Bike tuning tips: Hand pump rejuvenation |

Bike tuning tips: Hand pump rejuvenation

Emma Garrard/Sierra SunMountain biking in the Sierra takes its toll on parts, including hand pumps that are often strapped to the bike's frame. Rather than buying a new pump when one gets grimy, learn to fix it up so it's as good as new.

Hard charging through the dusty single track of North Tahoe and Truckee wreaks havoc on mountain bike parts. Granite sand and dust fills gaps, coats components and settles into crevices until bikes squeak, gears skip and brakes squeal.

While most riders are good about regular cleaning, rinsing off bikes, using products like Simple Green on components and chains and lubing them back up before the next use, it’s the accessories that riders often forget about until it’s too late.

While your chain will let you know when it needs some TLC, other things can lie quietly, and when you go to use them you’ll be out of luck.

Hand pumps strapped on to bike frames via water bottle bracket screws can be the most abused. Often mounted on frames down low where dust and dirt collects, hand pumps also aren’t used much, meaning their condition rarely gets inspected.

The danger is that when a hand pump is needed ” usually miles out into the wilderness when a flat occurs ” if the O-rings and tubing become dry and the pump doesn’t work, it could be a long hike out pushing a lumpy, tired bike along.

With a new pump running in the neighborhood of $20-$50, there’s really no need to replace the whole unit when a little time, some grease and possibly a trip to the hardware store will get that hand pump sliding like brand new.

Take the pump apart to inspect it. Most pumps will unscrew at the base of the pump handle. The plunger usually goes into the pump through a hole; that end should be screwed into the cylinder. Unscrew that cap and pull out the plunger.

Everything should be fastened around the plunger’s piston, but be careful not to drop any pieces that may fall out.

Inspect the interior of the pump. Look to see what could cause sticking and lack of friction. The plunger head should have some rubber O-rings around it. Check those for cracking, stretching or unseeding. Check for dirt buildup. Is the inside of the tube clogged up with anything? Is there any lubrication?

Clean all aspects of the pump. If grease or dirt is extreme, soak the parts in a mild degreaser like Simple Green. Make sure to get all the dirt and grime out of the inside of the tube, off the plunger and replace or clean any O-rings.

Lubricate the inside of the tube as well as the plunger head. A waxy marine grease found at any auto parts or hardware store is the best. Make sure the grease won’t corrode rubber parts. For a quicker job, most bicycle chain lubricants will also do the trick.

With the cylinder and plunger greased, slide the parts back in reverse of how they came out, screw the cap back on securely and then work the plunger around inside the cylinder. Give it a dozen pumps or so while twisting the handle to work the grease all around the inside. If everything is right, it should slide like a brand new pump, if not better. Now get on and ride.

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