Reviewed by Brian Mullin http://www.gramslightbikes.com/
I have been slowly tweaking my home shop, to make it a more useful and functional environment, and this last winter, I got a small air compressor from Sears. The Craftsman 1.5 gal. 150 PSI Air Compressor ($100), is light and portable enough to move it around where it’s needed, and has adequate pressure and capacity for most situations.
However, all the tire attachments that came with the compressor, and other ones that I could locate in the marketplace, are for the Schrader valve (American valve), while most bicycles use the Presta (Sclaverand or French valve). I have used the small threaded brass Schrader to Presta adapters you’ll find at any LBS, but they don’t seal well, and are a pain to use, especially since most pump heads (or is that air heads?) lack threads.
I was finally able to locate a product that was made specifically for Presta valves, named the Prestaflator. It uses a pistol grip trigger with an attached pressure gauge, a screw on inflation hose with a threaded Presta chuck, and has a quick connect coupler for hooking up to the air compressor. The unit is made by Prestacycle based out of Waterford, New York, and they are cyclist’s making tools for cycling.
The cast Aluminum bodied Prestaflator uses a variable-rate trigger valve, and has 6061-T6 Alloy, Chrome and Stainless Steel components for all connectors and moving parts. The steel cased pressure gauge has a rubber housing for protection, and reads pressures to 12 Bar/174 PSI with a 2% accuracy. The Prestaflator comes in two versions, the tool with the Presta head for $39.95, and the tool with the Presta head, Quick Clip Schrader head and a blower/inflator tip for $49.95.
The Prestaflator’s attachable inflation hose easily screwed onto the main body, and seats with o rings, for a tight seal. One of the nice features of the entire unit is that most of the items are serviceable or replaceable. I had a spare female quick connector, which I hooked up to the air compressor hose, and then could clip on the Prestaflator’s coupler. The other end of the Prestaflator’s inflation hose accepted an entire slew of threaded attachments, from the included default Presta head (Silca like), and an optional Schrader adapter and blower tip, and even the small brass adapters that I had been using as a stop gap measure. In addition, the hose’s end threads directly into a Schrader if needed.
Once everything was hooked up, I turned on the air compressor, and since no leaks were evident, I proceeded to slide the Presta head onto the tire’s valve. It took some effort, since the fit was snug on the valve stem, especially when the o rings are new. The user manual suggests using some Teflon lube to facilitate getting the head on and off, so I tried both Teflon and my trusty LPS-1 greaseless lube, and although it helped, it’s still a tight fit. The tightness meant it was well sealed, and wasn’t about to pop off accidentally, which facilitates a one handed filling technique. The long inflation hose came in quite handy, since it allowed you to maneuver through the spokes or work at odd angles, which is a common occurrence while working on a bike.
Sometimes the pressure gauge didn’t show anything until I pulled the trigger, which pressurized the valve, usually it immediately gave a reading. To inflate the tire, I gave a bunch of small micro bursts of air, then released the trigger to get a valid reading, until it reached the required/desired tire pressure. Being able to do the micro bursting, allowed for fine tuning of air pressure (1-2psi), which I found amazingly handy. The unit doesn’t have a bleed valve, so if you overfill the tire, it necessitates removing the Presta head and doing a manual bleeding. Due to the ability to micro burst the air pressure in small increments until the proper pressure is almost reached, I never needed this functionality.
The removal process starts by tapping the pressure relief button, which resides by the trigger, and then using your thumbs on the back side of the Presta head, give it a good hard push. The other extraction method is doing a decent tug straight out from the valve.
I take a lot of tires on and off my wheelsets for testing purposes, and I regularly deal with a tubeless set up, which means some rapid and high pressure fills (70-80 psi) to get the tires to bead up. The trigger was really handy to burst the bead on, but on some occasions, I had issues getting tubeless tires to seal up. When this issue would happen, the Presta head constricted the air flow, so the SCFM (Standard Cubic Feet of air per Minute) dropped, and I would have to revert to the short brass adapters. Keeping the Presta head lubricated greatly helped with the happenstance.
With the ability to change attachments, I could fill a tire with the Presta head, or switch to the blower tip. The blower tip could clean out dirt or water (after a washing) from the nooks and crannies of parts, and was handy for installing and removing grips on handlebars. It was also a multi-purpose tool, since I could inflate car and truck tires, sports equipment or even my kid’s floaties for a pool session.