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Verdict: 
Well made pump with a great party trick for getting your tubeless tyres seated
Weight: 
2,000g

If you've made the switch to tubeless road tyres and you're looking for a new track pump then the Bontrager TLR Flash Charger should be on your shorltist. It's a good pump (admittedly with one drawback) but its ability to charge up and deliver a compressor-like stream of air to seat tubeless tyres is a really neat trick and one that it performs admirably, every time so far.

Getting your tubeless tyres seated is one of the main faffs of tubeless. A compressor makes it a simple job, but compressors are expensive. You can use a CO2 cannister, but the cold temperature of the gas can affect the sealant. And a normal track pump doesn't always get the job done.

If you look online you'll see plenty of tutorials for making your own Heath-Robinson-esque inflation system; normally this is some kind of pressure vessel (a fizzy drinks bottle, for example) that you charge up and then dump all the air into the tyre at once to push the tyre into the bead and seat it there. And that's exactly what the TLR Flash Charger does, albeit in a more finished package.

Find the Bontrager TLR Flash Charger online here


Find a Bontrager dealer here

The pump has two chambers and a lever. Push the lever down and the smaller chamber is used to fill the bigger one, up to a pressure of 160psi. That takes a while but it's not hard work. Once the needle on the top-mounted gauge is in the green zone, it's time to attach the smart head to the valve and flip the lever, which releases a constant stream of air into the tyre. It's not at as high a pressure as a CO2 cannister and it doesn't come out as quickly, so there's no issues with temperature, but it comes out quickly enough to seat the tyre, and there's enough air in the chamber to get the tyre up to a decent pressure once the bead is sealed.

So far it's worked every time. We've slung a number of different tyres – some old, some new – on to a variety of carbon and alloy rims and so far with a 100% success rate - even on a tyre/rim combo that defied all attempts to seat the bead by other means. Ironically the tyre was the Bontrager R3 TLR (test coming soon) the rim was the Novatec CXD we tested last year /content/review/121253-novatec-cxd-aluminium-clincher-wheelset. With a 25mm tyre there's generally about 50psi in the chamber once the pressures have equalised, so it's just a case of pumping up to your desired number. The narrow pmping barrel doesn't have a huge capacity as it's designed to get to high pressures easily, so that takes a bit longer than a standard floor pump, but it itsn't hard.

The one disappointment in the pump is that there's no non-return valve in the head, so if you attach the hose to your tyre to top it up the pressure in the tyre equalises with that in the chamber. That means your 100psi tyre will be down to about 60psi before you start. If there was a non-return valve you'd still have to get the main chamber up to the pressure of the tyre before it started inflating it, so you'd have to do a bit of work either way. A better solution would be to have an option to bypass the big chamber for general pumping.

Depending on your point of view that's either a fairly minor annoyance in the grand scheme of things or bloomin' irritating - opinion was divided in the road.cc office. Given its price tag though it's reasonable to expect Bontrager not to have made the once in a blue moon (for most of us) task of seating a tubeless tyre hassle free at the expense of adding to the hassle - if only slightly - of the more regular task of topping the air up.

Overall the TLR Flash Charger does a great job of dealing with your tubeless tyres and getting them airtight. It's solidly built with a wide and stable base, an easy to read gauge, a generous hose and a very decent smart head that's happy with presta or schraeder valves. Whether that's enough to justify the £100 price tag is probably going to depend on how often you have to fit a tubeless tyre - if you're doing it a lot the TLR easily justifies that price tag. If you've just got the one pair to fit and you don't plan on taking them off once their on, then possibly this is going to be overkill.

Verdict

Well made pump with a great party trick for getting your tubeless tyres seated

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road.cc test report

Make and model: Bontrager TLR Flash Charger floor pump

Size tested: n/a

Tell us what the product is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?

Easily take tubeless tire setup home and on the road with the Flash Charger TLR, a pump designed for efficient installation of tubeless ready TLR tires without a compressor.

We'd agree with that (well, maybe not their spelling of tyre)

Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?

Alloy barrel for smooth pump action

Auto-Select head effortlessly fits Presta or Schrader valves

Top-mounted 160 psi gauge

Three-arm base gives excellent stability

Inflates tubeless-ready tires without a compressor

Rate the product for quality of construction:
 
9/10
Rate the product for performance:
 
8/10

10/10 for getting tubeless seated, 7/10 for general pumping duties

Rate the product for durability:
 
8/10
Rate the product for comfort, if applicable:
 
7/10

Nice chunky handle, small bore pumping chamber means more strokes than a normal track pump

Rate the product for value:
 
7/10

Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose

Very well, especially for tubeless tyre seating

Tell us what you particularly liked about the product

Great at getting tubeless tyres on and airtight

Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product

General pumping hindered by equalisiation issue and small-bore pump chamber

Did you enjoy using the product? Yes

Would you consider buying the product? Yes

Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes

Anything further to say about the product in conclusion?

