Bontrager's TLR Flash Charger Floor Pump - Review

Sep 18, 2014
by Mike Levy  
Bontrager's TLR Flash Charger floor pump is actually two different tools in one. It's a floor pump, obviously, but it also has a secondary, larger cylinder that stores a charge of air pressure until you're ready to release it all at once, very much like a compressor does. The idea is that this flood of air will seat a tubeless tire much easier than you pumping like a madman in order to get the tire's bead to seal against the rim walls, even if you've employed helpful tricks like soaping up the tire and rim or removing the valve core so allow air to enter faster. The TLR Flash Charger sports an aluminum barrel, base, and secondary tube, and the high-pressure gauge is mounted at the top of the body so it's easy to read. An 'Auto-Select' head does both presta and schrader valves without asking you to switch any tiny bits around, and the hose is long enough to reach a bike that's still up in a work stand. MSRP $119.99 USD. www.bontrager.com

Bontrager TLR Flash Charger floor pump review test

Like tubeless tires? Bontrager's TLR Flash Charger floor pump is just the ticket for those tubeless installs in your garage.



Pinkbike's Take

bigquotesI know what you're thinking: why not just use a compressor to install your tubeless tires? Or even a CO2 cartridge given that it should only take one to get the job done. I don't know about you, but I don't always have access to a compressor, not to mention that they're loud and require a power source to get the job done. And using a CO2 cartridge every time you want to install a tire seems just a touch wasteful, doesn't it? The TLR Flash Charger pump is easy to throw in the back of your car or truck if you're worried about needing to repair or replace a tire during a multi-day trip, and it's much less of a hassle than using a compressor, even considering that you can find some pretty inexpensive compressors if you look around. If you haven't guessed by now, I found that Bontrager's clever floor pump performs extremely well at installing troublesome and loose fitting tubeless tires. It works like so: push the red lever down in order to isolate the larger, secondary air chamber that you're going to use to seat the tire. It took my 45 pumps to get the pressure up to the maximum of 160 psi, and while the push does get a bit stiff near the end, it's not something that anyone would struggle with. Then, after you've made sure the pump's head is locked onto the valve stem, simply pull up on the red handle to release the stored pressure into the tire. It all happens very quickly, with the air moving fast enough to at least seal up every rim and tire combination that I tried, with none of them giving me any grief. Air will stop moving into the tire once the pressure equalizes at the pump, after which you can either keep pumping or use the bleed button to lower the pressure to where you need it. How effective is it? The Flash Charger even worked on a Crank Brothers' wheel and Schwalbe tire combo that had me throwing tools at the wall until I gave it a go with the new Bontrager pump. That said, the quickly delivered charge of air pressure wasn't enough to seat all of the tires completely straight, with it taking another few minutes of pumping to get the job done. That's the easy part though, as just getting a troublesome tubeless tire to seal up at the bead is usually the real challenge. The gauge is also accurate enough for most riders, especially given that it registers up to 160 psi, with it reading to within 3 - 5 psi of my digital pressure gauge.

Okay, so it works really well, but is there anything I'd change? I'm not a big fan of single pump heads that do both presta and schrader valves, especially in a shop where they get used all day, every day. Going with two different chucks spreads out the wear so that the head's rubber bits last longer, but that's admittedly more of a bike shop concern. That niggle aside, the Flash Charger is one clever piece of kit that makes life much easier for anyone who deals with tubeless tires on even a semi-regular basis.
- Mike Levy



102 Comments

  • + 43
 Charge me with theft, I'm stealing that pump.
  • + 1
 Hopefully this one criminal act is just a flash in the pan for you.
  • + 17
 I hope it doesn't blow up in your face. You'll be under pressure if the cops catch up.
  • + 4
 If you belong to a minority the charges might be inflated. If you get sent down, chances are, you'll be the one who's getting 'pumped'...
  • + 2
 if the cops catch up, you could end up behind Bars
  • + 7
 call cant accurately gauge when to neg prop these.. im PSI'ing my pants
  • + 6
 I think the price is pretty inflated
  • + 4
 Fair price, but I would rather pay cash than Charge it.
  • + 1
 You guys are all full of hot air.
  • + 5
 i'm so tired of these puns, someone has to stem the flow of this nonsense or in a flash my blood pressure is gonna rise.
  • + 1
 I feel rather deflated after my comment got negative props.
  • + 1
 I seem to be able to pump better with my right hand than my left... I wonder why that is.
  • + 31
 This pump really blows.
  • + 19
 No-one is pressuring you to buy it Wink
  • + 8
 This pump will seal the deal for you.
  • + 7
 This is the best pump 'bar' none
  • + 9
 There are 12 volt compressors for car outlets....for $20. They work more than well enough and are quieter than the car engine. Only thing possibly needed is a presta-to-schrader converter...which should be free at the right LBS.

