Choosing one product from the sea of shiny objects that the mountain bike industry churns out each season is a tough process, so when we finally pick Pinkbike's Product of the Year, we get all excited about it. But, like the child at the beach, happily waving a sea shell to his mom while a massive breaker mounts behind him, our euphoria will not be long lasting. Announcing the winner assures that a monumental swell of disappointed runners up and butt-hurt fan-boys will vehemently disagree with our pick. When the white water recedes and another topic rolls into the social media, we will be left knee-deep, wondering if we just bestowed Pinkbike's highest honor to the one stand-out product that rocked Y-2014 - or if we boldly lit the troll fuse and then forgot to toss it before it blew up in our faces.
With no further ado, we begin by mentioning that our pick for this year's best component was the least likely of the five nominees to earn the win due to its plebian purpose. Pitted against a magical tire that rocked the World Cup DH and the Enduro World Series, the first braking system to crack into Shimano's recent domination of upper-echelon mountain bikes, a breakthrough wide-format carbon wheelset, and cargo-carrying underwear for macho men, a floor pump's chances may seem on par with pygmy cowboys attempting to rob a speeding train. Pinkbike's Product of the Year award goes to Bontrager's TLR Flash Charger floor pump.
Product of the Year
Bontrager TLR Flash Charger Pump
Bontrager's TLR Flash Charger pump earns the top spot as much for what it doesn't do as its does for being the first floor pump to address the travails of successfully seating and filling tubeless tires without the assistance of an electric compressor or a Co2 cartridge. The Flash Charger
operates as a typical floor pump until a blast of compressed air is needed. In such cases, the user simply turns a lever and, with a number of pump strokes, pressurizes its built-in reservoir. With the air line connected to the valve stem of the troublesome tire, the lever is reversed and the reservoir's compressed air is released at once to encourage the tire to mount and seat. The user can then continue to inflate the tire to top it off or finish seating the beads against the rim flanges.
Flash Charger pumps cost about as much as a cheap air compressor, and while it could be argued that readily available compressed air from a continuously charged electric source would be far handier, a manual alternative makes a lot of sense. In a mountain biker's imperfect world, if an electric compressor actually exists, it will need to run loudly for five minutes to come up to pressure. More likely, the need to install a tubeless tire will arise during a road trip where there is no ready source of electricity, or you will be wrestling with the wheel in the early morning hours where a noisy device would wake up the entire apartment complex. Bontrager's Flash Charger pump is quiet, it doesn't require a power source other than the mechanic, it is portable, green, easy to store, and ready to work at a moment's notice. Anyone who has fought with a tubeless installation and needed a boost of compressed air to get the job done will appreciate Bontrager's simple and always-at-hand solution.
MENTIONS: @trek, @schwalbe, @ibiscycles, Revisit the Nominees