What is a Bicycle Pump?

Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum

Bicycle pumps are a type of manually operated pumps that are capable of inflating the tires of a bicycle. Most pumps of this kind are lightweight in design, and can inflate a bicycle tire in a matter of minutes. The simplicity of the bicycle tire pump makes it easy to operate in just about any setting, while the relatively small size of most bike pumps makes them easy to store.

Bicycle pumps are typically  simplistic in design.
Bicycle pumps are typically simplistic in design.

A bicycle pump usually comes in one of two configurations. The most common is known as the floor bicycle pump. This base of this pump is placed on the ground adjacent to the tire that requires inflation. The hose on the device is attached to the air valve on the bicycle, and a piston is moved up and down in the body of the pump, by means of a handle located at the top of the device. The piston drives air into the tube of the bicycle tire, gradually inflating the tire to the desired level.

Battery-powered pumps are used by those who are competing in races and need to get back on the track as quickly as possible.
Battery-powered pumps are used by those who are competing in races and need to get back on the track as quickly as possible.

Another common version of the bicycle pump is known as the hand pump. Like the floor model, this form of pump operates by using a piston to force air through a hose and into the tube of the tire. The difference is that this model can be held in the hands during the operation. A hand pump is often an ideal choice when going for a cross country trek on the bicycle, as it is small enough to fit into a saddle bag or a backpack with relative ease.

Both the hand and floor designs for the bicycle pump usually are equipped with a gauge that makes it possible to read the current amount of air pressure within the tire. This makes it much easier to know when the tire contains the amount of air recommended by the manufacturer of the tube and tire. Using the gauge to monitor air pressure while inflating a tire will minimize the opportunity for pumping too much air into the inner tube and possibly causing the tube to rupture.

Along with manually operated pumps, there are also versions of the bicycle pump that operate off battery power. A bicycle air pump of this type will sometimes include a safety feature that automatically cuts off the flow of air into the inner tube when a certain level of pressure is reached. Pumps of this type are often preferred by people who tire easily when using a conventional bike pump, or those who are competing in races and need to get back on the track as quickly as possible.

Hand pumps are popular among bicycle commuters.
Hand pumps are popular among bicycle commuters.
Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum

After many years in the teleconferencing industry, Michael decided to embrace his passion for trivia, research, and writing by becoming a full-time freelance writer. Since then, he has contributed articles to a variety of print and online publications, including wiseGEEK, and his work has also appeared in poetry collections, devotional anthologies, and several newspapers. Malcolm’s other interests include collecting vinyl records, minor league baseball, and cycling.

You might also Like

Readers Also Love

Discussion Comments


@Terrificli -- Don't forget about some tire patches, a few essential tools and some first aid necessities while you are putting together that road survival kit for your longer bicycle treks. A specialized bicycle pump that is made for portability should be a standard part of that emergency kit.

Now, let's make one thing clear. You should also get that floor bicycle pump. Using a portable one on the road is fine, but not much fun for use at home when you are replacing tires and such.


A lot of people make the mistake of simply buying a floor bicycle pump and figuring that is good enough. That pump will be great so long as you don't have any flat tires on the road.

And, yes, anyone who does any serious bicycling will wind up catching a flat on the road. If you happen to be miles away from home and your floor bicycle tire pump, then you have a real problem.

What can you do? Get a specialized bicycle pump made to travel with your bicycle so you can take care of that flat on the road. Those usually are not terribly expensive and can save you a lot of aggravation.

Post your comments
Forgot password?