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I realise that hand pumps seem to be road or MTB specific, but what is the difference between these pumps?

I am looking for one to pump up my road and my mountain bike.

4
  • What valve does your bike have? Probably Schrader, might be Presta.
    – Criggie
    Jan 8, 2022 at 11:06
  • Presumably this is a pump to take with you while riding. I prefer to carry a basic set of tools and spares on every bike I ride regularly. This is held in a waterproof/resistant bag or similar, and I can't forget it. So perhaps if you can swing it, one pump for each bike would be ideal.
    – Criggie
    Jan 8, 2022 at 11:22
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    Along with any other considerations, I highly recommend getting a pump with a hose that lets you brace the pump against the ground (e.g., something from the Topeak Morph line). They take half the muscle effort of pumps that you need to hold in both hands and isolate your tire valve from the force you are applying as you pump.
    – RLH
    Jan 8, 2022 at 20:06
  • @RLH I concur: I have a Road Morph that does the tourer and the MTB (only problem is the MTB is Schrader and I don't like swapping fittings in the dark) and keep a mini morph in my commuting backpack. That's a bit tedious but still better than many pumps.
    – Chris H
    Jan 14, 2022 at 16:24

3 Answers 3

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Pumps for road bikes are designed for low volume and high pressure and pumps for MTBs the other way round. If you try to use road bike pump with MTB, it will take much longer than necessary and if you use MTB pump on road bike, you'll have to push very hard and you still might end up with too low pressure.

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  • I disagree with road bike pump taking long time on an MTB. See my answer for explanation why a road bike pump on a road bike is exactly as fast as a road bike pump on a mountain bike.
    – juhist
    Jan 8, 2022 at 10:51
  • 1
    Edited, happy now?
    – ojs
    Jan 8, 2022 at 11:11
  • I use the same pump on all my bikes (every bike has its own). The pumps are not marked as road or MTB. Yes, it does take a while on MTB but the point for a pump to take on the bike is that it is bith light and small (compact). On one you have to fill a large volume, on the other you have to achieve large pressure. Either takes time but neither has to be done too often (not a single time in last few thousand of km). Jan 9, 2022 at 18:13
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I'd say in this case that a road bike pump is the optimal general purpose pump for all bikes, except maybe fatbikes because the pressure gauge isn't optimized for accurately reading low pressures. It can pump tires up to 11 bar.

The fun thing about tires is that all tires have about the same air overpressure volume. For example, if the tire is a 2 meter long tube, a 4.6" fatbike tire has 0.021 cubic meters of air. But it's at 0.4 bar overpressure so the overpressure air volume is 0.0086 cubic meters. Similarly, a 28mm road bike tire has 0.0012 cubic meters of air. But it's at 7 bar overpressure so the overpressure air volume is 0.0086 cubic meters too.

So, every tire you can pump, needs about 0.0086 cubic meters of more air at natural pressure than the tire holds at rest. If you take a road bike pump, and pump up a low pressure fatbike with it, it takes about the same time as pumping up the road bike too.

There are MTB specific pumps and fatbike specific pumps, too. They are faster than road bike pumps on a road bike (or on any bike), because they are optimized for pumping up very low pressure high volume tires. However, since pumping up a road bike takes exactly the same time as pumping up a mountain bike on a road bike pump, they are not necessarily needed. It's just a fun optimization that MTB and fatbike tires can be pumped up very fast on a low pressure high volume pump, but not necessary.

I'd say the only benefit from low pressure specific (high volume) pumps is that the pressure gauge is better suited for reading low pressures. If you have your fatbike tires pumped to 0.40 bar, and after a ride think that you want to reduce the pressure a bit, but only a bit, to 0.35 bar, try doing that on a road bike pump! The 0.05 bar difference is less than half percent of the max reading on a road bike pump!

You can obviously use a road bike pump and then check the pressure accurately with a low pressure tire pressure gauge. It's slightly more work, but should be fast enough.

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  • 1
    Do you mean track pumps or floor pumps rather than small handled pumps one puts in their jersey pockets? The problem with small high pressure pumps is that they compress a very small volume at atmospheric pressure. While your calculation makes sense its consequence is that pumping up a road bike tire is necessarily more tedious. For a MTB this can be made easier though (IE fewer strokes to reach 8.6e-3 m³).
    – gschenk
    Jan 8, 2022 at 20:41
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    Presumes a perfect pump where all compressed air is pushed into the tire. Ignores the compressed air left in the pump at the end of the stroke. A high volume pump has more space, so more compressed air does not end up in the high pressure tire.
    – mattnz
    Jan 9, 2022 at 1:08
  • You’ve clearly never had to inflate 2.5” 29er tire in a 2 deg C rain with a low volume/high pressure pump
    – Paul H
    Jan 11, 2022 at 18:03
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    @PaulH I have (well 2.3") with my Road Morph. Not a problem. That's the same pump a friend borrowed when getting a 700x28 to his preferred 90+PSI with a Pocket Drive got too much like hard work.
    – Chris H
    Jan 14, 2022 at 16:28
  • @gschenk a traditional road bike (frame) pump or a more modern equivalent is far better than a pocket pump, though I have used a couple of double-acting pocket pumps that got nearly there quite easily, but then got much harder. The dead-volume:total-volume ratio implied by mattnz's comment is better for longer pumps (and a short hose is beneficial)
    – Chris H
    Jan 14, 2022 at 16:31
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There is no significant difference between Road and MTB hand pumps.

I have https://www.crankbrothers.com/products/klic-hp-gauge for my MTB commuter and fell in love! Since it is designed for road bikes, and works well for my MTB, I would recommend it.

If it is possible, could you approach bike shops/mechanics, friends, co-ops and ask to test what they use?

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  • Welcome to the site - If I'm reading between your lines, the implied answer to the posted question is that "there is no significant difference between Road and MTB handpumps" ?
    – Criggie
    Jan 18, 2022 at 19:56

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