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I spend a lot of time traveling with a bike, and I’ve grown pretty adept at paring down my assortment of tools, spares, and accessories to the bare essentials. After all, many airlines charge a small fortune if your travel case is even a smidgeon overweight, and a failure to keep your grams in check here can cost you a lot of money.
But function is still important, and although I’ve gotten used to the idea of living with a mini-pump when I’m on the road, I sometimes miss the convenience of a proper floor pump when I’m getting everything together in my hotel room.
Silca has rapidly earned a reputation for well thought-out floor, frame, and mini-pumps — not to mention tools, bags, and other doodads — and the company recently debuted a dedicated travel model to the lineup called Viaggio. Having spent a lot of time with the Specialized Air Tool ComPak (a little heavy, poor gauge, so-so stability) and the Lezyne CNC Travel Drive (very good stability, a real gauge, but a little bulky) in the past, surely the Viaggio might have something more to offer?
The Silca of travel pumps
Not surprisingly given Silca’s other pumps, the Viaggio comes across as somewhat overbuilt and perhaps a little overly engineered for the task at hand.
The body is made of extruded 6061 aluminum, and the removable handle is not only machined from aluminum, but its shape mimics that of Silca’s SuperPista Ultimate model. Down below are two fold-down stainless steel feet. When fully assembled, the Viaggio stands nearly 60cm-tall — not far off from a “proper” floor pump.
Inside the Viaggio are two Silca trademark features: the leather u-cup main plunger is claimed to pump more efficiently, last longer, and be easier to service than conventional o-ring setups; and within the base is the same brass check valve that Silca has been using long before former Zipp technical director Josh Poertner acquired the company in 2013.
Silca also equips the Viaggio with the same Hiro stainless steel chuck that’s used on its premium floor pumps. It holds valves tightly, and like the rest of the pump, is easy to service with available small parts when necessary. That head secures to the Viaggio body with a nifty magnetic dock, and although the Hiro only works with Presta valves, it can be removed to reveal a Schrader attachment underneath. In either case, the 99cm-long hose is comparable to most floor pumps — longer than some, in fact — which can be handy in tight quarters.
One thing that’s conspicuously absent is a physical pressure gauge. Instead, Silca uses the same wireless pressure sensor that’s found in the Tattico mini-pump, which sends the measured pressure via Bluetooth to a smartphone running the free iGauge app. No doubt, such an arrangement comes across as needlessly complicated. However, Silca also claims the Viaggio’s +/-0.5psi claimed accuracy is far better than the compromised physical gauges you usually find in this category.
You can also store several bike profiles in the app, each with preset pressure targets and alerts when you’ve hit those targets. Silca claims a 100-hour battery life (actual use time, not standby time), and the gauge shuts off completely when the pump isn’t being used. When the battery does eventually run out of juice, the CR2032 coin cell should be pretty easy to source.
One other aspect that is decidedly Silca-esque is the price of the Viaggio. At US$275 / AU$440 / £275 / €245, it’s unquestionably a luxury item for cyclists that only insist on the best for their S&S-equipped custom Mosaic or Baum. But hey, it also comes with a waxed canvas storage case that doubles as a tool roll, along with the bragging rights that come with the fact that you spent more on your travel pump than most cyclists spend on their everyday pump at home.
Surprise, surprise — it works well
Make fun of the Viaggio all you want. The fact of the matter is that it does actually work quite well, and Silca has done a good job of balancing effort vs. air volume here. The relatively small-diameter barrel doesn’t push enough air to make the Viaggio a great option for impatient traveling mountain bikers (especially if they’re running new-school higher-volume 29er or 27+ tire setups), nor is it well-suited for seating stubborn tubeless setups. But for most road, gravel, and ‘cross bikes, it feels just about right to me.
I counted a reasonable 34 strokes to inflate a 700x25c (26mm actual width) tire to 80psi, compared to 44 for the Specialized Air Tool ComPak, or 26 for Silca’s latest Super Pista Digital floor pump.
