Nothing can ruin your happy family bike ride any faster than a flat tire, out on the trails or deep into the park. What is really frustrating? When you have a road pump along with you, neatly mounted on the frame and ready to inflate that soggy tire – but it’s the wrong kind of pump.
I see this happening all the time, where the kids’ bikes have the sturdy old Schrader valve (the American design where you can top up the tire at any gas station air pump), but Mom and Dad have higher-end cycles with the slimmer Presta or French valve that came in with narrower tires and you often find on your higher-price cycles.
What the family man in charge of bike maintenance needs, is a good lightweight road pump to work with both kinds of bike tube valves.
Lightweight Bike Tire Pump for Presta or Schrader Valves
Here’s my pick:
Topeak has come up with a truly powerful mini-pump here. You can put in a backpack or pannier bag if you don’t want to mount it on your frame, but it does come with a mounting bracket included.
Now, I’m not wild about the mounting bracket, which is a tight fit on a thicker frame as on Junior’s mountain bike and has a rubbery loop that probably will crack in a couple of years of UV exposure, but that is a small complaint – especially as it is a low cost for the quality.
I really really like the small size. Seriously portable. The whole pump measures less than 9 inches long (the shaft part is about 6 inches).
It delivers “up to 160 psi” in air-pushing power as the Topeak Cycling guys say. I haven’t measured the pressure or done the math to figure out how much air it will pump with each stroke, but I can tell you a slightly out of shape man can pump up his kid’s bike tire fast without breaking a sweat.
Construction-wise, the Pocket Rocket has an aluminum alloy shaft with grippy plastic handle and the head is that fancy Kraton polymer stuff, which doesn’t mean much to me but it might to you. There’s a cap to keep the dust and crap out, too, and that’s a good thing.
To switch between a Schrader and a Presta valve, all you do is open up the nozzle head, flip the innards around, and close it up again.
Personally I am just as happy that I don’t have to carry a separate adapter, because that’s just too easy to forget at home or drop on the trail. With this Topeak design, your converter is right there inside the pump when you need to change from one valve nozzle to another.
Sure, for bikes with Schrader valves, you can just pump up at the local gas station of course. At home, you’ll probably want to use one of those floor pumps or a automotive air pump with a converter, to make a fast job of inflating the kid’s soft inner tube, but you can’t exactly strap that onto your bike frame and hit the road. But that’s no help if you’re out for a family bike ride and nowhere near an air stop, especially if you’ve got a variety of bike with different kinds of valves on the tires.
You could get an adapter to convert a pump from Schrader to Presta (or vice versa) of course, but that’s one more piece of gear to remember to bring every time you go out for a family bike ride, one more hassle you don’t need.
No, what the well-prepared Dad wants is a small but powerful bike pump that is so light you won’t feel like the family pack mule whenever you go out for a spin, but you can count on to do the job if one of your pack gets a flat.
It’s just a bonus that my favorite portable little bike pump has a goofy name. For some reason, the kids don’t mind taking a turn at inflating the tires on the family bike fleet, when they get to use a “Pocket Rocket Master Blaster” to do it. I think they’re seeing it as some kind of superhero weapon. Come to think of it, they may have a point there!
Featured photo: Family bike ride by r.nial bradshaw