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Review: The best bicycle tyre inflators to use with an air compressor

If you’ve landed on this article then you probably have an air compressor already (or are at least considering one) and you’re looking for a dedicated bicycle tyre inflator to suit it. 

Don’t have an air compressor? Check out our guide to air compressors for bicycle use. 

When it comes to inflating tyres with an air compressor there are plenty of options. This article covers DIY options and dedicated bicycle-specific inflators across a broad price range. All the inflators covered below will work with any air compressor – it’s just a matter of fitting the appropriate couplers (covered in the guide to air compressors).

There’s plenty of useful information in this article, but if you simply want to know the best bicycle inflator with a gauge, it’s the most expensive tested: the EVT 3-in-1 inflator.

Meanwhile, EVT’s Presta-Only inflator, which lacks a gauge, is easily the best thing money can buy if you want unhindered air into your Presta valves and little more. The best budget inflator is the PrestaCycle Mini (also no gauge). 

Those wanting something that’s equally great for cars and a family of bicycles (where Schrader valves are likely found) should consider the PrestaCycle Pro or a high-quality car inflator and use a thread-in Presta adapter (Arundel’s Woodsman valve has proven a good-value option). 

Introduction to bicycle-specific tyre inflators 

I’ve got some 15 years of hands-on experience with air compressors and over the past year of lockdowns I’ve intentionally tested some of the more common and popular tyre inflators with the goal of finding the best. In a broad sense, there are no awful choices here – they’ll all get air into a bicycle tyre. Similarly, there are also no perfect options, and even the best on the market still offers room for improvement. 

There are a number of different tyre inflators on the market. I wanted to find both the absolute best and the best value.

That said, there certainly are differences to be aware of and common themes in the ones I’d choose to own for home use or put into operation within a professional workshop. Notably, I’ve taken a liking to inflators that offer a 90º angle of approach to the valve and a design that allows one-handed operation –  this leaves a hand spare to hold the wheel or pinch and pull the tyre as needed (in the case of tubeless). 

Following the last point, the best inflators offer a simple friction fit with the valve (and can be used with or without the valve core in place). A valve head that needs to be locked or threaded in place is at best more of a fiddle and slower to use. 

A press-on valve head at a 90º angle makes for a one-handed operation.

It’s also worth noting that there are big differences in the available airflow rate (volume of air at a given pressure) which will impact how easily stubborn tubeless tyres seat. And gauge accuracy should be considered for those looking to inflate and ride (as opposed to then using a separate gauge to dial in pressures). 

DIY vs bought Presta tyre inflators

Walk into any automotive or hardware store and you’ll likely find a number of tyre inflators. What you won’t likely find is a tyre inflator intended for direct fit with bicycle-specific Presta valves.

There are a number of ways to tackle this, and the best option will depend on your frugality, frequency of use, and whether you want/need a gauge (and how important the accuracy is). You’ll also want to consider whether you’ll need to inflate Presta valves, Schrader valves (including your car), or both. Also, if you often find yourself working on fussy tubeless combinations then an important element will be airflow efficiency – not all inflators are equal in this regard.

Generally speaking, the DIY options will be best for those on a tight budget or who perhaps only see themselves needing the compressor in rare circumstances. Meanwhile, a few cycling-specific production options tend to consider bicycle-specific usage and therefore offer one-handed use and speed. 

At the very cheapest end of the scale is using a brass Presta to Schrader adapter that’s threaded onto the valve and then used with any automotive (Schrader) inflator. This is slow going and will also limit your ability to burst air into a tubeless tyre with the valve core removed. Pass.