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
I think I would rather have the $750 Campagnolo Corkscrew. It somehow feels like a better deal. And I still can’t believe the neither has a phone app….
Jim Langley says
I had a Campy corkscrew, Sam. A very dangerous thing because you want to show it off and end up drinking way too much 😉
FYI on an app for pumps: Silca’s Tattico mini has that feature and I love it. You can see a pic of the app in my review here https://www.roadbikerider.com/silca-tattico-bluetooth-mini-pump-and-premio-tire-levers-d3/
And, here’s where to learn more about the corkscrew https://www.campagnolo.com/NL/en/store/big_the_corkscrew
Are you kidding, $450 for a pump? For $140, I can buy a 6 gal/175psi air compressor from harbor freight or, for $25 can buy a performance spin doctor pump (like the one that has lasted the last 9 years and still going strong.
Road Bike Rider says
Current pricing is $275, which is the same price as a high end pair of bibs that can wear out in two seasons or a crash.
Fred Rose says
I agree, $250 or whatever the price is, thats crazy money, this is intended for the wealthy person who has to have Ferrari as their everyday car, so they have to have a $250 pump as their everyday pump. Geez I know a guy who bought a Zefal Pump from Walmart and it’s 10 years old or so, cost? $18; even if that Zefal lasted just 5 years you would have to buy 15 pumps over 75 years to get to the cost of the one $250 Silca pump…I seriously doubt that the Silca would last 75 years, in fact digital stuff is quite fragile compared to the analog gauges, and I bet that display on the gauge won’t last 15 years. And this Silca pump won’t even do tubeless! I spent $70 for a Bontrager dual Charger pump, and it’s rebuildable, it doesn’t do tubeless either but I’m not going that route.
Uh I’m using a $30 generic pump with a brass Silca head that’s several years old and gets me to 90 lbs. in 30 strokes in a 25mm tire. Give me the extra $ and I’ll have pizza and beer money for weeks!
Jim Langley says
True, Dave, but you did upgrade to a Silca head on that budget pump so you are already drinking the Kool-Aid – albeit in a very small cup 😉
Brian Nystrom says
For the past 20+ years, I’ve been using a Topeak Twister with a digital gauge (which folds out of the way), heavy extruded alloy barrel with a channel for the gauge, a long, top-mounted hose, wide handle and wide base (sound familiar?). I know I’ve replace the o-ring once – a month ago – and perhaps once before that. I may have changed the washer in the head once, but I’m not sure. The point is that it’s been extremely durable, low maintenance and reliable. I bought it on sale for less than 1/10 the price of the Silca. Which is really the better value?
In newer pumps, Lezyne makes some that are really nice and they have great head designs too, for considerably less money.
While I appreciate high-quality products, it can get to a point of over-building something just for the sake of doing it. That seems to be Silca’s ethos and it doesn’t make sense to this frugal Yankee.
Jim Langley says
Josh Poertner at Silca sent me the following comment to share:
“Jim, you point out the height of the pump for short people and I always remind everybody that shorter people will use as much stroke as they would use on a shorter pump, as shorter users are limited by top of stroke rather than bottom of stroke, but since the real work of actually compressing the air through the check valve at high pressure happens in the bottom 10% of stroke no matter how tall the pump shorter people have the same power to push air as taller people when using a taller pump.. essentially shorter people can utilize the stroke of shorter pumps while taller people can take advantage of the taller pump (and their height!).”
Fritz Mueller says
I have been using a Silca Super Pista pump for the past 25 years. I’ve changed the leather washer one time, and the pump gasket a couple of times. Other than this maintenance, it’s as new! It’s one of the best $40 investments I have ever made..
I had a Slica track pump from the 80’s that I used until the washer failed and I couldn’t get replacements. Then I pitched it. Then Silca became a thing again and I cried 🙁
Fritz Mueller says
I got my Super Pista sometime around 1994 and my local bike shop got me a couple of extra leather washers for the pump and a couple of the rubber washers for the head. I only use tubes that have smooth stems so there is very little wear on the head washer. About once a year I rub some Vaseline into the leather washer, and it just keeps on working. I’m pretty tall, and the Silca was the only pump that I didn’t have to become a pretzel to use.
Can that Hiro end be used on the Pista pump? (Never did like the one on the Pista.)
Jim Langley says
Yes, Paulie, with recent Silca Pista pumps, it’ll screw right on after your remove the Silca head that came on your pump. If you have an older Pista without the screw-on chuck, then you remove that chuck by loosening the clamp on the hose and pulling the chuck out of the hose.
Save whatever type of clamp was on the pump hose holding the chuck tight in there. Then press the barb end of the Hiro chuck into the hose and tighten the clamp and you’ll be good to go.
I bet you could also upgrade an older Pista to their new hose so that its end is threaded and the Hiro would screw onto it, too.
Hope this helps!
larry english says
so for $275, they use magic to turn a bushing into a “linear bearing”? BS
If you ride a lot, then this pump is worth every penny. We spend thousands on bikes, yet when it comes to pumps, we always try to cut corners. The Silca Superpista pumps fast, not flimsy at all, has a super accurate digital gauge where you don’t have to squint, and handles beautifully given the magnetic Hiro chuck and strap. I am loving it. I’d rather have less trouble pumping tires every other day for myself and friends than to spend that money on 20 Pizzas.
This is just advertising nonsense. First off the accuracy of the digital gauge is not any better or worse than the analog dial, a pump is not controlling the PSI digitally and therefore the gauge is digitally correct, the pump is a manual device and therefore is analog in its presentation, therefore the gauge doesn’t matter the least bit if it’s digital or analog, both are set by the factory and are only as exact as the factory set it. Also with a large analog gauge who has to squint to see those? Flimsy? the only flimsy pumps I’ve seen are the ones sold at Walmart! There are a lot of great pumps that get high reviews that cost less than half of the Silca pump and have very long lives, pumps like the Lezyne CNC or the Classic, Specialized Air Tool Pro, Bontrager Super Charger, Giant Control Tower Pro, Serfas Fp-200, and SKS Airmenius, Now I’m not saying the Silca is a horrible pump, no, in fact, it’s quite well made, but that’s no problem here, the problem here is that it’s overpriced. Now of course a person who has a fleet of $10,000 plus bikes then paying $270 for a pump is chump change, but for most of us here the sport is already overpriced, so if we can get a pump that will last 40 years well that’s great, and it’s even greater if we pay less than a $100 for it. I had a pump I got from Walmart that lasted 13 years and only paid $22 for it, so a $75 pump should last at least 40 years.