The pumps I've got include two frame-fit models -- a vintage Silca Impero, and a venerable classic Zefal HP-X, as well as two mini-pumps, a Serfas MP-3, and a Topeak RaceRocket HPX. The Serfas is one I'd bought a couple years ago, but the model is still available today, and the Topeak was the new pump I picked up to try out.
|From top: Zefal HP-X, Silca Impero, Topeak Race Rocket HP-X, and Serfas MP-3.|
|In using the Silca, it's good to wrap a hand around the tire and|
hold the head in place. It takes a bit of finesse, but it's effective.
The Silca frame fit pump has a couple of well-known unconventional uses.
Dog Defense Mode: Being chased by a big dog that you can't outrun? Frame-fit pumps excel for dog defense. The Silca has both good and bad going for it in dog defense mode. On one hand, the plastic barrel won't dent, so it's likely to shrug off a good thwack on a pursuing dog's head. On the other hand, if you're overly vigorous with the strike, you can crack the barrel, rendering the pump useless for tire-filling operations, so it's best to strike with the metal sleeve at the chuck end. Multiple strikes on particularly hard-skulled breeds can increase the likelihood of cracking the pump, so it's best to use the Silca as a last resort.
Cheating Italian Mode: Who can forget that heartbreaking scene from Breaking Away when the Colnago-riding Italians of Team Cinzano ditch Dave at the side of the road with a Silca pump jammed in the front wheel? Please don't use your Silca (or any other frame pump) for this purpose. It will probably render the pump useless, and going back to re-claim the pump afterwards could be awkward.
Zefal HP-X: Back in the day, cyclists-in-the-know were typically "Silca guys," or "Zefal guys." Zefal makes (and has made) a number of classic pumps over the years, but the HP-X has long been a good choice -- going back at least to the early '80s (the earlier version, known as just the "HP" goes back to the '70s). And it's still available -- expect to pay about $30. Supposedly one can still get it with the vintage-style silver body with black handles, but the all-black is a lot more common today. The Zefal has an aluminum body which will last a long time - but don't abuse it, as it can dent. It will still work with minor dents in it, but how well I couldn't say.
The Zefal isn't quite as light as the Silca, but it's easier to use and really built to last. It has a locking chuck which gives a good hold on the valve, meaning that one can use the beefy textured grip on the body instead of trying to hold the chuck in place on the valve stem. As I understand it, one can get replacement parts for the Zefal -- another good thing.
One of the unique features of the Zefal HPX is the 2-position spring switch. When set on the "X" setting, the spring can be compressed which allows the pump to fit snugly in the bike frame - either along the seat-tube, or the top-tube if one has a pump peg in place. When it's time to pump, you switch the pump to "HP" mode, which locks out the spring, making the pumping a bit easier. And it is easy. Like the Silca, I got the 33.3 mm tire up to riding pressure in about 70 strokes. However, as the pressure increased, the effort remained easier than on the Silca. If you were insistent on getting a tire up to 100 psi or more, this would definitely be your pump of choice. Am I kidding? Zefal claims it's good for over 170 psi!
Dog Defense Mode: The Zefal is the more durable choice for warding off dogs. Try to strike with the steel chuck-end of the pump, which also has the rubber grip, because a strike on a particularly thick-skulled dog with the aluminum shaft could leave a pretty sizable dent (in the pump, not the dog). As I mentioned, it might still work after that in tire-inflation mode, but will it still be as efficient? I don't know.
Cheating Italian Mode: Again, don't be an @$$hole - but if there were any pump that could be jammed into a bike's spokes and still work afterwards, it's probably the Zefal. But any frame pump is likely to be destroyed under such demanding conditions, so don't count on it.
|If you find this one in the shop today, it's likely to be|
silver, not black.
