There are a few tools every cyclist should own. A decent set of Allen keys, ideally a torque wrench – and a track pump. Yes, you could get away with a smaller frame-mounted or mini pump, but nothing gets a tyre up to pressure like their bigger brother.
Bikes are at their best when tyres are running at their ideal pressure, which will help them roll smoothly and keep punctures to a minimum – though sadly there’s nothing you can do to prevent punctures altogether. And if you’re taking your bike to a race or sportive, having a track pump with you before the event will help your pre-ride routine.
We’ve tested many pumps this year, and these five are our picks of the bunch. All are suitable for both Presta and Schrader valves, with a variety of different head units. We’ve also given a full rundown their weights and measures. And after spending hours pumping 23mm tyres up to a pressure of 100psi, we let you know just how many – or how few – strokes that required.
Looking for a more portable pump? Try our Best mini pumps for road cyclists roundup.
What to look for when buying a track pump
Base: Weight isn’t much an issue for a track pump, though a heavier base with a larger footprint will offer more stability. Our test pumps tended to have a pair of feet either side of the barrel or a triangular base. The latter gives more stability, but there’s little to choose between them.
Head: All our test pumps are suitable for both Presta and Schrader valves. Some have a single head unit with reversible washers to switch between the different systems, while others have separate heads. Most of our test pumps have chucks that push on to the valve, with a locking lever to keep them in place, though a couple of them have screw-on chucks. These offer a very secure seal but some designs can unscrew the Presta valve’s core if you’re not careful.
Gauge: All our test pumps come with pressure gauges. Some are mounted on the top, some at the bottom, and some have a pointer so you can set your chosen pressure. They vary a lot in size, so check these out before purchasing, especially if you have trouble with your eyesight.
Hose: Broadly speaking, the longer the hose, the more convenient it is. If your bike’s on a workstand a longer hose will be an advantage. ]
Digital: It’s a moot point whether you need to go digital, but one of our test pumps has gone down that route. It adds cost, of course, but if all your music, TV and entertainment is now digital, then why not your track pump too?
Best track / floor pumps
Birzman Zacoo Maha III – best on test
£49.99 / US$76 / AU$100
- Strokes to 100psi: 20
- Weight: 1.32kg
- Height/stroke length: 64/53cm
- Hose: 120cm
Birzman’s oddly named pump has a couple of distinctive features, not making do with a single USP. The first is that the barrel is not vertical, but is offset by five degrees; Birzman claims that this is ‘for ergonomic comfort’, though we noticed little difference from a standard upright pump. More significant for day-to-day use is Birzman’s unique ‘Snap-It’ valve. This combines the security of a screw-in chuck without the chance of accidentally unscrewing the Presta valve core, which can happen with some screw-on heads. Yes, it’s a fraction slower to use than a push-on head, but there’s never any chance of increasing pressure blowing the chuck off the valve. And Birzman knows what it’s doing too, as the Snap-It works very well indeed. The rest of the pump is equally impressive. It reached a 100psi in 20 strokes, the real wooden handle is comfortable, the wide base is very stable and the pumping action – thanks to the large diameter shaft – is reassuringly solid. The hose is 120cm long. Not sure what that Zacoo Maha moniker is all about, but this is a great quality pump at a very, very good price.
The Zacoo Maha III is now called the Maha-Apogee III, and is essentially the same, aside from some slight refinement to the pump head and a slightly longer pump barrel.
£99.99 / AU$N/A
- Strokes to 100psi: 20
- Weight 1.45kg
- Height/stroke length: 62/52.5cm
- Hose: 110cm
Most pumps are happy to make do with a good ol’ analogue gauge. Not Truflo, with its digital-age Digitrack pump (there’s a clue in the name, see). Is there anything wrong with analogue? Nope, it has served us well for hundreds – or thousands – of years. But hey, this is the 21st century. That said, this is a pleasingly straightforward pump to use, with a bright and very clear display that even our middle-aged tester’s eyes could read without squinting. You can set your chosen pressure, it’ll take tyres up to a whopping 240psi and it does it quickly – reaching 100psi in just 20 strokes with no backbreaking effort. The head switches easily between Presta and Schrader valves, it is very stable and has an air of durability about it all. And after a few minutes of downtime it turns itself off to maximise battery life. Yes, the hose could have been a tad longer, but at 110cm it’s easily long enough for most situations. Other than that, though, the price is our only quibble.
Specialized Airtool Sport
£30 / US$40 / AU$50
- Strokes to 100psi: 21
- Weight: 1.47kg
- Height/stroke length: 64/47cm
- Hose: 110cm
The mighty Specialized empire has eight track pumps in its range, but apart from its more portable Airtool Compak, they all same the same basic format, one that has been familiar for years. Probably the greatest strength of the design is the wide triangular base, which is very stable – and on the Airtool Sport it’s made from steel, so it should be plenty tough enough even if this is a budget model. This is accompanied by a 110cm long hose, a tough plastic handle and Specialized’s own head that switches easily between Presta and Schrader valves. The floor-mounted gauge isn’t that large, but the silver figures on black background design is very easy to read and shows just how efficient the Airtool Sport is, reaching 100psi in 21 strokes. This has a performance that matches that of much more expensive pumps, and you’ve the security of buying from one of cycling’s biggest names. If you’re looking for a quality track pump and haven’t got an inflated budget, this should be very near the top of your list.
