Prestaflator and Problem Solvers Air-Bob Universal Inflators

Prestaflator and Problem Solvers Air-Bob Universal Inflators

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by Greg Klingsporn

If you are fortunate enough to have an air compressor in your shop or garage, you know how useful it can be for all sorts of things. With a long enough air hose and the right air tool, you can loosen lug nuts, paint furniture, blow gunk out of your cassette and even clean gutters. But all of that, of course, is mere justification for the luxury purchase of a machine which will effortlessly inflate your bike tires for you. While just about any cheap accessory kit will include a basic Schrader valve inflator, I’m willing to bet that you have Presta valves on your wheelsets – in which case you basically have two choices: the Prestaflator and Problem Solvers’ Air-Bob. I tested both.

Problem Solvers Air-Bob ($95 MSRP)

The Air-Bob is a solid tool that looks like it can take a shop-level beating (that is, consistent drops onto concrete.) It is a metal cylinder with an NPT fitting for your hose on one end, a universal pump head (which will accept Presta and Schraeder valves) on the other end and a trigger, pressure gauge and bleed valve in between. Being compact and light, it is easily used with one hand. A nice touch is that the inflator head rotates 360 degrees, meaning that once you have the trigger in hand, you don’t need to adjust your grip or twist your air hose around, no matter where the valve happens to be oriented on the wheel. The gauge on our unit is relatively accurate (I compared it to both the Prestaflator’s gauge and a hand-held digital gauge) and reads quickly once you start the air flow into the tire. The bleeder button is a decided bonus and is well-located so that you can easily alternate between adding and bleeding pressure.

The Air-Bob isn’t perfect. Like most “universal” parts, the universal inflator head isn’t; one deep-section rim I had left only a short length of the tire valve accessible, and while I could inflate it with our trusty Silca floor pump and the Prestaflator (which has a Silca-like head,) the Air-Bob’s head wouldn’t fit. The trigger is not as precise at regulating variable air pressure as the Prestaflator’s, and the gauge lost accuracy as pressures got below 30 psi, which is a bummer because that’s exactly where you’ll want the precision if you’re using it for cyclocross on tubulars. The biggest downside is the price: at $95 retail, it’s more than twice the price of the Prestaflator, and close to the price of some air compressors!

For more info: problemsolversbike.com

Prestaflator (MSRP $40; $55 as tested with optional accessories )

The Prestaflator takes a very different design approach than the Air-Bob. Rather than a single fitting for one-handed use, the Prestaflator has its inflator head on the end of its own short hose, attached to a pistol-like grip holding the trigger and gauge. The trigger is large and can vary the air pressure quite nicely, which is great if you have a beefy shop compressor with a PSI that can blow holes in your tubes. The separate hose means that you can swap the inflator heads (the company sells a Schraeder fitting ($10), a low pressure blower tip ($5) and other accessories) and use the same gauge and trigger for other odd jobs around the shop without having to remove the tool.

But the Prestaflator cannot be used with one hand—it is a two-hand operation only (one hand to hold the head onto the valve, and the other working the trigger) making it more of a hassle if your shop, like mine, is short on places to lean a bike while topping off the pressure before a ride. On our review unit, this problem was exacerbated by a kink that developed in the Prestaflator’s short hose, as it limited the range of positions available between our hands. And there is no bleed valve on the Prestaflator, so if you overshoot your pressure, you have to pop off the head, guess how much air to let out, and then repeat the whole process. Prestaflator says the lack of a bleed valve is a good thing, as the presta valve remains sealed without the bleeder and permits the inflator to be removed from the valve without losing any air pressure from the tire. (In my brief testing, the Air-Bob did not lose more than 1 PSI during a normal removal.) Also worth noting, should you ride a road bike out of boredom in the off-season, both the Prestaflator and the Air-Bob can inflate a road tire to 90 psi with no problems, but I found the Prestaflator noticeably slower getting there. The Prestaflator’s biggest advantage is cost. You can buy a (Presta-only) Prestaflator from either a local bike shop or direct for $39.95—less than half the retail price of the Air-Bob. Though I found the Air-Bob for significantly less than retail at on-line sources, there was still a significant price difference. I preferred the one-handed operation of the Air-Bob, and appreciated its bombproof construction and design. But if you don’t mind using two hands, the Prestaflator is the better value.