Reference: I go through a lot of blow up dolls on lonely camping trips and have probably used 12 volt pumps more than you've used the internet. Big Grin [--^

Now...if those damn Japanese would get their sh*t together and start making some sweet sexbots I'll be done with that whole air hodge-podge.
  • + 5
 oh my...
  • + 1
 loamydog : you talk about those cheap compressor that takes a month to bring a car tire to 35 psi? is the flow of air not too small?
  • + 8
 I purchased the pump yesterday. It worked all rim and tyre combinations. This is the list of rims and tyres which I tried.

Rims : Mavic Crossmax SX, Stan's Notubes Flow EX and Spank Oozy Trail 295 Bead Bite.
Tyres : Schwalbe Magic Mary Trail Star 2.35(used), Nobby Nic Trail Star 2.4(used), Hans Dampf Trail Star 2.35(brand new), Maxxis High Roller II TLR EXO(used) and Minion DHR TLR EXO(used).
  • + 6
 That's a lot of pumping in one day...
  • + 3
 Yeah, approx 700 pumping in one night after work.
  • + 7
 Airshot Ltd have an alternative coming to the market pretty soon. Use your existing track pump & the reusable Airshot system in a very similar way to Bontrager's system. The prototype models have worked a treat and its created quite a stir at the last few UK Gravity Enduro events.
www.airshotltd.com
Smile
  • + 1
 I'll comment when we see the price.
  • + 3
 Planned for £45 - £50
  • + 1
 Oh hey I made one of those out of a soda bottle. Cool!
  • + 3
 or you can buy a "pig "tank at pricess auto, been around for ever, looks like a propane tank that you fill up and have pressurized air any where you want it.
  • + 1
 The airshot video only shows them inflating a flat tire that's already seated...
  • + 1
 Fair point SilentMatt but the tyre was definitely not seated. I was the man with the camera & can confirm there was not cheating of foul play. It was done on the trail, between runs but I'm pretty sure both side of the tyre weren't seated for all the inflation clips. Airshot works just as well as the above article describes the Flash charger working.
  • + 10
 Not me, I like to earn my pump
  • + 5
 @mikelevy
The three foot base is METAL! The trim piece for the tubes is plastic.
Great review, I used this last week and love it.

-PS you can't fly/ship Co2, and a compressor is hard to pack. so this is a great travel compressor.
  • + 4
 This is one product I will buy on sight.