The pump has a head that accommodates both presta and schraeder valves (there are two holes - one for each), and there is a locking switch to hold it on the valve. With the switch on HV (high volume) mode, the little pump does seem to push a decent amount of air for such a small package. But as the pressure climbs, the effort climbs to the point of being an arm-breaking workout. I got about 70 strokes out of it and gave up when my biceps started throbbing, and the tire was still well below my preferred pressure according to the pinch test. What about the built-in pressure gauge? Well, it's very difficult to read when pumping, so it wasn't as useful as I'd have liked. But I think I got up to about 20 - 30 psi.
On HP (high pressure) mode, the effort didn't rise to arm-busting levels, but I got up to about 200 strokes and I still wasn't up to the desired pressure. Panting from the workout, I gave up with the tire still a bit squishy in the pinch test. The best way to use this stubby mini-pump is to start on HV mode, get as much air into the tire as you can muscle in (60 - 70 strokes for me) then flip the switch to HP and try to get the pressure up to an acceptable level. In my little test, that still took another 100 strokes, and the pressure gauge on the pump still wasn't rising above 30 psi (though I don't know how accurate it is) but the pinch test told me it was enough to ride home on.
Overall, I think the pump works better for lower pressures - so for the Bike Friday, or maybe even for mountain bike tires, it might be a decent choice. Expect to pay about $30.
Dog Defense Mode: No mini pump is going to work as well as a frame pump in dog defense mode, but the Serfas is pretty solid and chunky. I suppose you could throw it at a dog if you're confident in your aim.
Cheating Italian Mode: I wouldn't bother trying. By the time you got close enough to the spokes with this stubby little thing, you'd run as much risk of getting your hand in the wheel as the pump. So I'd say No Go.
Topeak RaceRocket HPX: This was the pump I recently acquired after hearing some good things about it. At about 10-inches, and rated for up to 160 psi, the HPX is supposed to be optimized for road bike tires. It may be slightly long for pocket-carrying -- one could carry it that way, but it will stick out pretty far in most jersey pockets. (And I don't carry any more than I need to in my jersey pockets) or it will fit into most larger saddlebags (like most Carradice bags) or handlebar bags. It also has a clip that lets it mount right next to a water bottle cage. All aluminum with a nice rubber grip on the handle, it's a decent looking pump. Carried on the frame, it is small enough and nice enough that it wouldn't be an eyesore, even on a classic steel frame (though an all-silver version might be a nice touch). It also seems to be well made. By the way, there is another version of the RaceRocket (non HPX) that is slightly smaller, at about 7-inches, rated for 120 psi, but otherwise pretty similar in style and apparently available in more colors. Expect to pay about $40 for the HPX, or $25 for the smaller non-HPX version.
In my test, the little Topeak took about 150 strokes to get my 33.3 mm tire up to riding pressure -- roughly double the number of strokes compared to the Zefal frame pump, but the effort was pretty consistent from start to finish, and the action of the pump was very smooth. Also, it didn't seem to get hot as the pressure increased, as mini pumps can sometimes do. Overall, I was impressed by the way the little pump worked. Having the hose attachment meant that I could get a good grip on the two ends of the pump, and didn't have to worry about the valve getting damaged from excess movement. Is it as efficient as a full-size frame pump? Of course not, but the smooth action and ease of use, combined with the small stow-able size make it a decent trade-off.
Dog Defense Mode: I don't think it has one. Pedal really really fast.
Cheating Italian Mode: Fully extended, maybe -- but with this pump, one might just have to win honestly.
Of the four pumps I tried, the Zefal is probably the best choice for a fully-functional frame-fit pump. +1 if you can find it in the more traditional silver finish. It's solid, efficient, and built to last. The vintage Silca is still a decent traditional choice if someone wants a no-frills frame fit pump and doesn't mind its quirks -- especially if the pump will be used on a vintage race bike. Although it isn't exactly a "retro-grouchy" choice, the Topeak is a good little pump that can be carried inconspicuously inside a saddlebag, making it suitable no matter what kind of bike you're on. Mounted on the frame, it also looks decent enough that it wouldn't spoil the looks of a classic ride, anyhow, as long as you weren't riding something like Eroica.