Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Review: Silca SuperPista

Tools fill and odd spot in my life. It's no secret that I'm a gear nerd, and that is something that doesn't stop at one aspect of my life. Tools are something to cherish, to collect, to be proud of, but most importantly, they are things to be used.

It was soon into wrenching my own (and my friends) bikes that I understood that not only did I need the tools to do the job, but I needed the tools to last more than one or two times being turned. I believe there is a time to skimp on tools (A $300+ pair of ferrule crimpers or a $200 Hanger Alignment tool might be a little more than most home mechanics, myself included, really needs.) there are also some tools that are so commonly used and vital that you should really spend the money to get a nice, heavy duty set. I'm thinking of things like allen wrenches, tire levers, a nice mechanic stand, a torque wrench... things that get used day in and day out. 

And of those tools, there is only one in my garage that literally gets used every single day. The floor pump.

not quite the "ultimate" pump, but pretty dang close.

I've had a couple of pumps over the years. Some have been great, some have been pretty much garbage, and price has not been the determining factor. I have thrown away a very nice expensive Topeak Joe Blow that was an absolute nightmare to own, and I still have a humble Blackburn from Target that I bought one night on vacation... one I still use pretty commonly (after some modification)  and has long surpassed what I expected out of it. I've used quite a few Bontragers, some Specialized, and a Lezyne, all of which were perfectly acceptable. My favorite of those however, has been my Silca Superpista. It's from the mid 2000's, a time when most people would say Silca was slipping, and in a couple of ways it shows in the pump (the small plastic base is not quite a thing of beauty.) and nonetheless, it would be difficult to compare the build quality of any of the other pumps to it.

The imposing figure cut by the Superpista

That said, when Josh Poertner (was Joshatzipp now Joshatsilca) started churning out the Ultimate Pumps, I was torn between an unbelievable amount of pump lust and, like most people I believe, a bit of sticker shock. Some time later, a more accessible option was finally released... the return of the Superpista! I went back and forth about getting one (I also continually watched ebay and the forums for a "gently used" Ultimate that might get sold at deep discount, but alas) or not, but eventually took the plunge when Silca sold off their magazine samples! I was lucky enough to get one, and now that I've had a little time to play with it... all that comes to mind is...awesome.

So, let's dive right in and take a look at this thing... what it claims, what it does, what I like and what I don't like.

The good
There are very few higher compliments to give a pump than that it works. Flawlessly and predictably, every single time you use it. Silca has a history of making reliable, easily serviceable pumps that, in many cases are still seeing daily use many, many years since being new. Serviceable at first seems to raise a lot of eyebrows... "at that price, the thing better not ever need service!" is a constant first reaction, but let's be realistic, even million dollar hypercars need serviced eventually. The fact that all pieces of this pump are easily secured and replaced  (along with the limited lifetime warranty) means that you won't feel like you have to secure this pump in bubble wrap just to take it to the local race.

If you've never used the little bell shaped presta head chuck that Silca is often associated with, well you are in for a real treat. The push on - push off design takes just a little getting used to, but once you get the hang of it there is really nothing else that transfers air to the valve as efficiently. Of course the valve head is not exclusive to the Superpista, but it's worth getting it's own mention just because it's lovely to have on board. There is also a handy pressure relief valve that is worth having a mention, as it lets you really dial in your psi to exactly what you want. There are plenty of pumps that have this feature, but few have it "on hand" at the valve and none that I know of work with similar accuracy.

presta bell! Make it a combo with a chili cheese burrito!

The stroke is enormous on this pump. At first this somewhat threw me off, as I have years of muscle memory using a pump with a much shorter shaft. Once I took a step back and started using the entirety of the motion, the pump really showed off just how smooth and efficient it was at getting high pressure in a tube fast. My wife (who scoffed when I first brought home a $200+ pump) came into the living room after using the pump for the first time and said "I can see why this pump cost that much." It takes a lot to impress my wife, she's very "this is all you need" so for her to immediately warm up to it says a lot (It also sits suspiciously close to her cross bike at all time now...)

Of all the things I like about this pump (and there are so many) my favorite is indeed the base. So many pumps cut corners on the humble base, whether for monetary reasons or for space considerations, and it often means I'm slinging the pump around awkwardly as opposed to putting all my momentum into the stroke. The Superpista is not going anywhere, on pretty much any surface. I keep using the words predictable and assured... and again I mean it as the highest compliment.

Wide and stable, just what you want

The underside

The bad
Is there bad? While I really love this pump, there is one small thing that I wish was at least an option to be made differently on the Superpista. I really, really wish the base of the hose and the lock ring for the end of the presta valve positions could be swapped. I definitely understand why it is made the way it is, (it looks much cleaner for one thing) but for some reason almost every single time I go to use the pump I try to either pull the hose off from the wrong side, or set the gauge facing me backwards. Most pumps have the hose wrap around the shaft, (and secure it at the top of the shaft) and while it looks a little odd it is how it has been ingrained in my mind that pumps work.
That's a pretty small gripe truth be told, and one I wouldn't even mention but for the fact that I had a nice "good/bad/ugly" format set up for this review and needed to fill the bad section with something!

The ugly beautiful
Let's be honest, while you may find some things not to love about this pump (maybe) one thing I doubt anyone can say is that it's ugly. The large, imposing black silhouette that the Superpista casts is perfectly accented with just enough red to make it grab the eye of anyone that wanders by it. The large white face, while intended to make reading pressure easier, does an equally impressive job of conjuring images of a race cars white face gauge cluster. The pumps handle only needed to be functional to pass snuff, but the black kiln beach wood handle that was used adds a very understated bit of class to the otherwise overwhelming "murdered out" vibe that you get looking at it.

Easy to read and gets you in the mind of going fast!

It's unfortunate my cameraman skills can't convey the beauty of the handle here.

Closing thoughts
Let's be realistic. This isn't a pump that most people need. You can find a perfectly functioning tire pump at a much less shocking sticker price. And if that is so, why spend your time considering the Superpista? Certainly I could tell you about the differences in % accuracy (2% as opposed to the normal 5%) or the performance increase (less strokes overall to reach desired psi) and while those things are indeed selling points for some people, in general they are tack on to the real reason to consider it. Because of it's craftsmanship, it's reliability and it's beauty. For those who look at a Timex next to an Omega and say "they both tell time" then no, this probably isn't the pump for you. For those who appreciate it as a FUNCTIONAL work of art, well... look no further. The same could be said for the Ultimate as well... but, well... we all have our limits ;) Convincing my wife a $400+ pump was necessary might take a little time!

Thanks so much for reading... I really appreciate it!

- Christopher Morelock

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