We’ve been continuously impressed by the fact that Silca keeps churning out great tools in what is already a very saturated field. Just when we were wondering what pump the Indianapolis firm can make (um, shock pump guys?), Silca is now announcing a travel floor pump. The Viaggio.
It’s not just another travel floor pump, but a premium, $275 precision inflator with a lot to like: A large detachable handle, alloy folding legs, a proven Hiro presta chuck threaded into a schrader valve chuck, a class-leading 99cm hose, a generous use of metal parts, capabilities of 220psi, displayed on a Bluetooth-enabled pressure sensor first used in the Tattico mini pump that turns a smartphone into a tire gauge accurate within half a psi.
It has even got its own wax-canvas bag that pulls double-duty as a tool roll. The Viaggio is available now.
Like many of cycling’s iconic brands, the storied pumpmaker Silca evokes a certain emotional response. A well-used Silca floor pump is a necessary component in the mind’s conjuring of an imagined bicycle shop, an essential piece that inspires wonder of the countless tasks it endured, happily, over many decades of service. It is Fausto Coppi. It is driving hours to rainy road races. It is growing up in the saddle. It is timeless, and perhaps the most intriguing bicycle brand story in recent memory was when the nearly century-old family company uprooted from Italy to become an innovative American firm under new ownership.
As the latest offering in the reborn Silca’s growing floor pump lineup, the SuperPista Digital augments the decadent innards of yore with a crisp, colorful digital gauge. Deviating slightly from a familiar silhouette in the pursuit of updated usability, the latest SuperPista doles mercy to those who anguish over tire pressure – and muscular support for the workaday mechanic – in equal aplomb. It is the digital-native Millennial daughter of Italian immigrants, raised on motorsports and Merckx, and notably diversifies Silca’s excellence in several significant ways.
Firstly, and most notably, is the prominent digital gauge of this new SuperPista.
The illuminated and colorful display springs to life automatically when it senses pressure, bright-red digits in precise contrast to a white background. The display measures to one-tenth in pounds per square inch, one-hundredth in barometric pressure and again one-hundredth in kilograms per square centimeter. It is rated up to 220 psi, suitable for perfectionist cross racers and trackies alike.
The display includes a preset function that will flash once the user reaches a target pressure, as well as a battery life gauge, all cast in sharp blacks, reds, blues and greens. The display automatically cuts the illumination and reverts to a monochrome mode after about a minute of disuse, and both modes render clearly when viewed from all angles. The display fully deactivates in about five minutes, ready to spring to life again upon sensing pressure or a quick toggle of the three-button interface. The gauge operates on two small CR2032 batteries, which according to Silca, should provide around 100 hours of use.
The digital gauge is newsworthy on its own in comparison to Silca’s classic analogue approach. Yet the display doesn’t appear to exist for its own sake, but is rather a means to accomplish an updated form factor overall.
Where Silca’s other floor pumps locate the gauge at the base of the barrel, the SuperPista Digital’s clear readout sits at the top of the barrel about three feet above the floor. This greatly improves readability in low-light conditions, and is a welcome touch for the wrench whose eyesight is not as good as it used to be.
The Digital is also the first Silca pump that appears to be purpose-built for the company’s celebrated Hiro chuck. Unlike the classic and simple push-on Silca chuck, the Hiro slips easily over valve stems and clamps securely via a side-lever. Users can dial in the clamping force for the Hiro’s gasket, creating a more secure interface for high-pressure applications.
While the Hiro now comes standard on the top-of-the-line SuperPista Ultimate pump, the magnetic dock on the Ultimate still appears sized for the classic chuck design. For the Digital, the Hiro fits neatly into a recess just under the gauge. The effectively puts all controls for the pump, including the ash-wood handle, on a single dashboard, and limits the need to bend over. This could be a nice touch while servicing bikes on a workstand. A secondary magnetic dock exists at the base, and a separate Schrader chuck exists in-line with the hose.
The hosing for this model begins near the top of the barrel, and users droop the hose under a near-floor catch before fixing the chuck, under tension, to the magnetic dock. This is a departure from the classic routing that passes over the handle before returning to the base, which also keeps the handle from extending. Silca added an extra strap to the Digital to retain the handle and prevent it from extending under transport, and the strap appears easily removable.
The Digital’s base is large, heavy and stable, prepared for hard use and friendly to cleated feet. The pump uses a leather plunger and a plated steel piston, and Silca describes the pump as “more like a suspension fork than a traditional pump.”
In two months of constant use, the SuperPista Digital has become a close companion for this tester and dissolved, through sheer joy of use, some of my romantic’s loyalty to the classic Silca design. The aerospace-esque barrel shape and murdered-out color scheme is a big departure from the vintage charm of older models, but one century on, it’s great to see today’s Silca offering a thoughtful augmentation of tradition. Form follows function for this model.
