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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.