Jim’s Tech Talk
By Jim Langley
- Backlit top-mount digital gauge with ultra-easy to read display (accurate to within 1%)
- Huge tri-foot base prevents pump falling over and boosts pumping efficiency
- Silca Hiro side-lock Presta chuck for airtight connection every time (Schrader head, too)
- Strong magnetic docks on top and bottom of pump for fuss-free chuck securing after use
- Super-long (51.5-inch (131cm) and top-mounted hose for extraordinary reach
- Steel piston shaft running on lubricated linear bearings with a 28mm leather gasket assembly for ultra-smooth pumping
- Handle strap keeps the pump plunger from extending during transport
- 30-inch (76 cm) handle height may make shorter folks feel vertically challenged
- No built-in feature for tubeless tire inflation/seating
How obtained: Sample from the company
RBR sponsor: No
Silca’s Latest Uber Pump Reviewed plus a Q & A with Owner/Engineer Josh Poertner
If you’ve been reading Tech Talk for a while, you already know that I’m a big fan of Silca products. Especially their pumping products, which I’ve made a living with as a pro mechanic since the 1970’s.
Recently in these pages, I’ve raved about Silca’s Pista Floor Pump ($99); given their Tattico Bluetooth Mini-Pump a rating of 4.5 out of a possible 5 stars ($120); and highly recommended my all-time favorite Presta valve chuck, Silca’s game-changing Hiro.
The pump reviewed here, Silca’s SuperPista Digital is on another level even for Silca. In that it’s the third version of their idea of a cost-is-no-object, ne plus ultra floor pump. Actually, cost may have been an object because this version is less expensive than when Silca debuted their holy grail pump a few years ago with the Ultimate at $450. This is good news for roadies who appreciate owning and using beautiful tools.
I’m going to give my observations on using the SuperPista first. Then, after my review, is a Q & A with Josh at Silca in which he provides fascinating technical details about making pumps. Don’t miss it.
A Powerful, Stable Pumper
The SuperPista boasts a silky-smooth pumping action thanks to a plunger riding on self-lubricating linear bearings and pushing air with Silca’s time-proven leather washer.
Complementing the smooth stroke is an oversized ash wood handle and stable three-footed base. The latter is over 10 inches (25cm) long while the base exceeds 11 (28cm) at its widest point and has 3 wide rubber feet that make it grip the floor and never slide around.
Because of the base’s wide footprint, this is the first floor pump I haven’t yet knocked over. I keep most pumps lying on their side to prevent damage from falling over, which can break gauges and dent pump barrels in a worst case. It’s much less likely on the SuperPista, which should ensure it lasts longer than pumps that topple.
The Ultimate Gauge
One of my favorite features is the digital top-mount backlit gauge. The numbers are about ½ inch (12mm) high and red. As you pump the number changes to the current pressure with only a slight delay. It’s much easier reading a digital gauge like this than trying to see exactly where a needle points on the scale of a dial gauge – even on a large dial, too. I can read it clearly without glasses.
Also, Silca’s digital gauge can be set to the desired pressure and it’ll flash when it’s reached. The battery operated gauge (it takes 2 CR232 coin-type batteries) has an on/off switch but you don’t need to use it because as soon as pressure builds in the hose, the gauge turns on on its own. And it goes off on its own, too.
The gauge is accurate to within 1% so you know you’ve nailed your tire pressure. This is even more important now that running low pressures has become popular. Because even a few psi can mean the difference between the ideal ride and bottoming out a tire and damaging a rim.
For maximum convenience the pump hose is 51.5 inches (131cm) long and attached to the top of the pump. This provides so much reach that you can get to valves on bikes in repair stands or car racks easily. I even like it for inflating tires on the bikes displayed on my wall – much easier than having to take them down!
Also having to do with reach, the SuperPista stands significantly taller than their Pista. Its handle starts at about 30 inches (76.2cm) from the floor versus 25 inches (63.5cm) for their Pista pump. That’s a big difference.
For me it felt too tall at first because I wanted to fully extend the handle to pump. That puts it at 52 inches (132cm) compared to the Pista’s 43 (109cm). And, at 52 inches my arms are bent too much to push well.
Once I realized there’s no need to fully pull out the handle, the pumping stroke felt fine. Still, I asked a few mechanics to give it a try – one a lot shorter than me. The consensus was that it felt oversize at first. I inflated a tire to 90psi with both pumps using full extension with the Pista and partial extension with the SuperPista and both took 30 strokes. Then, I repeated the test extending the SuperPista handle all the way and hit 90 psi in 24 strokes.
