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Apparel & Accessories

Reviewed: Bontrager Flash Charger tubeless tire pump

The Flash Charger works as a hand-pumped compressor, effectively inflating tubeless tires with ease

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The Bontrager TLR Flash Charger floor pump is the forehead slapper of the year. Everyone says the same thing, “why didn’t I think of that?”

It’s brilliant because it solves one of the greatest problems with modern mountain bikes. All of us want to ride tubeless tires all the time, but setting them up can be a pain, at least without a heavy compressor. The Flash Charger is a remedy and, best of all, it’s portable.

The Flash Charger at first look appears to be a plastic floor pump, almost low budget; its looks don’t measure up to its capabilities or its $120 price tag. It uses a plastic base and handle, missing the polished accoutrements that adorn Bontrager’s $110 Super Charger floor pump. The absent metallic parts could be an attempt by Bontrager to keep the Flash Charger’s weight reasonable, as the alloy air chamber that holds air for the tubeless “Flash” setup ads quite a bit of weight to the pump.

The Flash Charger is easy to use. To set up tubeless tires, first lower the red handle, then up the pressure in the pump to the green zone on the pressure gauge, which takes about 50 pumps. The last 10 or so are tougher than inflating your average tire. Then, when you’ve got your tire mounted and ready to go, attach the chuck and lift the red handle. The air stuck in the Flash chamber flies into the tire and ceases to flow from the chamber when the tire has reached an equal pressure.

The first time you use it, you’ll probably giggle at how awesome and simple it is. Why is this only just now being brought to market?

It’s not all sunshine and rainbows, though, and don’t think for a minute that it will replace your current floor pump. The Flash Charger does one thing very well — setting up tubeless tires — and it did so admirably with multiple sets of my mountain and cyclocross tires. But using it as a regular pump requires extra pumping, as the air pressure in the Flash chamber and tire stay equal. In a pinch, it could be used as your floor pump. It’s just not as easy to use as we’d like, and the quantity of plastic parts on it make us wary of its long term durability. Best to keep it as your go-to pump for setting up tubeless tires, much like an air compressor would be used.

Compared to its competitors, the CO2 canister and the standard floor pump, the Flash Charger wins out, no question. Against a more traditional air compressor, the Flash Charger is almost equal. A three-gallon air compressor can be bought for about $100, but the Flash Charger is 100 percent portable, only needing your feeble cyclist upper body strength to power it.

Wish I’d thought of it.

Suggested retail price: $120
We like: Easy and portable solution for setting up tubeless tires
We don’t like: Can’t easily pull double duty as a standard floor pump. All the plastic used reminds us of a far less expensive pump.
The scoop: As good as an air compressor, but human powered, and awesome.

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