I think, when you tally up the features for sheer usability, that the SuperPista Digital is superior (gasp!) to the original Silca design and even the premium-material SuperPista Ultimate. In the poor lighting conditions of the early morning and the grey light of the Pacific Northwest, the digital display is a delight. The seemingly slight tweaks to the form factor add up to measurable improvements in user experience, and the Digital, at $275, is significantly more affordable than the $450 SuperPista Ultimate. Still, $275 is hugely more expensive than Silca’s $100 Pista model and scores of non-Silca alternatives that accomplish, seemingly, the same task.
So who is the target audience for the SuperPista Digital? In my opinion, this pump is meant for someone who spends countless hours a year in the saddle, the kind of person who would get better value on a use-per-dollar basis with the Digital than the average rider would on another more affordable floor pump. It is for the no-nonsense rider who knows – but doesn’t dwell on – the mythology of cycling, someone who views the bicycle as a tool for personal experience and athletic achievement. This is a pump for someone who spends as much time pumping tires as some people spend riding.
It is hard to comment on the longevity of the SuperPista Digital after only two months of use, particularly when the manufacturer’s reputation for durability is measured in decades. Will the Digital become a classic for the new century of Silca, a family heirloom, an essential part of bike shop milieu? Time will tell, but kudos to Silca for honoring tradition while pushing the envelope for what is possible with a humble floor pump.
The Bontrager TLR Flash Charger floor pump. The silver barrel is the pump and the bigger, black cylinder is the air chamber for tubeless. Photo: Stephen Lam/ Element.ly
We wish the PSI gauge have more markers for more precise reading. Photo: Stephen Lam/ Element.ly
Flip the red lever down to charge the chamber for tubeless. Flip it again to release the air, or use it just as a normal pump.
Photo: Stephen Lam/ Element.ly
The pump head is plastic but it worked liked a champ during out test, gripping both schrader and presta value with ease.
Photo: Stephen Lam/ Element.ly
The red lever and the bleed valve. Photo: Stephen Lam/ Element.ly
For the longest time, owning any tubeless tire almost meant you’d be better off owning a compressor too in order to help it seat properly. A regular floor pump/co2 sometimes worked but a compressor gives you that massive volume of compressed air with just a squeeze of the nozzle lever.
I reluctantly got a small Craftsman compressor when I converted my mountain bikes to tubeless. I found the compressor to be awfully loud as if I was mowing the lawn inside my garage. Good headphones helped but that’s just not very ideal … Can you imagine what it’d be like having a compressor in your two bedroom Brooklyn apartment with squeaky wooden floors? Yeah, not a good idea.
But the Bontrager TLR Flash Charger could very well replace the need for a compressor.
Just Flip the Switch
Built with two chambers, the TLR Flash Charger is part pump, part (manual) compressor. After flipping the unmistakable red switch, you pump air into the giant chamber. To use the stored air to seat a tubeless tire, all you’ll have to do is flip the switch and watch the air blast into the tire.
It’s that simple.
It takes about 42 strokes to get the chamber charged to the red indicator. Which, at about 160psi, was plenty enough to seat our 26, 29, and 700c tires with extra.
Pump it Up … Eventually
The other function of the pump is, well, to inflate your tires. Here I feel the TLR Flash Charger comes up a bit short. It’s not that it doesn’t fill the tires with air just like every other pump. But instead of just connecting it to the tire and pumping away, the TLR Flash Charger needs to be equalized (with the tire) first before one can start the actual inflation (Huh?).
Think of it this way, say the tire already has 100PSI and you want to check the pressure. The pump will pull about 50 psi from the tire for the equalization to happen. It’s not a big deal if the tire is flat as a pancake, but it was annoying having the need to do the extra work. So plan ahead if you’re in a time crunch.
I would also love to see a more precise pressure gauge. The numbers on the existing top-mount (thank you) gauge were easy to read. But I was left scratching my head at the fact that it only showed increments every 20psi with no markers in between (other than 30PSI). So what if I wanted to pump it to 90PSI? Doesn’t that defeat the purpose of having a built-in bleed value?
This won’t be an issue if you measure your tire pressure in bars instead of psi but come on, for $120 you would think that’s a no brainer.
So is this pump for you? That depends. The TLR Flash Charger works beautifully in setting up all sorts of tubeless. It’s as good as any compressor in that regard albeit without all the noise and need for electricity — which is great if you’re living in a place with sensitive neighbors/housemates/kids, or don’t have the room for an electric compressor.
I really liked the concept, and it would be perfect to the be only pump you should own if Trek can do away with the air equalization.