For more info: prestaflator.com

Prestaflator Air Compressor
Bicycle Inflator and Problem
Solvers Air-Bob Universal
Inflator
Tester: Greg Klingsborn
If you are fortunate enough to have an air
compressor in your shop or garage, you know
how useful it can be for all sorts of things. With
a long enough air hose and the right air tool, you
can loosen lug nuts, paint furniture, blow gunk
out of your cassette and even clean gutters. But
all of that, of course, is mere justification for
the luxury purchase of a machine which will
effortlessly inflate your bike tires for you. While
just about any cheap accessory kit will include a
basic Schrader valve inflator, I’m willing to bet
that you have Presta valves on your wheelsets.
In which case you basically have two choices:
the Prestaflator and Problem Solvers’ Air-Bob.
I tested both.
Problem Solvers Air-Bob ($95 MSRP)
The Air-Bob is a solid tool that looks like it
can take a shop-level beating (that is, consistent
drops onto concrete.) It is a metal cylinder with
an NPT fitting for your hose on one end, a
universal pump head (which will accept Presta
and Schraeder valves) on the other end and
a trigger, pressure gauge and bleed valve in
between. Being compact and light, it is easily
used with one hand. A nice touch is that the
inflator head rotates 360 degrees, meaning that
once you have the trigger in hand, you don’t
need to adjust your grip or twist your air hose
around, no matter where the valve happens to
be oriented on the wheel. The gauge on our
unit is relatively accurate (I compared it to both
the Prestaflator’s gauge and a hand-held digital
gauge) and reads quickly once you start the
air flow into the tire. The bleeder button is a
decided bonus and is well-located so that you
can easily alternate between adding and bleeding
pressure.
The Air-Bob isn’t perfect. Like most “universal”
parts, the universal inflator head isn’t: one
deep-section rim I had left only a short length
of the tire valve accessible, and while I could
inflate it with our trusty Silca floor pump and
the Prestaflator (which has a Silca-like head,) the
Air-Bob’s head wouldn’t fit. The trigger is not
as precise at regulating variable air pressure as
the Prestaflator’s. And the gauge lost accuracy as
pressures got below 30 psi, which is a bummer
because that’s exactly where you’ll want the
precision if you’re using it for cyclocross on
tubulars. The biggest downside is the price: at
$95 retail, it is more than twice the price of the
Prestaflator, and close to the price of some air
compressors!
For more info: problemsolversbike.com
Prestaflator (MSRP $40; as tested with optional
accessories: $55)
The Prestaflator takes a very different design
approach than the Air-Bob. Rather than a single
fitting for one-handed use, the Prestaflator has
its inflator head on the end of its own short hose,
attached to a pistol-like grip holding the trigger
and gauge. The trigger is large and can vary the
air pressure quite nicely, which is great if you
have a beefy shop compressor with a PSI that
can blow holes in your tubes. The separate hose
means that you can swap the inflator heads (the
company sells a Schraeder fitting ($10), a lowpressure
blower tip ($5) and other accessories)
and use the same gauge and trigger for other
odd jobs around the shop without having to
remove the tool.
But the Prestaflator cannot be used with one
hand—it is a two-hand operation only (one
hand to hold the head onto the valve, and the
other working the trigger) making it more of a
hassle if your shop, like mine, is short on places
to lean a bike while topping off the pressure
before a ride. On our review unit, this problem
was exacerbated by a kink that developed in the
Prestaflator’s short hose, as it limited the range
of positions available between our hands. And
there is no bleed valve on the Prestaflator, so if
you overshoot your pressure, you have to pop
off the head, guess how much air to let out, and
then repeat the whole process. Prestaflator says
the lack of a bleed valve is a good thing, as the
presta valve remains sealed without the bleeder
and permits the inflator to be removed from the
valve without losing any air pressure from the
tire. (In my brief testing, the Air-Bob did not
lose more than 1 PSI during a normal removal.)
Also worth noting, should you ride a road bike
out of boredom in the off-season, both the
Prestaflator and the Air-Bob can inflate a road
tire to 90 psi with no problems, but I found
the Prestaflator noticeably slower getting there.
The Prestaflator’s biggest advantage is cost.
You can buy a (Presta-only) Prestaflator from
either a local bike shop or direct for $39.95—
less than half the retail price of the Air-Bob.
Though I found the Air-Bob for significantly
less than retail at on-line sources, there was
still a significant price difference. I preferred
the one-handed operation of the Air-Bob, and
appreciated its bombproof construction and
design. But if you don’t mind using two hands,
the Prestaflator is the better value.
For more info: prestaflator.comPrestaflator Air Compressor

Bicycle Inflator and Problem

Solvers Air-Bob Universal

Inflator

Tester: Greg Klingsborn

If you are fortunate enough to have an air

compressor in your shop or garage, you know

how useful it can be for all sorts of things. With

a long enough air hose and the right air tool, you

can loosen lug nuts, paint furniture, blow gunk

out of your cassette and even clean gutters. But

all of that, of course, is mere justification for

the luxury purchase of a machine which will

effortlessly inflate your bike tires for you. While

just about any cheap accessory kit will include a

basic Schrader valve inflator, I’m willing to bet

that you have Presta valves on your wheelsets.

