Tubeless tire and wheel technology has improved by leaps in bounds in the past few years, but it wasn’t always unicorns and rainbows. Early tubeless adoptees (including yours truly) often struggled to make certain tire and rim combinations play nicely with one another. Back then, the most common aid for seating tubeless tires was the pancake compressor. And while compressors were generally effective, they were also heavy, noisy, and required electricity to operate. To help tubeless users cut the cord, Topeak developed the JoeBlow
Like many of Topeak’s other floor pumps, the JoeBlow Booster (JBB, for short) features a top-mounted analog gauge, twin air release buttons for fine tuning pressure, and a dual-density, polymer grip. Topeak’s SmartHead
For normal use, the Booster works like any other floor pump. Slip the chuck onto the valve, secure the head with a flip of the lever, and start pumping. Inflating a Specialized Pathfinder Pro 650B x 47 tubeless tire to 35 psi required an average of 39 strokes, with 77 strokes (average) needed to reach the tires’ 65 psi maximum pressure. Marked in five-psi increments, the JoeBlow’s easy-to-read gauge was consistently within 0.5 psi of the Quarq TyreWiz monitors that I use for testing pumps and CO₂ inflators.
To seat a tubeless tire, simply switch the Booster from inflation mode to charge mode by rotating the grey ring on the pump’s gauge. Filling (or, charging) the canister is no different than inflating a regular tire. When the chamber is full, attach and secure the chuck to the valve, and then switch the pump back to inflation mode with another twist of the dial. As the air rushes out of the chamber and into the tire, wait for the oh-so-satisfying, “pop, pop, pop,” as the tire’s beads seat on the rim.
I tested the JoeBlow Booster with tires ranging in size from 650B x 42 up to 29 x 3.00″. Where the Topeak performed best was on tires 2.6″ and narrower. Tires in that size range seated completely without the need for any additional inflation. On the higher-volume 2.8″ and 3.00″ tires, the beads would partially seat, but another 5-10 psi was usually required to fully seat the tires. That’s not unique to the Booster, however, as those same plus-size tires required additional inflation after being partially seated with a 25-gram CO₂ cartridge.
After several months of daily use my sample pump shows no signs of slowing down. It’s survived numerous drops and trailhead abuse, but the gauge remains accurate and the SmartHead
UPDATE: July 13, 2019
When this review first appeared, the folks at Topeak were surprised to read that the JoeBlow Booster struggled to fully seat 2.80″ and 3.00″ tubeless tires. After double-checking my notes and answering the Topeak engineers’ questions, I put the issue out of my mind… until today. I was setting up a new pair of plus-size wheels, and when it came time to seat the 3.00″-plus tires, I grabbed the Booster. Charging the canister to 160 psi, I switched the pump back to inflation mode, and was somewhat surprised when the bead seated almost instantly. Wondering if it was a fluke, I grabbed the wheel’s mate, charged the canister, switched to inflation mode, and voila! Yup, that tire also seated with no extra inflation required. Puzzled, I took a mental inventory of the differences between the two wheelsets. Same brand of rims, same, brand of tires, but the new wheels sported fresh tubeless valves. Removing the valve cores on the older wheels revealed that sealant had built up inside the valves, constricting the openings to a fraction of their original ID. I installed a new pair of valves, and those formerly stubborn tires seated perfectly with pressure to spare. Bottom line: check your tubeless wheels’ valves for clogging or built up sealant–especially if you’re having difficulties getting tires to seat.
Disclosure: Topeak provided review samples for this article, but offered no other form of compensation in exchange for editorial coverage.