The Silca SuperPista Ultimate Floor Pump

The Silca SuperPista Ultimate Floor Pump

Of the many lessons my parents instilled in me, one concerned the value of quality. They always wanted me do to my best. Similarly, they believed it was better to purchase the superior item, even if it meant waiting and saving. Somewhere in the depths of my gray matter, those beliefs are related to my decision to become a writer. That I’ve had the opportunity to chase this career is one of their most important gifts to me, a way to teach their grandchildren about them in years to come.

I mention this because my ability to appreciate superlative work owes as much to my parents as my training as a writer. The problem is that whole “champagne taste on a beer budget.” So while I can fully grok the wonderfulness of a Tissot chronograph, there isn’t a scenario in which I’m ever going to drop $5k on a watch. It also seems unlikely that I’ll ever purchase a BMW M6 new, or score a 10-year vertical of Screaming Eagle. Instead, I invested in some of the finest bikes made.

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But while most of the world sees luxury as an absolute, items that are walled off by the glossy pages of the Robb Report, it is perhaps better defined as those little excesses we grant ourselves on special occasions. They can be a nice way to mark a terrific milestone, like the tandem friends of mine bought for their wedding, or the Campagnolo Record group a buddy picked up after his divorce. Wink.

Much has been made of the $450 price tag on the Silca SuperPista Ultimate floor pump. It is to floor pumps what Keith Moon was to drums. Actually, that’s not quite fair. As beloved a figure as Moonie remains in the hearts of Who fans, he was, shall we say, a drummer of approximate artistry. And there is nothing approximate about the SuperPista Ultimate. No, the percussive analog to the SuperPista Ultimate would more properly be Rush’s Neil Peart. His body of work is criticized as overblown, but also praised as thunderous and precise, performed with note-for-note faith to the studio recording and as unapologetic as the sun. He is to be loved or left.

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This is exactly what the SuperPista Ultimate is.

I can prattle on about the cast zinc base which was as difficult to craft as a cease fire but makes this inflator the single most stable floor pump ever conceived, as well as the one least offended by cycling cleats. I could bore you with talk of the 17-4 stainless steel used in the chuck. Just talking about the tooling required to knurl the chuck numbs tissue more effectively than opiates. The stunningly cool magnetic chuck dock that won’t ever wear out and the aircraft hose that will stand up to 12,000 psi are the antidote to half-assed. Really, those are just details, brush strokes that make no sense individually, but in aggregate add up to a breathtaking work that transcends time. Consider for a moment just the moon of Van Gogh’s The Starry Night.

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When I mention the laboratory-grade pressure gauge that’s accurate to +/- 1 percent, however, that’s worth paying attention to, especially if you’re a mountain biker or a road rider running fat tires on loose surfaces. Hell, totalitarian governments don’t exercise this much control.

Try not to laugh when I tell you that the stroke of the SuperPista Ultimate is so long that I was unaccustomed to drawing the handle (a fine rosewood turned by hand) to my chin to begin each stroke. Srsly. I had to relearn how to pump.

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It is fitting that the legacy of Silca, for decades the world’s finest floor pumps, should shift from Italy to the U.S. When we think of the greatest bastion of the steel frame, Italy holds that mantle with the relaxed grace of a ballerina. However, the United States has stepped forward as the home to the densest concentration of custom frame builders on the planet, usurping Italy the way the son bests the father. This is the order. Should not the U.S. also be the home to the finest floor pump ever conceived?

To appreciate this pump you must look with different eyes. If you only consider inflation and pressure regulation as distractions that delay the start of your ride, you’ll never understand this pump. I can’t tell you that $450 isn’t an obscene amount of money to move air from outside a tire to within it; it is. But that’s not how you should decide whether or not to purchase this pump.

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What this pump represents is a testament to passion and mastery. It’s the result of one of the brightest minds in cycling—Josh Poertner—unleashed on a problem with the full of his intelligence. This isn’t a pump—it’s the pursuit of greatness. The issue here is that we of modest means can rarely afford what will be the finest expression of an article for less than $500. This device is heirloom quality. When you are gone, this effort will still be unequaled and your children will fight over this thing, for it isn’t a bike accessory, it’s an articulation of excellence. And yes, your children will fight over it, because you bought only one. Your grandchildren will think you cool because you went all-in on an afterthought. You’ll be lionized as a person for whom no task was too small to care about. In the Silca’s perfect splendor you, like my parents, will be remembered for generations.

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24 comments

  1. Andrew

    Ok. I usually weigh in here on the side of frugality, but I confess that this grabs me. There are very few times you can get the absolute best for a (relatively) small amount of money. I think about in ear monitors the same way- I can’t afford to dabble in high end speakers, but headphones are a way I can taste “the best”.

    Moon vs Peart- you are comparing Van Gogh to a great draftsman. Please.

  2. Sophrosune

    This is the finest argument in defense of this pump’s price tag I could have imagined. It’s worthy of Cicero.

  3. Dane Clark

    Being retired I must save, and save I will. My SILCA Super Pista was recently stolen, so I purchased a lesser expensive pump ($100.00) which I will donate to a worth person once I by my new SILCA

  4. Rich

    When you write about a certain brand of expensive shorts I can’t get interested. One crash or a few years and their done. But this pump. I would be in if I had the cash laying around. I’ve used a Silca pump for 20 years as my only pump. In that time I have oiled it 2 or 3 times and replaced the chuck gasket maybe 3 times.

