All Charged Up

All Charged Up

I’ll admit, for a long time I didn’t think there were many new ideas that you could cogitate where floor pumps were concerned. Really, how many things could a pump do that they didn’t already do? A more accurate gauge? Fewer strokes to full inflation? A more stable base? A longer hose? An easier chuck? All those roads were paved, so to speak. The only options were to smoothe that pavement.

Or so I thought.

The emergence of tubeless tires sent many home mechanics to the hardware store to buy a compressor. Some of us just visited the bike shop. One friend blew a tire off the rim at a gas station. More recently companies have begun to introduce pumps with a second chamber, one that can be pressurized to release a big blast of air at once. Among those is Topeak’s Joe Blow Booster. It’s basically a standard Joe Blow floor pump fitted with that second chamber, which can pressurized to 160 psi to give one huge blast of air to seat a tubeless tire.

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That secondary chamber runs roughly the length of the pump and has a significantly larger diameter to hold a large volume of air. Pumping the chamber up to 160 psi will, rather predictably, take a while, but it will easily seat large mountain bike tires, though 27.5″ x 3.0″ “plus” tires will tax its capacity. To manage a tire that large, you must max out the pressure and make sure the tire is positioned optimally on the rim. If anything is off, forget it.

To pressurize the pump, simply turn the gauge at the dial to “charge” and then once pressurized, turn the dial back to “inflate.” Voila! Seated tire. I’ve found it’s often necessary to pump the tire up to its maximum recommended pressure immediately afterward and then gently circulating the sealant around the sides of the tire slowly to give the sealant the opportunity to do its thing.

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I’m seeing more and more pumps these days with a pressure release valve, so that you can overinflate a tire and then gently correct into the ideal pressure. However, most of these valves are fitted on the chuck, and it can be difficult to both see the gauge and depress a tiny button on the chuck. Topeak realized that placing the pressure release at the top of the hose, as close as possible to the gauge, was a much smarter approach.

The gauge is clearly marked and positioned at the top of the charge chamber to make it as easy to read as possible.

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The chuck is Topeak’s “SmartHead,” which accepts either Presta or Schrader valve stems without changing parts or flipping adapters. Simply push it on and flip the lever. It also features a longer-than usual hose, which at 60 inches is the longest I’ve encountered.

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This is a heavy (more than 6 pounds), heavy-duty pump. When I picked it up I worried that the base wouldn’t be big enough to maintain stability, but the formed steel has proven to keep the pump upright, even when bumped by little people, ahem. It goes for $159.95.

What I like best about this pump is certainly the charge chamber, but almost as important is that unlike many mountain bike pumps that go for giant barrels to allow you to move large volumes of air but become difficult to pump north of 30 psi, the Joe Blow Booster uses a relatively narrow barrel which makes it easy for anyone to use.

Final thought: A must-have for the tubeless rider.

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15 comments

  1. MattC

    oohhhh…that’s a seriously nice floor pump…kind ‘a pricey, but considering I do NOT (yet) have a compressor and have to take my tubeless wheels to the gas station (or work) to inflate, this would be pretty sweet. Maybe I can wrangle this for Xmas…it’s coming quick all of a sudden…I’ll put it in my Amazon wish list! Nice review Padraig…love it when there’s reviews on stuff I actually can use AND isn’t quite out of the cost realm of possibility!

  2. chuckster

    Good stuff and good review!

    I really think this is the direction all floor pumps should be headed. For what it does, that seems like a sane price point, especially if your preferences head towards Silca. I have the Topeak “Ace” pump w/ two barrels that can do high volume but it definitely can’t seat most new tubeless setups. At a minimum, tubeless is near standard on mountain bikes and many people have at least one of those in their collection – MTB is never going back to tubes I think, and other types of riding are headed towards no tubes as well. Also, the alternative to this point has been buying a compressor, burning a CO2 cartridge (which seems pretty ridiculous for starters), or heading a few miles to beg a burst of air from a shop or somewhere.

  3. Kimball

    Definitely a timely product that fills a need for many of us. The price though is pretty steep when you consider you can buy a small compressor with tank for less!

  4. Kevin Collings

    Since I already had a really nice floor pump, I opted for the Airshot. Basically a standalone chamber that does the same thing.

  5. Andrew

    Perhaps a bit off topic, but since the people interested in this post are probably running tubeless, I thought I’d ask.

    Do you find tubeless to be worth it? I have two sets of tubeless ready wheels, and one pair of tubeless gravel tires, but I have still been running both of my bikes with tubes. I’m debating setting up the gravel wheels/tires tubeless, but I can’t figure out whether the hassle of dealing with sealant and getting the tires inflated for the first time is worth it. I get very few flats as it is, and I’m very good at changing tubes. It seems like I would have to carry at least one tube anyway and my minipump, so it doesn’t seem like I would save any weight there. I’m currently running around 50 psi on the gravel bike and 90 psi on the road bike (with 28s), so I’m not sure I would really end up running significantly lower pressures tubeless.