Silca’s Premium Hiro Chuck Included
The SuperPista comes with Silca’s Hiro head for use with Presta valves. And, to inflate Schrader valves you simply unscrew the Hiro, which gives you an alloy threaded end to screw on Schraders for an airtight seal.
The Hiro head is Silca’s best. It’s a low-profile side-mount design so it fits on all Presta valves (shortest to longest) and can fit on wheels with hardly any clearance above the valve (such as aero disc wheels on time trial/triathlon bikes).
The Hiro makes pumping easier because it opens to slip on/off Presta valves with no air loss. And, when you close the extra long thumblock lever, the Hiro seals completely and won’t come off or leak. Both are thanks to the side-lock design and cam closure, which work from the side rather than pushing down onto the valve like all other heads.
To read more about the Hiro head (I have them on 3 pumps now) – click the link in my intro to my review.
Overall, I’m impressed by how convenient, positive and accurate pumping is using Silca’s SuperDigital. They have addressed every complaint I’ve had with past pumps and then some. For example, I find it annoying that when I pull my pump out of a vehicle or bag, the handle usually extends on the pump. This causes it to hang up, get stuck. Also, on some pumps, it’s possible to bend the plunger if you’re not careful – or if your teammate jerks the pump trying to get it unstuck. Well, the SuperPista has a nifty little strap that goes over the handle so that this will never happen. It’s a small detail, but it shows the thought and innovation that has gone into this pump.
If you’re looking for a major upgrade for airing your tires – the most frequent bike maintenance chore, I think you’ll love owning a SuperPista Digital.
Please keep reading for much more detail about the SuperPista from one of its designers.
10 Questions About The SuperPista Asked & Answered
I sent this note to Silca, which included 10 asks about the SuperPista Digital. And none other than Silca CEO and head engineer Josh Poertner replied in great detail. In the conversation, I am RBR and Josh is JP.
RBR: It’s not obvious to me what makes the SuperPista Digital a $275 pump. The catalog description talks about shock technology, the accurate gauge, the self lubricating linear bearings, etc. – but it doesn’t provide all the specifics or technical details as far as I can tell. I would very much appreciate it if you could answer the following questions:
RBR: Can you describe/explain more about the suspension technology and the benefit of it in a bicycle pump?
JP: Most pumps use a plastic piston with an o-ring to move the air. Two issues, one the plastic will degrade over time from the heat and eventually fail; two, the o-ring will not seal when the outer tube gets hot and loses efficiency, but also the o-ring only forms a single line of seal with the tube, so any dust, sand, etc. that gets in there and nicks the ring or scratches the tube all forms a bypass for the air.
We use a CNC aluminum shock piston with an IGUS linear guide bearing (it’s a bushing but IGUS says bearing). IGUS is an exotic plastic type material used by FOX in their Float series forks for reduced friction and longer life. Porsche uses it in their manual transmission linkages and inside of their shock absorbers.
Our leather pump gasket also forms a 1cm tall seal and the leather is conformable to the tube surface.. any dust or sand sits on top of the bushing or the leather and doesn’t affect sealing.
While most pumps lose 1-2% pumping efficiency per year of use, SILCA pumps actually get more efficient with time.
RBR: What is a self-lubricating linear bearing and how does it work? Any drawings/illustrations showing it?
JP: Here’s a photo of the assembly compared to another popular pump
Here is info from IGUS on their piston rings and materials.. we use one on the piston and one inside the top cap to guarantee ultimate smoothness and longevity: https://www.igus.com/iglide/plain-bearing?sort=3&fc=300721&inch=false.
Our piston design, bushing, shaft finishing and a few other things are inspired by my close friends at PUSH Industries who do suspension upgrades for Fox and RockShox. If you aren’t familiar, Darren is probably the most brilliant mind in suspension right now and he’s a brilliant machinist.
RBR: Is this pump designed for inflating suspension shocks, too?
JP: Not specifically. The average person can probably achieve 250psi based on the piston diameter of the pump… any higher would require a smaller piston diameter. But the pump is 250psi capable and has thread-on metal fittings, so it could work.
RBR: The description says it’s an alloy barrel. What alloy is it? Same question for the plunger – what type of steel?
JP: Piston is 7075 and barrel is a custom extruded 6066-T6. The barrel has a second cavity to allow for the high gauge mounting. Some brands do this with an external tube, but we heard so many stories from shops/customers about the secondary tube being bent, damaged, fragile, etc.. that we just chose to tool up and extrude it into the design up front.
The pumping cavity is high polished after machining for higher efficiency pumping.
RBR: The barrel has a finish on it? Is it painted, anodized or what, i.e. how durable is it and will it rust/corrode?