I won't have to feel like an environmental vandal using C02 canisters (a gas which leaks faster than 'normal' air - no good for endurance races) and I don't have to worry about noise or finding power out when I am at a race. Plus, why burn coal to inflate a tyre when I have a perfectly good set of arms?
  • + 1
 And you may be able to find a cheap compressor, but for a fair comparison you have to include the price of a floor pump because this does both.
  • + 6
 Check out: www.airshotltd.com
Especially if you don't want to have to buy another track pump.
  • + 3
 haha, didn't see this before I added a very similar comment below.
  • + 3
 I have a compressor at home and also keep a mini-tank, an old fire extinguisher tank filled with air, in the car. Can't go wrong there. Used to have On-Board-Air before the Tacoma totaled itself. This is a neat idea though.
  • + 3
 Totaled itself? haha. Sounds like an interesting story!
  • + 5
 Well, rainy roads and a construction oil spill didn't help. The truck rolled a total of 15 times, side-to-side and head-over-heal. But it still was drivable and I drove it up into the tow truck's bed. Thankfully, the bike was at home.
  • + 6
 I hate when trucks do that.
  • + 1
 Yikes. Sounds like you got really lucky!
  • + 1
 Gotta love a toyota!!!
  • + 3
 A cheap compressor costs less, but if you have no electricity or can't use a loud compressor in your apartment I'd get it. Then again, does anyone know if a car compressor can do the job? If so then you're best off keeping one of those in the old mystery machine.
  • + 5
 Yes but cheap compressors also have that lovable quality of simultaneously sucking and blowing.
  • + 6
 My brother found an air compressor at the dump, which he tuned up and gave to me. Yes it works, yes it's loud, no it doesn't wake the baby up, yes it uses electricity and yes it works wonderfully. Also stores air, just in case the power is out. One mans garbage...
  • + 1
 You should keep a compressor in your car anyways. I was pretty deep in the Southern Oregon wilderness when we got 2 flats and a flat spare within about an hour. I now keep lots o sealant and a compressor in the back at all times.
  • + 1
 But whether you keep an shrader/presta conversion handy can greatly effect your bike which is even more important.
  • + 2
 @taletotell Those fit conveniently on a keyring. I keep one on my keys at all times just in case.
  • + 3
 Crappytire sells a 2 gallon compressor that fits into the corner of a closet, quiet, efficient & sells for about $90. (Sorry, Canadian translation, Crappy Tire = Canadian Tire).
  • + 4
 Anyone who's anyone didn't need that translation, bro
  • + 2
 That 2 gallon one is on sale this week for $50. But keep in mind that it doesn't come with a hose or the end you'll need to inflate the tire so the price goes up.
  • + 1
 Unless CT has changed the package, mine came with a 30' hose & a bunch of fittings. The only thing I did was adapt a tire valve fitting to fit a presta valve adapter.
  • + 1
 at $50 that compressor is pretty tempting but all I see on their website is loads of bad reviews. Does it actually work ok? Debating between that and an air tank from princess auto.
  • + 1
 Had mine for 4 years & never had an issue with it. The compressor is oil free, the only thing to remember is to drain out any moisture that accumulates in the tank. I personally would not buy anything mechanical from Princess Auto, just my opinion though. Cheers.
  • + 1
 Apparently they stopped including accessories in November 2013 (I checked the Q&A section).
  • + 1
 Bought a small 2gal. compressor with hose and attachments for 120$. The only real advantage is trailside imo, and I'm not about to start taking a floor pump on rides with me. Check your pressure before you go out like the manufacturer suggests.... 2cents...
  • + 1
 Nice Stuff, so poser.....

Given that a Chineese small compresor cost arround 40€ or 50€ in a hadware mall and you can do a lot of things more than only inflate wheels and a CO2 Cartridge 2€ and you can inflate in the middle of nowhere at the forest or everywhere you cant plug power source.........is like a compressor, 25 cartridges, 1.150 strokes more and take this pump everywhere in the car....

So beautifull....but not much sense instead of a poser stuff......a normal pump cost around 25€ with manometer...

Greats
  • + 1
 Its a great concept, but this thing doesn't look very durable. I have learned over the years that floor pumps take quite a bit of abuse and you are not going to get much life out of one unless you spend the money and buy something nice.

Personally I think there is way too much cheap plastic on this Bontrager unit for it to cost $120
  • + 1
 My 5 yr old Bontrager pump looked cheap when I got it, but it has outlasted several of my friends more expensive pumps and it works so well (at the stem) that they use mine when we ride. I trust Bontrager.
  • + 1
 until you get one in youre hands you will then see how durable it is. basically the whole pump is made of metal. the plastic base is definitely not plastic as you thing, the pump is stout and large and doesnt seem to be squirly or loose. go to a trek dealer and see one of these then rethink your comment
  • + 1
 You can get an air compressor at Harbor Freight along with an air tank for a lot less than this pump. I fill up the tank and bring it with me - lasts for months on bike, car and dirt bike tires.
  • + 4
 If you're using tubeless, you're using presta, no?
  • + 2
 Unless you go with some ghetto setup(?)
  • + 2
 But to be a functional, everyday floor pump it can also accommodate schraeder valves.
  • + 2
 I'm tubeless on my dh and fr bikes. both have shraeder valves
  • + 1
 The Stans freeride kit I bought uses Schrader valves
  • + 4
 20-35 psi resolution not clear enough on the dial.
  • + 1
 Agreed.

If like me you are a bit picky about getting the right tire pressure, this kind of pressure indicator is an absolute no go.

