As a self-admitted tire geek, I spend a fair amount of time swapping and inflating tires. And even though I have a small air compressor, I prefer floor pumps for their convenience and quiet operation. Note that I said pumps, as in plural. In addition to a high-volume pump for fat and plus tires, I also rely on a second, high-pressure pump for skinnier tires. Yes, it’s possible to use one pump for every type of tire, but that compromise usually translates into an absurd number of strokes for high-volume tires or a herculean effort for high-pressure rubber. But now, with the introduction of Topeak’s JoeBlow
Standing nearly 29″ tall and weighing almost 7 pounds, the Twin Turbo looks–and feels–like it means business. The unique design isn’t just for show. Inside the teardrop-shaped tower are two chambers; a larger, high-volume chamber, and a second, smaller-volume one. Why two chambers? According to Topeak, the Twin Turbo design delivers the volume needed for large MTB tires, while still maintaining the high-pressure output necessary for road tires. Sounds cool, but how does it work? Simple–pulling up on the handle transfers air from the larger barrel to the smaller chamber, and pushing down compresses the air in the second barrel, which in turn, inflates the tire.
In use, Topeak’s Twin Turbo feels a bit different compared to a traditional floor pump. Pull up on the Topeak’s handle and you can feel the resistance as air is transferred between the Twin Turbo’s barrels. It does take a little more effort than you’d experience with a single-action pump, but it feels normal after a couple of sessions. What’s more surprising, though, is the effort required for the pump’s downstroke. While I wouldn’t go so far as to describe it as effortless, the Twin Turbo definitely feels more linear than other floor pumps (regardless of whether you’re inflating high-volume or high-pressure tires). And thanks to the JoeBlow’s twin-shaft design, there’s virtually no flex or twisting of the handle.
Topeak claims that the Twin Turbo design reduces the number of strokes needed by as much as 40%. I found that inflating a 27.5″ x 2.8″ tire to 20 psi required 16 strokes using the Topeak Twin Turbo, whereas a conventional floor pump (medium-sized barrel) took 30 strokes to reach the same pressure. As far as perceived effort, the Twin Turbo felt about the same for each stroke, whereas the single-action floor pump’s effort increased with the tire’s pressure. The Twin Turbo’s reduced effort doesn’t come at the expense of efficiency, either. I compared the Twin Turbo with Blackburn’s Chamber HV fat tire pump, and the latter bested the Topeak by only two strokes inflating a 29″ x 3.00″ tire to 20 psi.
Topeak’s engineers didn’t just focus on efficiency when designing the Twin Turbo. The JoeBlow features a 3″ top-mounted gauge that’s easy to read in dim lighting or direct sun. A 48″ hose provides easier access to racked or hanging bikes, and the Twin Turbo’s alloy chuck was leak-free on both smooth and threaded Presta valves. And although I generally prefer dedicated Presta pump heads, Topeak’s SmartHead DX1 is one of the best combo models I’ve used. While the pump’s twin-shaft design is extremely stiff in use (I couldn’t detect any flex or twisting), the base does feel somewhat narrow (especially if you have large or wide feet).
Do you need a $200 floor pump? It depends. If you own or maintain lots of bikes–especially ones with radically different tire sizes–the JoeBlow will save you time and effort. Sure, you could buy an inexpensive compressor for about half the price of the Twin Turbo, but the Topeak is quieter, doesn’t require electricity, and won’t run out of air like those pancake compressors. Prior to testing the Twin Turbo, I relied on two different floor pumps whose combined cost was right around $140, but the Topeak proved to be more convenient while requiring less effort (regardless of tire size).
Disclosure: Topeak provided review samples for this article, but offered no other form of compensation in exchange for editorial coverage.