew functioned, I might have tried harder to get it to work. Beyond that the pump looks cool, nice blue color.
The Topeak pump was a very reliable workhorse. It had no problems pumping oodles of tires. Even with the limited work space of small wheels, I was able to fit the valve head in and clamp onto valves to pump tires, endlessly. The valve head is both schrader and presta so it easily pumps my wheels to 140psi and gets the child sized tires to 45psi. My only complaint about the valve head is that a bit of air squeezes out around the valve. Other than that, exceptional. The gauge on the Topeak is the easiest to read of the three pumps. The Topeak gauge is raised up to the top of the pump making it closer to the pumper and hence, more visible. Also, it has bigger numbers in brighter colors. Plus, there is a colored pressure marker. The pump handles on the Topeak are flattened to increase the grip area. This makes it more comfortable to use then the other two, especially at higher pressure inflation. In addition to the flatter handle there is a rubber cushion built in to the grip which also adds to the comfort factor. As far as volume goes, I think the Topeak is pretty comparable to any other pump on the market. Its gauge goes to 160 psi and I am sure it could get you there pretty easily if you needed it. Like I stated earlier, I use 140psi in my tires and it goes there with out hesitation.
The Blackburn pump is a perfectly legitimate competitor. It worked flawlessly every time I used it. Its particular strength is its high volume. It quickly gets most tires up to pressure with only a few shots. The only downside is that the additional volume means a slight increase in energy required to pump the cylinder. Its valve head is an unusual design in that you rotate the collar to clamp it onto the tube. This had advantages and disadvantages. Its good because it allows the valve head to fit in tight places. Its bad because its a bit awkward to use. I prefer the standard side switch valve of the Topeak. On the Blackburn, the gauge is all the way on the bottom. This coupled with the the fact that the numbers and lines are kind of fine, make it hard to read even for someone with perfect vision. The same goes for the Serfas pump. Beyond these features the Blackburn is a pretty textbook reliable pump.