A very tricky one to mark. If you have to fit a lot of tubeless tyres this is fantastic - a definite 9. For most of us though - given its price and the lack of a bypass valve it's a 7. We've giving it a fence-sitting 8 because we do have a fair amount of tubeless tyre changes to deal with but not as many as a shop or a race team or someone who likes changing tubeless tyres. A lot

Overall rating: 8/10

About the tester

Age: 42  Height: 189cm  Weight: 91kg

I usually ride: whatever I'm testing...  My best bike is: Kinesis Tripster ATR

I've been riding for: Over 20 years  I ride: Every day  I would class myself as: Experienced

I regularly do the following types of riding: road racing, commuting, club rides, sportives, general fitness riding, fixed/singlespeed, mtb, Mountain Bike Bog Snorkelling, track

 

Dave is a founding father of road.cc and responsible for kicking the server when it breaks. In a previous life he was a graphic designer but he's also a three-time Mountain Bike Bog Snorkelling world champion, and remains unbeaten through the bog. Dave rides all sorts of bikes but tends to prefer metal ones. He's getting old is why.

11 comments

Avatar
Lecoops [9 posts] 4 years ago
0 likes

This caught my eye the other week. I think I would try this for tubeless tyres before splashing out £100

http://www.bikeradar.com/mtb/gear/article/how-to-make-a-tubeless-inflato...

Avatar
WolfieSmith [1381 posts] 4 years ago
0 likes

Or just stick with clinchers. I know a couple of Sunday Warriors with tubs and in my opinion if you aren't a pro then it's really all for show. Marginal gains for people with more time in their hands than sense.

Avatar
crikey [1251 posts] 4 years ago
0 likes

You are confusing tubeless and tubular tyres...

Avatar
KiwiMike [1307 posts] 4 years ago
0 likes
MercuryOne wrote:

Or just stick with clinchers. I know a couple of Sunday Warriors with tubs and in my opinion if you aren't a pro then it's really all for show. Marginal gains for people with more time in their hands than sense.

Assuming you do mean tubeless and not tubulars, they aren't 'for show'. Almost totally removing the chance of a flat and allowing you to run much lower pressures with the comfort and grip that brings isn't 'marginal' at all.

Avatar
Ad Hynkel [162 posts] 4 years ago
0 likes
Lecoops wrote:

This caught my eye the other week. I think I would try this for tubeless tyres before splashing out £100

http://www.bikeradar.com/mtb/gear/article/how-to-make-a-tubeless-inflato...

"WARNING: First and foremost we’d like to remind you that this hack involves pumping 100psi of pressure into a homemade device; as a result it is potentially dangerous. Use eye-protection and proceed at your own risk."

 16

Avatar
AJ101 [277 posts] 4 years ago
0 likes

For £100 I'd want it to pump up my tyres while I'm still drinking my cup of tea in the morning.

Avatar
BBB [459 posts] 4 years ago
1 like
Lecoops wrote:

This caught my eye the other week. I think I would try this for tubeless tyres before splashing out £100

http://www.bikeradar.com/mtb/gear/article/how-to-make-a-tubeless-inflato...

I've been using one for quite a while and it simply works.
Fizzy drink bottles can take MUCH more than 100PSI.

Avatar
bikeandy61 [538 posts] 4 years ago
0 likes

I'd assumed when this pump came out that the reservoir was selectable. This and the lack of a non-return valve seem a pretty major faux-pas to me on a £100 pump. As it has no direct competition to need to hit a price point adding another £10/£20 to the price to produce a versatile unit wouldn't appear to be an issue IMHO.

Avatar
surly_by_name [546 posts] 4 years ago
0 likes

Imagine lack of no return valve is more of an issue in road tubeless (HP) rather than in more traditional tubeless application - MTB, cross - where HV what you need? In latter context this pump is a game changer. So far I've found that it has mounted tyres easily, EVERY TIME. So gets 5 stars from me, certainly relative to my previous experience of struggling to get tubeless tyres to mount.

Avatar
horizontal dropout [296 posts] 4 years ago
0 likes

I'm in the process of making my own general compressed air supply from a party balloon helium canister to be pumped up with a track pump. I'm hoping I can get the remaining helium into my tyres to reduce the weight of the bike : -)

Avatar
leqin [207 posts] 3 years ago
0 likes
bikeandy61 wrote:

I'd assumed when this pump came out that the reservoir was selectable. This and the lack of a non-return valve seem a pretty major faux-pas to me on a £100 pump. As it has no direct competition to need to hit a price point adding another £10/£20 to the price to produce a versatile unit wouldn't appear to be an issue IMHO.

 

I think you will find that Topeak have one of these in their Joe Blow range and Chain Reaction recently ran a video on Youtube about one from Airwave that does the same - so its got competition and I expect more will arrive from other pump manufacturers.