Lezyne made such tubeless pump but aimed at MTB application only. It's made of alumunium and the pressure reading is much better (only goes up to 5 or 7 Bar IIRC).
  • + 0
 120$?! I'm using a 20$ floor pump and struggle setting the bead on a tubeless system but there's no way I'm paying 120$ for that sort of convinience. I'll be taking my wheels to the nearest gas station.
Or I'll be using a ghetto tubeless inflator: www.youtube.com/watch?v=ePbjM6wQ1I8
  • + 1
 MeThinks you would need to seat a tubeless tire 120 times to make it more cost effective than simply using a C02 cartridge-assuming you already have the C02 device.
  • + 1
 Not sure if there's any truth to it, but I've been told that CO2 acts like an anit-coagulant for tire sealants. Apparently if you use CO2 to inflate / seat a tire with stans in it, the sealant will remain liquid and no longer do it's job properly. In my experience most sealants never actually plug holes the way they're advertised to anyway, I guess that could be part of it.
  • + 1
 That is correct, using C02 to inflate your tubeless tires crystalizes the stans, so it will not work, it inflates the tire, but the sealant gets destroyed.
  • - 2
 If C02 destroys Stans, then obviously so does filling your Stans-equipped tires wit AIR. C02 is the 4th most abundant gas in the atmosphere, i.e. the air we breath and the air your floor pump uses
  • + 5
 100% concentration (cartridge) vs 0.04% (air).
  • + 2
 Topeak Joe High Volume Track Pump, soap, no valve core and decent tubeless rims (Stans or DT Swiss) works ok for me. Smile
  • + 2
 for my experience this is a great pump - very easy to set tubeless with multiple wheels/tyres combinations. the cost is about 30$ - doesn't requires electricity as well and you can use it everywhere. Once nice thing about it is that the gauge is lower calibrated pressure which suited MTB much better than "normal" floor pump with it gauge that goes to 120PSI
  • + 4
 I'd pump with it.
  • + 1
 I'd buy it! Swapping out tubeless tyres regularly, usually before the sun rises, this isn't going to cause wife rage unlike a compressor will.
  • + 1
 Pinkbike should do a side by side comparision of this this pump next to the Lezyne High Volume Floor pump....
  • + 1
 its a cool idea but why wouldn't you just go buy an air compressor for 100 dollars instead
  • + 2
 portability. required power source.
  • + 1
 Saw Airshot the other day, looks good, and I already have a pump!

www.facebook.com/airshotlimited
  • + 1
 Just buy Maxxis and tubeless is as easy as possible with a conventional pump. Anyways, the pump is a nice idea.
  • + 2
 Yup. I just installed 2 high rollers using a standard track pump without any problems, and it was my first attempt at a tubeless set up. No need for a compressor or any weird gadgets.
  • + 1
 Fridge pumps will run forever if properly lubricated. I've seen them working as vacuum pumps in composite aplications.
  • + 1
 Schwalbe/deemax had me throwing tools at the wall too, Mike... sounds like this pump is the shiznit
  • - 1
 So you could use an existing pump, add a secondary chamber of pvc that gets charged by the pump. Then a line with a valve coming out of the pvc to the chuck, and you get the same thing for less than 5 bucks
  • + 2
 $120 pump....better come with five year warranty backed by local Trek LBS.
  • + 4
 it's 2 years and replacement parts are available
  • + 1
 youtu.be/2yzPq3ksFDU

Made one, thought it was a little more expensive than i had planned. Still less than half the cost of the bonty version.
  • + 1
 My 5gal pancake air compressor with hose and all attachments was only $75 at Harbor Freight.
  • + 1
 Nothing replaces my air compressor.
  • + 1
 my cola bottle ghetto inflator cost me £5
  • + 1
 At that price, I'm halfway to a new compressor
  • + 1
 Sorry, but I am looking for an enduro specific pump.
  • + 1
 I like it! good job Bontrager.
  • + 0
 Old fridge pump, few bits and pieces and you tube =Home made compressor
  • + 0
 Fridge pump? You mean a compressor? Not designed to pump air (moisture). It'll eat itself quite quickly.
  • + 1
 i made one for other applications and works for years so nice.....and you have two way pump, blow and suck....
  • + 1
 In Morning

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