Gears are electric, brakes are hydraulic and you can race bikes on the internet, but one thing that remains unchanged about the humble bicycle is the requirement for air in the tyres.
Thanks to mountain biking, tubeless set-ups are almost the norm amongst the off-road community and the tech is quickly making its way into road cycling as well.
Traditionally, the initial setup of a tubeless system required the use of an air compressor or some very conditioned fast twitch arm muscles to seat a tyre bead to the rim, then came the tubeless floor pump. Making life much easier, a tubeless floor pump has an air tank attached, that when charged by the user, provides a powerful blast of air, perfect for seating those tricky tyre beads.
Whilst they're certainly not new to the market, good examples are worth looking into, so we set about getting our hands on the Air Tank tubeless pump courtesy of price-conscious Australian accessory brand Azur and put it through its paces.
Who’s it for?: Anyone who owns a bicycle and/or runs a tubeless tyre set-up. Ideal for those who change their own tubeless tyres.
What we like: Tyre seating ability, simple and understated design, intuitive to use and offers good hose length.
What we don’t: High price, switch for tank is in a finicky position and feels under-built.
The way the pump works is to effectively preload the chamber with air so it can be released all at once into the tyre for rapid inflation. This mechanism is intended to replace the need for an air compressor, which although superior in speed of use, is certainly not practical in all contexts or portable.
The pump is constructed of an alloy barrel with a sturdy steel handle, albeit the handle is lacking any sort of grip feel. The alloy base offers a non-slip grip pad which is a nice touch to keep you from slipping if you are wearing cleated shoes. The good news is, these materials give a green light for durability and strength over time. The whole unit stands at 680cm high and weighs in at approximately 2.1kg.
The large 6.35cm dial gauge is located at the top of the barrel and is easy to read. Connected to the long hose, the pump head is simple enough, with a presta-schrader option on hand by unscrewing the valve attachment and flipping it over. It fits first time onto the valve securely and the slimmer profiled lever is easy to flip up and stays firmly in place when attached. For changing between tank and tyre options, the valve is located on the valve head and is somewhat obstructed by the lever, more on that later.
the Air Tank (Approx AU$170) stands alone as Azur's do-it-all pump that has the tubeless function, and that functionality clearly comes an increase in price. By comparison, Azur also offer a number of other floor pumps, including (but not limited to) a standard floor pump (Approx AU$39, pictured left), with a dual head and a max pressure capacity of 160PSI. A step above that is a classy digital gauge pump (Approx AU$75, pictured right), which is taller, sturdier and more precise in its pressure reading. The digital pump would be welcome for perfecting exact race-day pressures.
A standard track pump can be a bit of a gamble when it comes to a tubeless setup, as it requires very rapid pumping to attempt to get enough air in at once to force the tyre bead onto the rim.
The idea of the Azur Air Tank is to eliminate the attempt to tubeless your tyres using manic pumping efforts, which it does with great success. We tested the pump with a number of typically difficult to set-up tubeless rim and tyre combinations, every instance yielding results to the same standard, if not better than traditionally used air compressors.
To begin, connect the pump-head to your wheel's valve and flip the locking lever up. Then, switch the dial to aptly labeled ‘for tank’ which is located below the pump-head lever. The switch, whilst made from lightweight aluminium, feels a little under-built for long-term use, and dare we say it, is likely to prove the weak point of the otherwise solid pump.
One of the notable components of this pump is the sufficient hose length, which is long enough to keep you at (more than) an arm's length from the tyre as it inflates, just in case of an accident! The longer hose also means that it can be used easily when a bike is affixed to a workstand or in a similarly elevated position.
By The Numbers
The next step is to pump the pressure up to the maximum PSI, which is 240 on this pump. Filling the chamber is a breeze up until around 180 PSI, from then on expect to feel a fair bit of resistance. This may present an issue for lighter built riders lacking the upper body strength to fill the chamber completely.
Once we had our pumping technique dialed though, the chamber is filled fairly quickly. From here, simply flick the chamber lever to 'Tyre' and watch/listen to that tubeless tyre pop onto the rim. It's worth noting that while the blast does release enough air to seat the tyre, it won't adequately pump the tyre in that same shot. Expect to pump manually after the initial seating of the tyre bead. At any point, the pump can be used as a standard floor pump, something it does admirably well.
The pump performs similarly to its competitors when it comes to pressure per pump when charging the tank, with our experience resulting in approximately 20 PSI per pump, or 12-13 swift pumps to fill the chamber.
At the time of publishing, the Azur Air Tank retails for $170 (Approx). It's a price that whilst reasonably competitive amongst other pumps for the same purpose, feels high, especially when compared to Azur's other generously priced options. With that said, certainly look for deals on this specific model.
For the tubed (clincher) tyre user that wants ease and precision, there are certainly better-equipped, and lower cost, pumps on the market. However, as demonstrated, the Azur Air Tank does fulfill its duty as an easy to use, hard-working tubeless pump. Assuming you can stomach the price, the pump would be fit for the every-day rider who wants a fuss-free tubeless setup option, as well as a functional standard floor pump.