Condensed Answer: A floor pump cannot be used effectively for pumping up shocks because it operates with a high volume/low-pressure cylinder and many models cannot even reach the high PSI needed by shocks.
The result is inaccuracy and ineffective control of the air in the shock. For best results, it’s recommended to invest in a dedicated shock pump.
The Downsides of Using a Floor Pump On Shocks
- High Volume + Lack of Precision
Floor pumps are designed for tires and thus operate with a much greater volume per stroke than shock pumps.
The air chamber of a shock is very small and thus a floor pump may overfill it. As a consequence, the rider will lose the ability to accurately set the pressure of the shock.
In different, shock pumps operate with a much smaller volume per stroke and allow the rider to make finer adjustments to the pressure.
- Air Loss Upon Chuck Removal
Shock pumps come with a screw-on attachment which creates an airtight seal before the valve of the shock is even opened. During removal, the seal closes before the hose of the pump is removed. This is done to bring the loss of air to a minimum.
Most floor pumps operate with a clip-on valve. Thus, some air is lost during the removal of the hose. This isn’t a big deal when dealing with tires because they use a lot of volume. But when it comes to shocks, the loss of air could lead to a noticeable change.
- No Bleed Valve
Shock pumps have a bleed valve that allows the user to reduce the air pressure of the shock with the press of a single button without removing the pump.
Floor pumps do not come with this option. The only way to reduce the pressure is to remove the pump and press the valve of the shock. This method is not only inaccurate but also inconvenient.
- Low Pressure
Some floor pumps operate at fairly low pressure and may not even reach the high PSI needed by a shock.
- Short Hose
Floor pumps are designed to be placed on the ground and then used to inflate the tires. The length of the hose is based on this usage. As a result, the hose isn’t long enough to reach the front suspension shock unless you elevate the pump or hold it.
- Too Big
Shock pumps are compact and can be taken on a ride without too much inconvenience. This is useful for people who are in the process of finding their preferred suspension settings.
Conversely, floor pumps are large and designed for use in the shop or at home. That said, you can still bring one with you if you use a car to reach the trails.
FAQ: Will a floor pump damage the shock?
A floor pump is unlikely to damage a shock by itself. However, it prevents the user from getting the shock accurately adjusted.
One of air shocks’ main advantages is that they are highly customizable/adaptable.
By relying on a shock pump for adjusting the settings, you won’t be able to benefit from this property.
FAQ: Can I use a shock pump for pumping my tires?
A shock pump can technically fill a bike tire. However, it will take a lot of time (at least 30 minutes) to get the tire to mediocre air pressure.
This happens because shock pumps are deliberately designed to move very little air per stroke. Consequently, it takes an eternity to fill a regular bike tire. Hence the need for separate pumps.
Another downside of using a shock pump for tires is that the unit is compatible only with the Schrader valve by default.
If you have to pump a Presta tire, you will need to use an adapter. Adapters are a bit annoying when the valve has a removable core because the core could untighten along with the adapter and release all the air.
There are also hybrid hand pumps that can operate in two modes:
- High Pressure + Low Volume (for shock pumping)
- Low Pressure + High Volume (for tire pumping)
Usually, there’s a mechanism that allows the user to switch from a narrow cylinder (high pressure/low volume setting) to a wide cylinder (low pressure/high volume).
As a result, the pump can be used to inflate not only shocks but tires too.
Hybrid models are usually fine for pumping shocks but a bit slow when it comes to tires. Therefore, if you have a hybrid or a road bike in addition to an MTB, you may need a separate pump because road tires operate at a much higher pressure that would be difficult to reach with a suboptimal pump.
Summary: What You Need To Know
- Floor pumps are designed for inflating tires and come with large high-volume cylinders. This makes them inaccurate for inflating shocks where a few extra PSI matter.
- Floor pumps have chucks that fail to form an airtight seal before opening the valve. As a result, some air is lost when the pump is used on a shock.
- Unlike shock pumps, floor pumps do not have a bleed button.
- Shock pumps give you the accuracy necessary for the proper adjustment of the shock. This makes them indispensable for air shocks.
- There are hybrid pumps that can switch between low and high volume and be used for both shocks and tires.