Air pump: Occasional problems no reason to be deflated
July 16, 2009
It seems like there is only so much you can say about a floor pump used to inflate bicycle tires – either they work or they don’t.
Well, mine works well most of the time, but it isn’t perfect. The AirTool Sport from Specialized was a gift from my brother, who got sick of me repeatedly mashing down the plunger of my Silca floor pump, circa late 1980s, to inflate a tube. The Silca served me well for years, but the rubber washers that create a snug fit around a Presta valve wear out, so the fit doesn’t stay snug. When that happens, you either get a new washer or you pump about 50 times to inflate a tube. Washers are getting hard to find for that old model – so I just pumped 50 times.
I didn’t mind but, after witnessing my toil, my brother saw an opportunity to buy me a Christmas present I could actually use.
Therefore, I received the Specialized pump in time for cycling this spring. It is a standard pump with a gauge. It has something called SwitchHitter Head technology which somehow switches automatically between Presta and Shrader valves. (My townie bike has old-school Shrader valves, so it’s nice not having to fiddle with the pump to inflate different tubes.)
When working with the Presta valves on my mountain and road bikes, the Specialized pump works right off the bat 75 percent of the time. You just make sure the valve clamp is in the open position, press it firmly onto the valve, close the clamp and pump to the desired pressure. Usually it only takes just a couple of pumps. The pump has a long barrel that holds lots of air. The plunger is sturdy. The gauge is easy to read.
But about 25 percent of the time something goes haywire when the seal between the pump clamp and valve isn’t tight. I haven’t figured out the problem. I use the same amount of pressure, give or take a fraction, every time I try to make the connection, but sometimes it doesn’t work. I push down the plunger but the pump doesn’t actually fill the tube even though the gauge goes off the chart with pressure.
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No big deal, really. I just loosen the clamp, push down again and the connection is usually complete. After a couple of pumps, it’s happy-trails time.
The AirTool Sport retails for $30, according to the Specialized website.