  5. Scott Buschlen

    Funny you should include Neil Peart as an analogy in your review as he has been an avid cyclist in the past and would certainly see the greatness of the pump in question.

  6. Rob

    I’m just happy that the new Silca website indicates that they are continuing to produce the service parts for the old pumps. I bought mine in 1983 and it’s probably the oldest thing I own that I bought new.

  7. MCH

    Why by a Patek Phillipe when you can buy a Timex that does the same thing for thousands less? Because you’re primary motivation is something other than price.
    The new Silca is a beautiful piece. The only failing that I see, is that the gauge is not mounted at the top of the pump so that old guys like me (the likely target audience) can see it.

  8. Pat O'Brien

    Thanks, Padraig. Your parents were right. My Dad, who was a machinist, told me to buy the best tools I could afford, and like your folks said, save up if necessaary to buy a quality tool instead of the cheap one. Then take care of them and don’t loan them out, especially if you make a living with them. I still have and use his Star machinist’s chest and Reed micrometer that he bought right after WW II. A floor pump is a tool. I spent $500 for a set of 3 kitchen knives. Made in the US, Benchmade, of 440C steel. I have used them allmost daily for the last 5 years, and other than steeling, I have only sharpened them once. I will not have to buy another set. I wish I had bought a quality set 25 years ago.

  9. AusTex

    Excuse me while a drink a glass of water to wash down the bile that came up into my mouth whilst reading this shameless endorsement for excess. Is it not bad enough that the cycling industry has seduced millions into the latest and greatest without any credible evidence? My wheels are rounder than yours? By shaving 8 ounces from your (insert part here) you will win the Alpe D’huez when in fact you will never even ride in Europe and a 1 mile 7% grade is enough to leave you gasping for air and reconsidering life in general?

    I’m a salesman and my father told me to never waste money. Face it, there is a difference between “want” and “need” and this is clearly in the “want” paddock. I could afford this and not blink, but I am smart enough to buy a fine pump for $100 which even if it lasts only 5 years will be fine with me. And with the $350 left in my pocket I can buy something else, take the family out for a memorable meal or donate it to any one of a number of charities.

    “A fool and his money are soon parted”

    1. Pat O'Brien

      Well, $100 pump lasts 5 years, in 20 years you spend $400. And it probably goes to China and, just maybe, a small part to a “corporate headquarters” in the US. Seems to me that $350 dollars for a meal might just fall into the category of excess. But a gourmet meal in a exclusive restaurant with a top chef? A real culinary delight? Maybe that falls into the same category as a $450 dollar pump.

  10. wheelman61

    What does it say on your masthead? “The Soul of Cycling”. Sounds like the soul is sold on $10K bikes, $500 bib shorts, $450 luxury pumps etc. I’m sure I’ll be back to check out your next product plug in a few years, in the meantime you might want to do a bit soul searching…Wait, I think see it now under the AMEX card on top of the cash register!

  11. Maremma Mark

    I “get” it, having a pump like this would certainly be a joy to use. But my regular Silca track special still works just fine after years of service. I would like to try one of these though, just for the experience. A weekend would be enough I think.
    And speaking of drummers, if I had wanted to draw a parallel of excellence between a musician, with this finely crafted tire inflating instrument, then I would have chosen the incomparable Elvin Jones. Once you’ve listened to him and the magic he performed with John Coltrane, I bet you would agree.
    BTW, I don’t find it incongruous that you review products like this. Sure, not many of your readers will rush out to purchase one of these, but where’s the harm in knowing about it?

  12. Timojhen

    It’s on my list. This will need to happen eventually for me, largely because every time I’ve owned something which built with uncompromising focus, I’ve never regretted it. It’s the reason that I own a few Snap-On tools, haven’t regretted those either.


  13. Author
    Padraig

    Everyone: Thank you for your comments; writing this piece was a real treat and connecting with passion is job one here. Those of you who, like me, still own a Silca that’s been in faithful service for a couple of decades, I suspect that Josh and crew are proud just to keep it in service rather than have you kick it aside for the new girl.

    Oh, and Elvin Jones is badass, full stop, but there wasn’t anything controversial about him and I needed an example with a dose of friction. Anyone who dislikes Elvin’s playing doesn’t understand jazz.

    1. Pat O'Brien

      Or like Donald “Duck” Dunn’s bass line in “Shake a Tail Feather” from the Blues Brothers soundtrack.


  14. Author
    Padraig

    Nick: As it happens, I don’t think my Silca (ca. 1990) will fall into disuse or neglect. I’ve begun leaving it in my car so that I always have a floor pump when I travel.

    Pat: Great tune, great bassist. I played with his nephew Brad, in high school. Talented dude; he still plays, though these days it’s mostly with my best friend from high school, also a drummer.

  15. Dan Harkins

    I have this pump. Too expensive? Not in my eyes. Excessive? Again, not in my eyes. I hold it in the same orbit as the bicycles whose tires it inflates. Like those wonderful bikes it makes me smile ever single time I use it. Beauty and value are in the eyes ( and heart) of the beholder.

  16. Jim Merz

    I just got mine. This is the real deal, I love it! The Snap-On analogy is a good one. It will last more than a lifetime, giving satisfaction all the while. Hey if that is elitist then that is what I am! Good story Patrick.

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