The Silca Pista


Of all the tools I have purchased for bike maintenance, my Silca Pista is the single oldest item I own. It’s reliable like a good dog. Like a dog, it’s not free, and it requires some work, but its operation is so familiar as to provide comfort.

Between all the different bikes I’ve owned, reviewed or wrenched on plus those bikes of teammates I’ve raced with, I estimate I’ve used it to take tires up to 8 bar more than 15,000 times.

I’ve had it so long, were it human it would be emancipated. At this point, it’s a bit like a commercial aircraft; The only parts I haven’t replaced are the base, barrel, handle and chuck. Hoses, grommets, gaskets, plungers and more, I’ve replaced everything else on this pump at least once. The miracle is that I have at times purchased new parts before actually needing them and then—after a year or three—have been able to find them to install.

There are pumps with bigger bases, bigger handles, larger diameter barrels, bigger gauges, but the Silca Pista remains my standard. Give me a smooth valve stem and a little shoulder room and I think I could run a kids’ balloon party.

Companies keep trying to top this baby but a quick lesson in physics taught me why larger diameter barrels don’t improve pumps; they actually increase the amount of force necessary to reach a given pressure. Not so bueno for cyclists who have the upper bodies of a T-Rex minus the green and the scales. That Columbus tube is laudable not for its pedigreed manufacturer, but rather its small diameter.

I’ll put it this way: If you ever enter my garage and can’t find my Silca Pista, call 911, because it’s been stolen.


  1. Jim Morehouse

    Ahh, the pain that seeing the photograph of your Silca give me! I had one from 1975 through 2002. I lost it in the divorce (don’t ask me how, it was a mistake), and it lives in Sacramento now. At least she uses it!

  2. TJH

    Mine is sitting next to me in my office. It too, along w/ my felco cutters, are the oldest pieces in my tool box. How they survived the several thefts I’ll never know. It’s still the most comfortable “one handed pump” handle ever made.

  3. Mikey Mike

    I own an orange Silca very similar to yours – a birthday precent from an old girlfriend back in 89-90. It is also my oldest surviving bike tool. I’ve replaced almost everything rubber/leather in the pump and fortuntely it presses on. Like myself, it does not perform as well today as it did 20 years ago. But, with a little finesse, it contiues to get the job done when needed. I’ll probably never be able to bring myself to replace it.

  4. David Sandberg

    In the early 1990’s I had a stripped down silca in the trunk of my car. I planned to refurbish it and replace my Medai floor pump with it. A family came into REI where I worked and they had broken a tent pole on a eureka family tent. We were unable to find a replacement pole in the cit for them so the base was cut off the Silca and it was slipped over the tent pole to form a repair sleeve. I guess there is more than one way to use a Silca pump.

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