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.
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.
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
10/10 for getting tubeless seated, 7/10 for general pumping duties
Nice chunky handle, small bore pumping chamber means more strokes than a normal track pump
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
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.