The 60cm assembled height is a touch shorter than what you’ll find on most at-home pumps, but it’s still an improvement over the Lezyne and Specialized (both of which are about 10cm shorter still). That meaty aluminum handle also feels very substantial in your hands and provides a reassuringly sturdy grip. The flip-out steel feet aren’t particularly stable, though, and I couldn’t help but wonder if Silca could have done some sort of similar slide-on aluminum base instead. I mean, the dovetail runs the full length of the extruded aluminum body, so why now, right?
That said, I was very pleasantly surprised with the Bluetooth-enabled wireless pressure sensor. I was initially expecting this aspect of the Viaggio to be more trouble than it was worth, but as compared to the skimpy physical gauges that are normally found on travel pumps, the display on the iGauge app is much easier to read with big, bright digits that are legible even if you just leave your phone on the floor. The preset audible pressure target alarms and stored profiles are quite nice, too, and the whole system is very straightforward to use and pleasantly responsive.
Compared to the handful of standalone digital gauges I had on hand, the Viaggio’s onboard digital gauge seemed dead-on, too. In fact, CyclingTips Australian tech editor Dave Rome recently verified the fantastic accuracy of Silca’s Tattico Bluetooth as part of an upcoming mini-pump test, and given that the Viaggio uses the same sensor, that accuracy should carry over here as well. So while this whole thing still comes across as a little gimmicky, I also can’t deny that it works, either.
But maybe it’s too good in some ways
As good as it is, I’m not entirely sure how I feel about how thoroughly the Viaggio is designed and built. Generally speaking, I’m always in favor of products that are designed with longevity and serviceability in mind, and to that end, Silca has done a good job. The Viaggio is mostly made of metal, it’s straightforward to take apart, and there’s generally an air of quality around the whole thing.
But then again, we’re also talking about a travel pump that isn’t likely to see a huge amount of heavy-duty use, so I’m not sure how many people will ever put that longevity to the test. That said, if something on the Viaggio does fail, it’s likely to be the plastic base that houses the Bluetooth pressure sensor and anchors the fold-out feet. As compared to the rest of the pump, this feels like a distinct weak point, and is a little disappointing to see given the price point.
Perhaps more important in this case, however, is how all of that affects the Viaggio’s size and weight. Sure, it feels substantial when you’re using it, but it’s also pretty big and heavy. The Viaggio is still 58cm-long when broken down, and it’s also a weighty 1.01kg (without the travel case). Considering the importance of minimizing weight when it comes to airline regulations, this seems like a miss to me. As I said at the beginning of this review, when you’re talking about weight limits and big fees, a few grams can cost big bucks.
No question, the Viaggio is an impressively nice piece of kit, and the fact that the competition here is comparatively mediocre makes the Viaggio stand out even more. But I’m also coming from the standpoint of someone who trims down the seatpost on his travel bike to save every bit of size and weight, and given that I already have to travel with a hand pump as it is (since CO2 cartridges can’t be transported by air), I’m not sure how necessary a dedicated travel pump is to begin with.
Personally, I wish Silca had been more obsessive about weight and size when designing the Viaggio, given that those are obviously higher priorities relative to a floor pump when it comes to travel. If your plan is to keep the Viaggio in your vehicle, than neither of those things is a big deal. But if you’re considering a Viaggio for airline travel, I’m not as convinced.
If you absolutely have to have the best, this is it, minor flaws and all. But at least for my needs, I’m more than comfortable just bringing Silca’s Tattico Bluetooth mini-pump instead (or a good mini-pump and a separate digital gauge). Sure, it takes longer to inflate tires with that thing, but it does the job, and uses the same Bluetooth pressure sensor and handy iGauge app. As a result, it offers the same level of accuracy, but it takes up a lot less room, and doesn’t add any redundant weight.
And for me, that’s more than good enough.