    What, if anything, would I gain by going tubeless on the road and on gravel roads?

    thanks!

    andrew

    1. Lyford

      From the rolling resistance data I’ve seen, a latex tube gives you most of the benefit of tubeless when it comes to rolling resistance. That’s assuming the same tire. For road tires, I don’t think the tubeless versions are as eficient as the best tube tires — yet.

      I don’t have enough experience to speak to the puncture behavior of road tube vs. tubeless, or using a tube with sealant.

    2. Maxwell

      I’m very pro-tubeless for every type of bike for both reliability and ride quality. The big lesson, whatever the bike, is to use tubeless or tubeless-ready rims with tubeless tires. They set up easier and they don’t leak or blow off the rim within stated pressures. Well, I’ll lose 20 psi over a week of non-use. If I ride the same bike 2 days in a row, the first pump only confirms no air loss. You can make other wheel/tire combos work (aka ghetto tubeless) but they become a maintenance pain. I’ve had zero flats in 4 years (on road & cx bikes), flats only from sidewall tears on mountain bikes. I’ve had many punctures mid-ride and they hiss and then seal up just like they’re supposed to. If I don’t use a bike for many months, it will have lost its air due to the juice drying up and the seal being broken. A simple re-juicing operation at home every few months is nothing compared to swapping tubes on the regular mid-ride.

  6. Dave King

    I have the Bontrager Flash Charger pump ($120 I think) which is basically the same pump. It works unbelievably well for seating tubeless tires.

  7. MattC

    Can’t speak for road tires, but as for MTB tires, I can’t imagine NOT going tubeless! The pressure is low, an with sealant I believe (and have proved many times now) that you can go the life of the tire with ZERO flats! In fact, I’ve only flatted a tubeless tire ONCE (and that was a problem with the valve stem, which was about 7 or 8 years old when it happened). My pretty new Schwalbe Racing Ralphs currently develop a WHOLE BUNCH of little blobs of Stans sealant after every ride (easily visible on the dusty tread), indicative of every little thorn puncture it’s had already…but I only have to put a little air in it every few weeks. I’d have had literally DOZENS of flats if I were running tubes. I’ve pulled MANY thorns out after a ride, and all you get is a little hiss and it seals, BAM, done. But on road tires (with MUCH higher pressure) I’m not sure. My problem is that I don’t typically get thorns in my road tires, I get cuts. Sealant may CLAIM to be able to seal a 1/4″ cut, but at 100psi? Don’t think so. So I’d be putting in a tube to get home on my road bike often enough as to make them useless IMO. But that’s just my 2 cents. If you live in an area without so much glass on the side of the road they may work GREAT for you.

  8. Kimball

    A couple guys in my road riding group have been running tubeless for the past couple years and based on watching them I am unconvinced they are better. Just as many flats (maybe more) and difficult to swap in a tube when needed (and messy). Plus you need to refresh the sealant occasionally as it dries out and no longer ‘flows’. Modern tube tires like the Continental 4000S are amazingly tough in my experience. I’ll keep watching these two guys ( our groups ‘test mules’) as they try different tires, sealants, etc. as I am interested, but for the moment I’ll stick with tubes on the road.

    1. Andrew

      This is kind of my fear. I have only a single flat on at least 3000 miles on Schwalbe Ones. Not sure what I’d gain. On gravel I have had maybe 2 flats in several years on Clements.

  9. Willis

    Big fan of tubeless on MTB. I’d do it just for the ride quality improvement for this 53 year old body if nothing else. Cool pump and I’ve thought about getting one…but I keep thinking that $160 would buy a LOT of CO2 cartridges.

  10. T$

    As a Clydesdale MTB rider, I’m a huge fan of tubeless tires. I’ve gone from getting pinch flats seemingly every-other-ride to getting a flat roughly once a year, usually with something strange like a sidewall rip or when the tire is worn out anyway. Being able to ride trails at <30psi is a huge improvement in control and comfort.

    On the road, I get a flats only once or twice a year anyway on Continental GP 4 Seasons or Gatorskins, so there isn't much incentive to go tubeless. Once I get a disk brake road bike and eliminate heating related blow-outs, I'll be even less inclined.

    I've been able to seat most tires with my 28 year old Silca Pista. It usually requires some vigorous pumping, but I need the upper body workout anyway. Manufacturers are making their tires easier to mount. My latest wheels and tires using Light-Bicycle carbon rims and Maxxis TR tires seated as easily as a tubed tire. I think improved QC and bead profiles are making pressure chamber pumps prematurely obsolete.

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