Wanted: The World's Most Beautiful Bike Pump
Any design geek knows that the most sublimely simple objects come from Europe and pretty much always have, and American design leans clunky and unrefined by comparison. A tiny company here, though, has let some air out of that stereotype.
Silca makes the world’s most expensive cycle-tire pump, and it got some attention today in an NPR story called “What makes a bike pump worth $450?” The answer: upgrades that Indy’s racing industry makes possible, like high-pressure tubes used in racecars. Local engineer Josh Poertner bought the Italian company last year, rescuing the century-old brand from obselation, and moved production to Indianapolis partly for the resources available in Speedway. At that time, Silca’s SuperPista bike pump had been produced for decades and was considered the best on the market, one that would last a lifetime (partly because the company issued replacement parts). But the design hadn’t been updated in 15 years, the company’s third-generation owner had just died, and Silca’s reputation was slipping. Poertner gave the classic tool a precision-engineered makeover and released the SuperPista Ultimate, which just won Best in Show at Interbike 2014 for new products.
The pump was always a thing of beauty, with wooden handles and a leather plunger cup from the company that supplies upholstery to Masareti and Ferrari. Poertner’s sleek version, though, belongs in IMA’s Design Gallery. It has rosewood handles crafted with Japanese knife-making techniques, a lab-grade gauge, and the same leather plunger. Cyclists, though, are swooning over its functionality and durability. It weighs seven pounds—by far the heaviest, most stable pump on the market—because each of its 62 components has been engineered with the highest-quality materials and processes, assembled by hand, and warrantied for 25 years. “I can’t say I was setting out to create an heirloom-quality object, but I think there’s no other way to describe it,” Poertner says. “Sometimes I look at it, and think, ‘It’s kind of amazing it doesn’t cost more.'”
In a sport where shoes can easily cost $800 and a wrench $500, it’s also amazing that Poertner is the first to develop a pump of this quality—and judging by the response, his business sense was spot-on. Silca is backordered on the SuperPista Ultimate; Bike Line in Broad Ripple has sold one (it has another in stock). Next up? Possibly a lower-priced model—and one that costs even more. “Why not?” Poertner says. “There are always ways you can make it better.”