In which case you basically have two choices:

the Prestaflator and Problem Solvers’ Air-Bob.

I tested both.

Problem Solvers Air-Bob ($95 MSRP)

The Air-Bob is a solid tool that looks like it

can take a shop-level beating (that is, consistent

drops onto concrete.) It is a metal cylinder with

an NPT fitting for your hose on one end, a

universal pump head (which will accept Presta

and Schraeder valves) on the other end and

a trigger, pressure gauge and bleed valve in

between. Being compact and light, it is easily

used with one hand. A nice touch is that the

inflator head rotates 360 degrees, meaning that

once you have the trigger in hand, you don’t

need to adjust your grip or twist your air hose

around, no matter where the valve happens to

be oriented on the wheel. The gauge on our

unit is relatively accurate (I compared it to both

the Prestaflator’s gauge and a hand-held digital

gauge) and reads quickly once you start the

air flow into the tire. The bleeder button is a

decided bonus and is well-located so that you

can easily alternate between adding and bleeding

pressure.

The Air-Bob isn’t perfect. Like most “universal”

parts, the universal inflator head isn’t: one

deep-section rim I had left only a short length

of the tire valve accessible, and while I could

inflate it with our trusty Silca floor pump and

the Prestaflator (which has a Silca-like head,) the

Air-Bob’s head wouldn’t fit. The trigger is not

as precise at regulating variable air pressure as

the Prestaflator’s. And the gauge lost accuracy as

pressures got below 30 psi, which is a bummer

because that’s exactly where you’ll want the

precision if you’re using it for cyclocross on

tubulars. The biggest downside is the price: at

$95 retail, it is more than twice the price of the

Prestaflator, and close to the price of some air

compressors!

For more info: problemsolversbike.com

Prestaflator (MSRP $40; as tested with optional

accessories: $55)

The Prestaflator takes a very different design

approach than the Air-Bob. Rather than a single

fitting for one-handed use, the Prestaflator has

its inflator head on the end of its own short hose,

attached to a pistol-like grip holding the trigger

and gauge. The trigger is large and can vary the

air pressure quite nicely, which is great if you

have a beefy shop compressor with a PSI that

can blow holes in your tubes. The separate hose

means that you can swap the inflator heads (the

company sells a Schraeder fitting ($10), a lowpressure

blower tip ($5) and other accessories)

and use the same gauge and trigger for other

odd jobs around the shop without having to

remove the tool.

But the Prestaflator cannot be used with one

hand—it is a two-hand operation only (one

hand to hold the head onto the valve, and the

other working the trigger) making it more of a

hassle if your shop, like mine, is short on places

to lean a bike while topping off the pressure

before a ride. On our review unit, this problem

was exacerbated by a kink that developed in the

Prestaflator’s short hose, as it limited the range

of positions available between our hands. And

there is no bleed valve on the Prestaflator, so if

you overshoot your pressure, you have to pop

off the head, guess how much air to let out, and

then repeat the whole process. Prestaflator says

the lack of a bleed valve is a good thing, as the

presta valve remains sealed without the bleeder

and permits the inflator to be removed from the

valve without losing any air pressure from the

tire. (In my brief testing, the Air-Bob did not

lose more than 1 PSI during a normal removal.)

Also worth noting, should you ride a road bike

out of boredom in the off-season, both the

Prestaflator and the Air-Bob can inflate a road

tire to 90 psi with no problems, but I found

the Prestaflator noticeably slower getting there.

The Prestaflator’s biggest advantage is cost.

You can buy a (Presta-only) Prestaflator from

either a local bike shop or direct for $39.95—

less than half the retail price of the Air-Bob.

Though I found the Air-Bob for significantly

less than retail at on-line sources, there was

still a significant price difference. I preferred

the one-handed operation of the Air-Bob, and

appreciated its bombproof construction and

design. But if you don’t mind using two hands,

the Prestaflator is the better value.

For more info: prestaflator.com