We test five of the top Tubeless tire inflators of 2017. With options available for all budgets there is no longer any reason to struggle to seat a tubeless tire.
When it comes to marital harmony, there are few innovations that have brought such relief as the tubeless tire inflator. Anyone who has tried to mount a stubborn tire the night before a big ride will have experienced ‘the struggle’, that feeling of helplessness as you sweat furiously over a pump, swearing at your bruised knuckles and pulling sealant from your hair. But then someone invented the tubeless tire inflator and the world was well again.
How do tubeless tyre inflators work?
Tubeless tire inflators have a high-pressure cylinder that is charged with air from either an integrated floor pump or a separate pump, normally to a pressure of 140-200 psi depending on the model. The inflator is then connected to the tire and using a lever, the air is rapidly released, the rush of air forces the bead of the tire onto the rim and seals it tight. No swearing, no sweating, just an overwhelming sense of accomplishment. There are now models for every budget, but the first decision boils down to the following two choices:
“I already own a good floor pump”
If you already have a nice floor standing pump, a sound investment would be a ‘charge’ cylinder option like the Schwalbe Tire Booster (Airshot) or Specialized Air Tool Blast. Affordable, basic and more transportable, the independent charge cylinders deliver maximum blow for your money and are compact enough to leave in the boot of your car. However, a floor pump will still be needed to charge the pump and set the final pressures.
“I don’t have a good floor pump”
If you don’t own a nice floor pump, or if you are a regular tire swapper, then a fully integrated option may be a better investment. Specialist floor pumps like the Bontrager TLR Flash Charger, Lezyne Digital Overdrive and Topeak JOEBLOW BOOSTER integrates a standard floor pump with an additional second high-pressure cylinder. All these pumps have a gauge for setting correct tire pressures and can be used as a regular pump too.
What makes a good tubeless tyre pump?
The main function of the tubeless inflator is to deliver a large volume of air quickly enough to push even the most belligerent tire bead onto the rim, the faster the better. Pumps have a hard life so the build quality should be robust and durable enough to survive rattling around in the back of a van, or getting repeatedly kicked over in the garage. A dual pump head that works on Schrader and Presta is essential, and one that does not insist on winding out the valve core. A gauge is a bonus, as is a bleed valve allowing you to fine tune pressures without having to detach the valve.
To check out the function of each pump we exposed them to our workshop, there they were abused, kicked and generally mistreated. We tested on the dreaded combos of DH tires and wide rims, baggy tires and narrow rims and everything in between. Pump heads were challenged with long and short valve stems, and occasionally trodden on. We also set up a test lab and measured maximum flow rate to see how quickly the pump could deliver its charge (standardised at 60 psi for testing), the higher the number (liters/second) the faster the pump can blow air. A good pump is a necessary but infrequent purchase and should be expected to last for many years, so we spent a lot of time checking the build quality. At the end of testing there was one clear winner.
|Pump||Price||Weight||Flow rate (l/s)||One shot tire pressure||Features||Stability||Build Quality|
|Bontrager TLR Flash Charger||€ 129.99 €||2840 g||14.3||29 psi||****||****||**|
|Lezyne Digital Pressure Overdrive||€ 169.95||2460 g||15.4||40 psi||*****||****||*****|
|Schwalbe Tire Booster||€ 59.99||420 g||12.5||23 psi||*||**||****|
|Specialized Air Tool Blast||€ 59.90||2370 g||6.3||25 psi||*||****||**|
|Topeak JoeBlow Booster||€ 149.95||3230 g||9.1||28 psi||****||*****||****|
If you do not already have a nice floor pump, the Lezyne Digital Pressure Overdrive easily takes top honours in this test, the most powerful of the group with exceptional build quality. It is the king of pumps, the nemesis of the stubborn tire, and well deserving of space in anyone’s workshop. If you want a more affordable option, then the Schwalbe Tire Booster is the Best Value winner, basic but perfectly effective.
Learn more about the topic in our tubeless tutorial.