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by Matt Wikstrom
January 28, 2016
Photography by Matt Wikstrom
There was a time when Silca’s Pista and SuperPista pumps were as common to road cycling as 32-spoke wheels. Established in 1917, Silca was a family-run business until the owners recently sold the company to Josh Poertner.
Poertner has rejuvenated the brand with new world engineering and a proud made-in-Indianapolis ethos. That doesn’t mean he has abandoned the founder’s principles; indeed, the new Silca touts “an old world belief in durability, craftsmanship and value.”
To this end, Silca’s Ultimate range of pumps are made from metal with a 25-year guarantee on all hard parts, with a 6-month no-fault replacement should anything (anything at all) happen to the pump. The soft parts, such as the gaskets, are guaranteed for 2-5 years.
The Super Pista Ultimate is the most expensive floor pump in the world. Cynics may dismiss the pump as “over-inflated” but considerable effort has been devoted to the design and production of the Super Pista Ultimate. Silca promises 1% accuracy for the gauge with a hose that can withstand 12,000psi, while a magnetic dock is provided to keep the presta chuck in place.
The Impero Ultimate is a frame pump. Available in four sizes (44-47cm, 47-50cm, 50-53cm, and 53–56cm), buyers need only match the size to the length of the top tube or seat tube (as measured within the front triangle). The pump head uses a simple push-on/pull-off mechanism for Presta valves, the piston is fitted with a leather gasket to reduce heat generation during use, and there is a silicone bumper that slides into place to keep the rain out and stops the handle from rattling.
The Pocket Impero is essentially a scaled down version of the Impero Ultimate so that it will fit into a jersey pocket. This pump has the same head and piston gasket as the larger Impero with a silicone bumper to lock the handle in place.
For more information, including extra technical details on each of the pumps, visit Silca and Echelon Sports (both sites also have online stores for spare parts).
RRP: Super Pista Ultimate, $720 AUD; Impero Ultimate, $262 AUD; Pocket Impero, $200 AUD.
At face value, Silca’s pump range resembles any other, but all it takes is a few moments of handling them to understand that each one is a high-quality product. There is a definite weight to each pump that confirms the use of metal rather than plastics and each one has a smooth, efficient action. Ultimately, the length of the barrel dictates how much effort will be required to inflate a tyre, and in this regard, each pump works exactly as expected.
Silca’s iconic Presta chuck that is fitted the Super Pista is simple to use: just push it on until it clicks into place. The uninitiated will probably need a few tries to understand where the click is, but the learning curve is pretty mild. The Super Pista will also inflate tyres with Schrader valves; just unscrew the Presta chuck from the hose to reveal a threaded fitting for the larger valve.
The Impero pump heads are equally easy to use with the same kind of push-on mechanism, however these pumps are devoted to road cyclists, so there is no allowance for Schrader valves. The silicone bumpers/sleeves work well on each pump, effectively locking the handle in place but they will be difficult to move out of the way once the hands are slippery with rain or sweat.
For those that are considering the Impero Ultimate frame pump, it will be worth taking some time to test the fit of the pump to your frame. I found that the most secure position was next to the seat tube, but that will require sacrificing a bidon cage. If the pump is to be positioned under the top tube, then ideally the frame should have a pump peg to ensure a secure fit.
I tested the fit of the pump to a few different frames without a pump peg and found that brake cable guides and the diameter or shape of the head- and seat-tubes had a pretty big impact on how well the pump fitted. In addition, the pump was less secure for those frames near the upper end of the prescribed range, so I’d recommend trying the next size up to get the tightest fit possible.
While there is some sense that these pumps are a little easier to use than more affordable brands, most buyers will probably be underwhelmed (especially if they equate performance with cost). The availability of spares and accessories add some value, as does the impressive Silca-Shield warranty, but if there was ever a product to test the faith of shoppers—buy once, cry once—then this is it.
Regardless, I expect the value of each of these pumps to be revealed over the course of years. The Super Pista Ultimate floor pump is clearly an heirloom product; a high-priced frame pump also falls pretty easily into the heirloom category, but a pocket pump? I guess Silca is counting on its appeal for those buyers that really must have the best of everything.