The bike pump is the one piece of equipment every cyclist has around. Whether it’s a Walmart special floor pump or something more advanced, it’s a good idea to know as much as possible about your bike’s accessories.
So, do bike pumps wear out?
Yes, bike pumps will wear out over time. Bad storage conditions and very frequent use will shorten their lifespan. As a general rule, floor pumps will last longer than hand pumps with equal use. More importantly, bike pumps vary wildly in quality. A cheap pump may break in under a year, while a solid track pump may last for a decade or more.
Since you can’t really get a handle on a solid lifespan, it’s more important to know the ins and outs so you can decide if your pump is ready for retirement.
Let’s roll on, and we’ll cover the following:
Is Your Bike Pump Worn Out? (How to Tell)
The individual components of a pump will wear at different rates. One of the most common bits to go first is the head. Usually, it results in an inability to lock onto the head of the valve but any problem that comes from the pump is usually a sign of something wearing out.
The only way to be certain is to begin the process of diagnosing your pump. Even a cheap pump has a lot of parts. Springs wear out, connections start to go bad, and in general entropy reigns. You’ll want to troubleshoot your pump anytime it has a problem, and sometimes you’ll end up finding a part that’s aged out.
Is Your Floor Pump Worn Out?
The most common sign of a floor pump wearing out is the head no longer gripping the valve properly. Cracks in the hose also indicate that your pump is beginning to show its age, and they’ll fail sooner or later.
Good floor pumps are serviceable with parts available. If you go down that route and learn to perform parts changes yourself then your pump will last almost indefinitely.
Is Your Frame / Hand Pump Worn Out?
Frame and hand pumps wear in the same place as floor pumps. Namely, the pump head is the most common component to fail due to age. Other components will fail eventually as well, and usually faster than a floor pump.
Frame and hand pumps are subjected to more stress than floor pumps since they’re on the bike. That can lead to a shorter lifespan on average but proper storage and maintenance will extend its lifespan. Rebuildable pumps in this size are also available, allowing you to get a lot of life out of your initial purchase.
How Long Do Bike Pumps Last?
Bike pump lifespans are variable, but even a cheap pump should last at least a year. The common lifespan for floor pumps is six years, but some last for much longer. Hand/frame pumps usually last 2-3 years when under regular use.
The problem with coming up with an exact lifespan for pumps is that everyone uses theirs in a different manner. Some people pump their tires back to pressure before each ride, others may do so only once every few weeks or even months.
In general, you shouldn’t have any problems for at least a couple of years under ordinary use. Heavy, constant use will shorten the lifespan of a pump considerably: some track racers only get two or three years out of high-end floor pumps.
How Long Do Floor Pumps Last
As a general rule, a floor pump should last at least 5-6 years before it needs to be replaced. Those on the bottom end of the scale may only last for a couple of years, but very good pumps can last a decade or more with regular maintenance.
How Long Do Frame / Hand Pumps Last
Hand and frame pumps should last at least 3-4 years if you don’t damage them during a crash first. If you protect your bike(and the pump) from the elements, there’s no reason a quality hand pump shouldn’t last at least 5 years like a standard floor pump.
How to Get Bike Pumps to Last Longer (Care and Storage)
Storage is the key to making your pump last longer. Ultraviolet light is the enemy of hoses, gaskets, and any other polymer or rubber parts. Storing your pump out of the sun is the single biggest thing you can do to extend its lifespan.
Quality is key for a pump’s lifespan. Not only are more expensive pumps made with better parts, but they’re also more serviceable than their cheaper counterparts. Some brands, like Lezyne, purposefully make their pumps to be serviced at home.
You may be surprised how much money you save over the years when you don’t have to replace your cheap Walmart pump every year or two.
That includes frame pumps and hand pumps attached to the bike. If you store your bike outdoors you’ll run into problems much faster than a bike properly stored in a garage or home. Proper storage is the key.
The other big killer is water. Chances are that you’re keeping your bike out of the rain and moisture, but you’ll need to do the same with your pump. Water can mess with the internals, creating a situation where rust messes up the pump’s function.
Oddly enough, high-end pumps may have more problems with moisture than cheaper ones. Cheap pumps use a lot of plastic and aluminum, while a good floor pump has plenty of steel parts.
Make sure you use the pump periodically. Especially if it’s a frame or hand pump attached to the bike. You may get a good run of luck and have your tires stay inflated for a long time, if that happens make sure you use the pump a few times.
You can also lubricate the pump. Use grease instead of oil, since grease will stay in place instead of running to the bottom. Silicone sprays and white lithium grease are other good options.
Lubrication should be done once a year or so.
One last bit of information: over long periods, the vibration of your riding can cause parts to come loose on hand/frame pumps. When you use the pump make sure everything is tightened up, you may save yourself a massive headache in the near future.
The truth is that sooner or later parts are going to fail, but you can stave off the inevitable for years with proper care and storage for your pumps.
Common Bike Pump Problems
Troubleshooting your pump when it malfunctions can be a pain but there are a few main problems you’ll run into:
- The Pump Not Attaching
- Not Pumping Air
- Pressure Gauge Not Working
- The Pump Not Going Down
- Head Won’t Stay On the Valve
- Losing Air When Pump Head is Removed
If you’re looking for a list of fixes, then check out our guide to bike pump problems. Which will get you on the right track to filling your tires.
Bike pumps can be problematic pieces of equipment, but when they’re treated properly they last for a long time. A self-serviceable bike pump may be the last pump you ever need to buy, as long as the parts are still around.