Floor pumps are stand-up pumps with footrests and a double-gripped handle. They are too bulky to bring along on a ride, but they're a necessity in any cyclist's garage. Their size allows for more air to be moved with each pump, and they can handle projects needing higher pressure than smaller pumps. Since floor pumps can generate large quantities of air, it's a good idea to buy one with a pressure gauge to prevent over-inflation.
Frame pumps are handheld pumps, which as the name suggests, can be affixed to the outer frame of most bicycles. Due to their smaller size, frame pumps have less air volume than floor pumps, therefore take longer to fill a tire. They also have more difficulty filling tires to high pressure. However, they make up for their smaller volume capacity with mobility, coming in very handy when a cyclist finds his tires low out on the trail.
Smaller and more lightweight versions of the frame pump, mini pumps can be affixed to the interior of bike frames or fit within a jersey pocket, taking up a negligible amount of space and adding minimal weight to a bike. With their smaller size, it can take more time to fill a tire than with a frame pump, but many riders are willing to sacrifice the time for a lighter overall ride.
CO2 inflators are comprised of small cartridges containing compressed air that screw into a hand-held "trigger" device. These can inflate a bicycle tire in seconds, making them popular among racers. These lightweight kits can be carried in a frame bag or even a rider's pocket. While they are not reusable like traditional pumps, the CO2 inflators' size and weight make it possible to carry several cartridges on a ride.
Air compressors are electrical-powered pumps designed for inflating car tires and powering pneumatic tools. Capable of generating enormous pressure, air compressors are capable of inflating a bike tire in seconds, so they can be handy when filling a tire. They are also capable of bursting a bike tire in seconds, so it pays to be careful when using one by checking the tire pressure with a pressure gauge every few seconds as the tire inflates.
Article Written By Billy Brown
Billy Brown is an outdoor sports writer living in Northern California.
An avid rock climber and trail runner, he's been writing about outdoor activities, fitness and gear since 2005. He regularly contributes to "The Record Searchlight," uncooped.com, and Trails.com, as well as other print and online publications. Brown holds a Bachelor of Arts in psychology from Simpson University and is a NASM-certified personal trainer.