For the road bike, I’ve used a number of pumps and the pressure gauge isn’t the thing that makes me love a pump, it’s stability and volume of air delivered with each downward stroke. Right now I’m using the Specialized Airtool Pro and I like it a lot.
For the mountain bike, I want a gauge that makes it easy to read small changes in pressure – like 0.5-1 pound. I haven’t found a floor pump out there that does this. Maybe one exists, but I haven’t found it.
The second issue I have on the mountain bike is that when I use another rider’s pump, 26 pounds on their pump gauge never feels like 26 pounds on my gauge. They feel the same way about my pump.
A great recommendation by pro racer Ernie Watenpaugh lead me to a digital pressure gauge. There are a lot of them out there, but Ernie had been using the SKS Airchecker so that’s what I picked up. For mountain bike pressures, I love having a digital readout. I will admit to some princess-and-the-pea syndrome and digital readout is perfect for me.
I was really surprised that the pump I normally use for mountain biking (not the Specialized Airtool) would deliver digital pressures +/- 2 pounds for what appeared to be the same pressure reading on the gauge.
I haven’t played with the Specialized pump enough to know if my eyeballed pressure varies as much or not.
If you’re looking for more accurate pressure readings from any pump, including borrowed pumps, consider using a digital pressure gauge.
Over the last six months or so, I’ve made several changes to my S-Works Epic 29er. Here’s the list and why the change:
Changed from a SRAM 38x24 to a SRAM 36x22. Though I muscled my way through racing last year on the 38x24, I decided to make the change to lower gears when I was pre-riding the Breckenridge 68 course. I just wanted lower gears so I could do more spinning and less power riding. For me, though the 38x24 is fine for rides on the Front Range, this change is critical for the long climbs at altitude at Breckenridge and at Leadville.
Cut one inch off of the ends of both handlebars. Last season I noticed that I was close to clipping some trees on narrow singletrack races. On an early season race this year, I clipped an rock that was hanging over the trail in a narrow section. (You’d think I would have taken the hint then…) On the Breckenridge pre-ride I noticed my handlebars were wider than one of my riding buddies, Scott Ellis. He is 5’9” tall with very wide shoulders. Why am I riding such wide handlebars? Since the change, I’ve noticed my handling skills have improved. Geeze, the issue of the coach having improper bike fit, like the plumber that has leaking pipes in his/her own house.
Put on new bar grips. My hands will fall asleep on long rides with technical descents. I’ve tried other ergonomic grips and didn’t like them. I put on the BG Contour XCT Grips and love them. They are smaller and more comfortable (the surface gives more) than other grips I’ve tried. If I’m comfortable, I ride faster.
More tire pressure. Ugh. This was a result of belching a tire on rock drop and not noticing. With the tire soft, it caught on the rim on a benign section of trail. That turned my handlebars 90 degrees in less than a flash and I went over the bars. I can run softer tires on non-technical courses, but if there are drop-offs I use more pressure.
Varied fork and shock pressure. It does take awhile to figure this out, but I use different pressures for different courses. I use more pressure in the fork for courses that are very technical and have drop-offs.
How does this help you?
Though you’ve been riding your mountain bike for awhile, maybe years, is it set up optimally for your current level of fitness and for the specific races or rides that you do?
If it’s been awhile since you’ve checked some of these items, I think it’s worth a look.