When the power went out and public transit stopped working in NYC during the recent hurricane, lots of bicycles emerged from storage with tires gasping for air. A friend who works for a bike shop told me that she spent the blackout on the sidewalk helping customers inflate their tires. Although an extreme example, Sandy was a reminder that owning a floor plump helps provide the freedom to ride safely and efficiently at any time. Here are a few shopping tips for buying a bicycle pump:

1. Materials, features and prices vary. All-plastic pumps with non-replaceable parts, though inexpensive, tend to be less durable than those constructed of metal alloy with replaceable parts. Look for sturdiness and secure connections. A taller pump also delivers more air per stroke. Some brands to check out: Lyzene, Topeak and Specialized.

2. Choose a pump equipped with a good-quality gauge. That way you can be sure that you inflate your tires to the recommended pressure, which is imprinted on the tire sidewall. The gauge may be situated at the base or near the top of the pump.  The higher mount may be easier for some users to read. Gauge size and graphics also influence legibility.

Hint: Brightly colored pumps (photo above) are easier to spot around the house or in a closet. Silca Pista Floor Pump, Adeline Adeline, $80.

3. The base, on which you place your feet, may be either fixed or fold-up. The former lends greater stability, while the latter is handy for compact storage.

4. Make sure the air hose connector (known as the chuck) fits your tire valves. There are two types of valves: Presta and Schrader. For versatility, especially if you’ve got several bikes in your household, buy a pump that fits both types. Another simple option is a separate valve adapter, which costs about $1.

5. Before visiting your local bike shop, check online to compare floor pump features, prices and reviews.

6. If you are unfamiliar with using a floor pump, ask the bicycle shop salesperson for a quick tutorial on attaching the air hose to your tire valve.

Remember, a bicycle pump also makes a thoughtful gift for the holidays.

HT/livestrong.com Photo above: Adeline Adeline

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