Different Types of Bike Pumps and Pump Heads

In this article we are going to be discussing different types of bike pumps and pump heads. The reason we need to pump tyres is because tyres are filled with air and the correct pressure can handle any terrain. However, tyres sometimes suffer from pressure loss meaning a pump is needed to replace the air. There are two basic categories of bike pumps, portable and track pumps. We are going to cover the different types of pumps, pump heads and why we need them.

What is a bicycle pump?

A pump is a tool that we use to get air into the inner tube. The inflated inner tube pushes against the tyre so that we can ride in comfort. The way in which the air enters the tube is through the tube via a valve. You can read more about bike valves in our previous article.

Why do we need to pump tires?

There are multiple reasons why we need to pump tires. Firstly because cycle tyres are pneumatic, most of them being filled with air often via an inner tube. A tyre that contains the correct pressure will be able to handle any kind of terrain whilst providing a smooth and speedy ride. With time and / or use, tyres and tubes can suffer from pressure loss. Over time air volume can be lost and therefore the pressure inside the tyre and tube lowers. This means that without using the different types of bike pumps and pump heads, the bicycle becomes harder to ride and a lot less comfortable. The other reason why we need to pump tires is that sometimes a puncture may occur and all the air is lost. After a tube has been repaired or replaced, air will need to be pumped in to make the bicycle rideable again.

The different types of bike pumps and pump heads:

Portable pump

The portable pumps need to be small and lightweight enough to carry around easily. This means you are able to repair a puncture while you are on a ride whilst being designed well enough so that they still work efficiently. If you are buying only one pump we suggest investing in a portable one.

Track pump

Track pumps need to put air into the tube with as little effort as possible. If you happen to live in a household with multiple bikes or you use your bike a lot then it is a good idea to invest in a trak pump. We also suggest trying to get one with a pressure gauge as it makes inflation more accurate.

More on the different types of bike pumps and pump heads and parts:

The lever  

Near the holes for the valve, you may have a lever.  The idea of this is that when you push the pump onto the valve the lever locks it into place.  The levers move in different directions depending on the pump.

The handle

Once the pump is attached, you can push the handle to put the air into the tube.

The pressure gauge. 

Some pumps have a gauge that shows the pressure of air that is forced into the tire. Once the tire is at the correct pressure, the pump valve can be removed from the tire, and the cap can be replaced on the tire valve.

Some hand pumps and most track pumps have a gauge that tells you how much pressure is in the tyre via the tube. it is written in various S.I. units and the one we use most in the U.K. is PSI or pounds per square inch. The amount of pressure varies according to the size and type of tyre.  The pressure rating is written on the sidewall of the tyre.  There is sometimes a range, and this can be adapted depending on the terrain , rider and bicycle weight or wear of the tyre.  If you have a pressure gauge then it is a good idea to be guided by it.  If you don’t have a gauge then aim for “hard like an apple not soft like an orange”

The head

One end of the pump will have a piece that clamps onto the valve.  There are two common valves, and you could have either. if you want to find out more about them check our other video about different types of valves. The pump head will have one of the following: 

  • 2 holes to fit each of the valves.  If it has two holes, then select the one that fits your valve.
  • 1 hole that is called a “smart head” or AVACS ( All Valves Adjustable Connecting System) and will fit either valve.

  • Nowhere to directly fit the pump to the valve. but there will be a hose that pulls out of the top of the pump and screws onto the bottom. You will have to make sure that the end of the hose fits your particular pump.
  •  1 hole that will take either valve, but only after moving the fittings inside.


Knurled – Small ridges on the edge or surface. This makes a round-shaped nut easier to tighten and loosen.

Pneumatic – A pneumatic tyre operates by air under pressure.

Pump (portable) – This is a hand pump. It is easy to carry around, but takes a lot of effort to inflate a tyre with one of these.

Pump (track) – A track pump, sometimes called a stirrup pump or a floor pump, is a large pump that is operated by standing on a stirrup or plate and then using both hands to move the handle up and down.  It is too heavy to carry around, but it is much easier to get high pressure and a lot of air volume into a tyre with one of these.

Puncture – When air is lost from the inner tube.  This is caused by the following:

  1. Penetration by a sharp object through the tyre, Glass, thorns.
  2. Trapping the inner tube between the rim and the tyre. Pinch puncture or snakebite. So called because the puncture forms two little holes.
  3. The valve is rubbing against the valve hole because it is too big for the valve and doesn’t have a valve collar.
  4. Because the tyre is worn, objects that would normally be deflected puncture the tube.
  5. Not really a puncture, but the tube can go flat because the valve has failed.
  6. Inflating the tube without checking the seating of the tyre, so the tube pushes past the tyre and rim and gets trapped and explodes.
  7. Faulty rim tape causing the spoke ends or spoke holes to penetrate the tube.

FAQS about different bike pumps and pump heads

What does a bike pump do?

A Bike pump is designed to pump air into your tyres. Air is needed in your tyres to maintain the correct pressure. Having the correct air pressure is important because it means your bicycle will be able to handle any terrain whilst providing you with a smooth, comfortable and speedy ride. Learn how to pump bike tyres with the experts.

How do I know what bike pump to buy?

There are two main types of bike pumps, portable pumps and track pumps. If you don’t know which bike pump to purchase, a good rule of thumb is this: If you are only buying one pump we recommend buying a portable one. This way can be used at home or on the road side. However, if you live in a household with multiple bikes or use your bike regularly, it may be worth investing in a track pump.

What is the head of the pump?

The head of the pump will contain a piece that clamps onto the valve. There are two common valves and you could have either. The two types of valves are Schrader and Presta valves. 

What are the different types of bike pumps and pump heads

The different types of bike pumps and bike heads depend on whether you use a portable pump or a track pump. If you are only going to buy one pump, we suggest opting for a portable one. If you use your bike very frequently or live in a household with multiple bikes then a track pump will be a good investment.

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