JP: The barrel is black Teflon/hard anodized for low friction and durability and has 2.75mm wall thickness (compared to 1.5mm on other brands) for increased dent resistance.
RBR: What’s the significance of having a brass air-check assembly? Actually, what is an air-check assembly – I can guess but I’m not sure?
JP: The check valve assembly is what keeps the air from flowing backwards in the pump. SILCA has used the same machined brass hydraulic pin design since 1947, rated at 3000psi in pneumatic applications, this pin is removable, replaceable and completely failproof.
Most brands use either a rubber ball or a rubber flap against an orifice to prevent backflow. These work fine until the rubber fails from heat cycling and the pump is useless.
The real issue with the check valve is that to save money, many/most pumps are bonded or press fit together, so if the check valve fails, there is no replacing it, you’re done.
On our pumps every single part uses threads and fasteners, which is more expensive and makes them completely field-serviceable.
RBR: The description talks about an alarm when you go past your set pressure. Is this only the display flashing or does the pump make an audible alarm? My pump doesn’t seem to make any noises.
JP: No, early versions had a beep and it drove people mad so we removed it. Making it optional complicated the electronics and would require a button, so it just flashes.
On our Bluetooth pumps you can set it to beep as well as flash or just flash, but that logic is far less expensive to produce on the phone than in a stand alone PCB.
RBR: Why is the pump so much taller than the regular Pista pump? Are you planning on offering a smaller version?
JP: When we did the SILCA Ultimate pump, height and base size were the two issues brought up by pretty much every pro-level user we talked to. Many modern pumps are size copies of the old Pista, but their reality is that the Pista was designed on request by the Bianchi Pirelli team to fit under the seat of a Fiat team car. In frequent use, the pump is a bit short for most adult men.
By making it taller, it can push more air per complete stroke and requires less bending. The SuperPista launched in 1990 by SILCA was taller than the Pista, but this height has not carried into most modern pumps because this height plus a stable base often puts the pump into dimensional shipping with UPS and USPS which more than doubles shipping costs.
We aren’t chasing dollars, so we have the largest base and the tallest height. If you are short you just use less stroke.. no harm, if you are tall, it’s better, win-win. We make both smaller pumps and travel-specific pumps if size/weight are issues, but we view this as a shop quality tool.
RBR: How long will the gauge battery typically last?
JP: In the lab battery life is around 100-120 hours of continuous use depending on temperature. We calculate that to be almost 4 years of life if you pumped 2- 700×28 road tires from zero (5 minutes) every day.
If you remove the battery compartment you see that the pump actually uses 2 CR2032 batteries, this was in order to double battery life.
RBR: This pump has a 25-year warranty, I believe, which is impressive, but what does that warranty cover?
JP: The SuperPista Digital is covered by our ‘Lifetime Warranty’ which is defined as covering defects in materials and workmanship for the life of the user PLUS 7 years of coverage for non-defect reasons such as fatigue, wear and tear, etc.
Warranty is a huge pet peeve of mine in this and other industries. The reality of this category and most others is that the parts rarely fail for reasons covered under the warranty. When your plastic piston starts chipping apart from heat, or your o-ring breaks, or the check valve fails in 3 years.. none of that is covered as those aren’t defects, they are the result of use or fatigue, etc. Most brands cover only 2 years of hard parts from manufacturing defects with zero coverage for wear and tear.
We are the only brand that does not void our warranty for pro team or bike shop/professional environment use. All of this, of course, manifests itself in numerous ways, from our increased testing, use of higher quality materials and ultimately our over-buying and stocking of hundreds of spare parts and assemblies to guarantee that we can fulfill warranties for the time period promised. (The Ultimate pump gets the lifetime plus 25 year warranty BTW.)
Lastly, a lot of the SuperPista Digital’s $275 price comes from the 1% accuracy gauge and sensor which we custom curve fit to be 0.5% accuracy at low pressures. We also designed the pressure sensor to sit on top of a secondary switch so that the gauge turns on when sensing pressure. Other digital pumps/gauges in our space are at best +/-3% accuracy, so to get to +/-1% drives some considerable additional cost. But as the pump is already about being a pro quality tool, it was going to be expensive regardless, so we went for max accuracy as well.
RBR: Thanks a lot Josh!
Ride total: 9,534
Jim Langley is RBR’s Technical Editor. He has been a pro mechanic and cycling writer for more than 40 years. He’s the author of Your Home Bicycle Workshop in the RBR eBookstore. Check out his “cycling aficionado” website at http://www.jimlangley.net, his Q&A blog and updates at Twitter. Jim’s streak of consecutive cycling days has reached more than 8,000. Click to read Jim’s full bio.