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Today, I walked into town to buy a pump for the bicycles. I was astonished by the overwhelming range of models available. Bike pumps range in price from the basic £9.99 model that I finally settled for to high tech contraptions that cost upwards of £40. It therefore seems relevant to provide a brief comment on the pros and cons of the various models.

For those with zero background in bicycles, a pump is needed to inflate the tyres. These consist of an inner tube, made of flexible rubber, which is surrounded by the more durable rubber casing of the tyre itself, which usually has a tread to stop the bike from slipping. The inner tube is inflated through a valve that pokes through a hole in the metal ring of the wheel which supports the inner tube and tyre. It sounds complicated, but it is actually very simple when you have the bike in front of you.

The young man running the bike store was rather dismissive when I asked him about the pros and cons of the different sorts of pump available. He had originally shown me all the models costing upwards of £20 that were hanging off the shop displays along the wall. They were mostly short and with a variety of perplexing dials and levers. A neglected pile of more basic looking pumps caught my eye. They lay in a box on the floor, and they looked simpler and less space age than the ones on the wall.

“Well, these ones have more features than the basic models,” he explained with a weary tolerance of my ignorance. “So you’re going to need to know your tyre pressures, of course. So you can check you’re not under-inflated”.

I ventured: “Or over-inflated, I suppose?”

He was rather ruffed by that. “Well, you’re going to need to have exactly the right pressure, not too high, not too low. Or it could damage the wheel”.

The one I settled for was the familiar design from my youth: a black cylinder about 20 cm (1.5 feet) long and 2 cm wide, with a flexible tube that you attach to the valve of the bike wheel to inflate the tyre. There are two types of valve: a very thin type which you press directly into the pump, and a sturdier type that screws onto the pump. The former is the more modern type, while the screw-on model is the one I was used to when I was a kid.

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