£29.99 / US$N/A / AU$N/A
- Strokes to 100psi: 22
- Weight: 1.25kg
- Height/stroke length: 67/53cm
- Hose: 120cm
The online giant Wiggle’s own-brand kit bears the Lifeline name, and it’s a range that has garnered a reputation for producing high-quality products at very good prices – and its Professional Track Pump follows that trend. This might be the most expensive of Lifeline’s three track pumps though it still has an exceptionally attractive price. But there’s nothing budget about this pump’s build quality, and it has the sort of features and performance you’d typically find on much dearer pumps and a full-length 120cm hose. It has a steel barrel and piston, and we particularly like the comfortable real wooden handle and the small but very chunky anodised head unit with an air-release valve is exactly the same as that found on pumps at over twice the price. The lever pushes up to lock, and it’s a quick switch between Presta/Dunlop and Schrader. The gauge isn’t that big, but it is reasonably easy to read and has a bezel so you can stop when you hit your chosen pressure. 100psi pressure was reached in 22 strokes.
Airace Veloce Aluminium
£79.99 / AU$N/A
- Strokes to100psi: 21
- Weught 1.53kg
- Height/stroke length: 67/52.5cm
- Hose: 120cm
The aluminium Airace has a shiny silver futuristic look and it’s far from cheap. But it does at least back its price up with a reassuringly durable feel and an excellent all-round performance: we got our 23mm road tyre up to 100psi in 21 fuss-free strokes. The large diameter shaft ensures a good, solid and efficient pumping action, the metal handle is very comfortable and the wide, solid base very stable. The hose is a decent 120cm long too. And though the floor-mounted gauge is on the small size, it is still very clear and pleasingly easy to read – with a little metal pointer on the bezel to set your pressure. The build quality is first rate, and though the head unit with its compact locking lever is also seen on much less expensive pumps, it works very well indeed, creating a very secure seal. The only thing that we don’t like about the Airace Veloce is its slightly high price, but with spares available, this pump should last even the busy home cycle mechanic years.
Lezyne Sport Floor Drive
£37 / US$50 / AU$60
- Strokes to 100psi: 26
- Weight: 1.5kg
- HEIGHT/stroke length: 66/54cm
- Hose: 120cm
The wooden construction of the Sport Floor Drive’s handle is a welcome change to all this plastic everywhere. It took a little longer than we expected to get a tyre up to pressure, but Lezyne has still created a seriously good pump. Everything works well, the composite base and steel barrel and piston giving it excellent stability. The wooden handle is paired with a twin-headed chuck that has a reassuringly solid metal locking lever. Add a small but easy to read gauge, a long hose and a wallet-friendly price and this is another pump well worth considering if you don’t want to spend big bucks.
Specialized Airtool UHP
£80 / US$90 / AU$140
- Strokes to 100psi: 39
- Weight: 1.47kg
- Height/stroke length: 64/48cm
- Hose: 115cm
The UHP stands for ultra high pressure – and this can go up to 350psi! Yes, this is overkill for road bikes, but it is also designed to get mountain bike suspension systems up to pressure in much less time than a standard shock pump. This does translate to more strokes being needed to get a road tyre up to 100psi – but not more effort, as the pumping action at this pressure is very, very light. In fact, this makes it well suited to riders who find standard track pumps too hard to use. The screw-on Presta chuck is very secure, the wide triangular gripped aluminium base suitably sturdy.
Axiom Annihilateair G200 LE
£80 / AU$120
- Strokes to 100psi: 19
- Weight: 1.8kg
- Height/stroke length: 74/56cm
- Hose: 120cm
Axiom isn’t joking when it says that its pumps are made to be ‘exceptionally fast’, taking just 19 strokes to get us to 100psi. It did take a while to loosen the chuck’s locking lever before we could use it. This was exceptionally stiff to start, but a minute or two spent flicking it back and forth paid dividends with a fast and efficient performance. It has a wide, stable base – with very serious rivet-like grips – a clear gauge and a long hose. The grips and head are replaceable too, which suggests that this is in it for the long haul.
- Park Tool PFP8 – 3 stars
- XLC Alpha Steel – 3 stars
- Zefal Profil Max FP70 – 3 stars
- Topeak Joe Blow Race – 3 stars
- Cannondale Airport Plus – 3 stars
- Pedro’s Prestige – 3 stars
- SKS Airworx 10.0 – 3.5 stars
- SKS Airmenius – 3.5 stars