Robot’s Useless Reviews – This Stupid Pump

This stupid pump is not going to inflate this stupid tire. I’m not sure who designed the head on this thing, but it is not going to clamp the valve stem and even if it manages to clamp the valve stem, there is no way the air in its tiny chamber is ever going to end up in the tube inside this tire. And don’t you dare say a word to me about tubeless tires. This is clearly neither the time nor the place to discuss my poor life choices.

There is a thin stripe of chain grease running from right temple, over my right eyebrow and then tapering off near the middle of my forehead. I have been bitten by 42 mosquitoes since first hearing the hiss of air leaving tire and felt the rumble of rim on road. My eyes sting from the sweat, no longer evaporating in a firm headwind, now running into my eyes.

I’m not sure the last time I used this pump. I’ve had it in my jersey pocket, jostling around amid empty bar wrappers, sunglasses, and a crumpled rain jacket, for an eternity now. There may be a small bruise on vertebra T2 from the micro-impact of the useless pump head.

I don’t know why they make the business end of these things out of plastic. Is there any less precise material than plastic? And really, when your eyes are stinging, and the mosquitoes are stinging, and you’re just a sweat-soaked jerk in a clapped-out chamois and riding leotard, you need some precision. You don’t need a soft plastic pump head, comprised of four or five moving plastic bits, screwed together with a plastic cap.

You need the air that’s in the air, to get into the chamber that’s in the pump, to get through the pump head, through the valve stem, and into the tube (or even the goddamned tire if you’re riding tubeless (OK will you leave me alone about it already)), so you can begin to evaporate some of the moisture pouring out of your grease-streaked head, before you get malaria or bleed out from the vampiric feast the mosquitoes are having on all of your exposed parts.

Once upon a time, I had a CO2 canister freeze to my hand in a frigid rainstorm. That was preferable to this.

Before I throw this stupid pump out into (metaphorical) traffic in a fit of infantile rage, let me own a few things. I never meant to need the pump. I never meant to have a flat. I never meant to take the pump out of my pocket. If I had meant any of those things, I would not have chosen this pump to be in my hand in this moment.

What even is a pump?

John Boyd Dunlop, veterinary surgeon and inventor of pneumatic tires

I know what you think a pump is, not even trying to be clever here, just working in the simple context of our common understanding of everyday objects. You think a pump is a tool used to inflate things, like tires. I would argue, this is a tertiary definition of ‘pump’ as I understand it. To be 1000% clear (not an actual measure of clarity), your sense of what a pump is, is correct.

There are two problems with this stupid pump that go beyond your quantifiably impossible understanding of it as a tool, though. First, this stupid pump is, for me, an obligation, a thing that I carry because I am supposed to carry it, regardless of whether it gets used or not. I am carrying this pump, because pumps are things you carry. Secondarily, I am carrying this pump to keep you from saying things to me like, “What, no pump?” or “Were you thinking you were going to use my pump?” or “How far do you think you can walk in those shoes?”

You see, this stupid pump is not a tool but rather a totem of my preparedness and/or my consideration for you as a companion/observer. I am only carrying this pump to be worthy of carrying a pump, to be riding a bicycle, and to be doing so in accordance with our unspoken agreement about what that means. I would be wrapped around the axle completely on this thing if I had an axle that was moving in a wrap-making manner, rather than sitting, inert, by the side of the road.

We’ve covered a lot of ground here (again metaphorically, in actual terms, I have covered no ground…I have a flat), so let me synopsize, let me make some notes for Cliff to distribute later. This stupid pump is terrible at pumping. It is a plastic piece of excrement, which will move no air to any of the places I need air. HOWEVER, up to this point, that is to say, before the hiss and rumble, before the stinging eyes and biting insects, before my fragile mood skittered off the edge of whatever pinhead it was finely balanced upon, this was a perfectly good pump. Because I had it with me, and because you could see that I had it with me, and because, in my mind, I was never going to need it in the first place.

Join the conversation
  1. jlaudolff says

    I don’t need a pump. I never get flats. LOL

  2. bart says

    That stupid pump saved my ride on Sunday. I keep it strapped on the bottom of my top tube. Basically ignore it 99.9% of the time, but it was there and worked as intended just when I needed it. I kept thinking about the plastic bits and how amazing they were doing at their simple yet difficult job. And how little love and attention I give them most of the time yet how grateful I was at that very moment. If I hadn’t just read this a few days before, I would not have appreciated the moment in the same way.

    1. Emlyn Lewis says

      @Bart – I’m glad we could be there for you.

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