Review: Silca SuperPista Ultimate
May 4, 2015
article & images by Nick Salazar
We've had the pleasure of reviewing a few Silca products in the past, and they never disappoint. Silca, like Dash or Carbonsports, is a brand dedicated to elevating cycling equipment to an art form. In each of these companies' cases, their price tags are unapologetically high, with a production ethos that centers on beauty and perfection rather than budgetary economy. Silca's products are meant to be the best in class, period. Cost be damned.
What we're looking at today is Silca's flagship product; this is the pump that won best-in-show at Interbike, and has wowed consumers equally for its beauty and precision as well as its stratospheric price tag. In the past I've described such products as cycling jewelry, and this product certainly fits the bill. This is the Silca SuperPista Ultimate Floor Pump.
As a practical matter, this pump is very, very simple. Basic, even. You attach the pump head to your tire valve, pump up the tire, and remove. Its function is fundamental, minimal. But the engineering and artistry that goes into creating this little pneumatic device is astonishing. From the 17-4 Pump head at the bottom, which we previously reviewed on its own, to the carved rosewood handle on top, every millimeter of this pump has been finely crafted to achieve that very singular, simple goal of a clean inflation. This is the Hans Zimmer of pumps. It executes a simple function, in the most extravagant way.
Anyone who has been in the cycling world long enough will eventually have a bad experience with a pump. Leaky seals are ubiquitous, and most of us just accept it. Josh Poertner, Silca's owner and engineer, formerly of Zipp fame, does not. Josh has an addiction to perfection, and his excitement is contagious. He's told me that his early customers for the SuperPista Ultimate were bike shops, who immediately saw the value of what he was doing, and wanted his pump for their own bike work. But these same shops couldn't really keep them, because their own customers would come in, inquire about the work of art being used to inflate their bike, and then buy the pump from the shop.
From Top to Bottom
What's so special about this pump? Let's take it from the top. Right away, the rosewood handle gives you the sense that this pump isn't cheap. There's virtually no plastic anywhere. Steel, aluminum, and wood abound. Picking it up reveals a nice little benefit of the pump's integrated design: you can lift the pump by its handle, without causing the barrel to telescope out. That's because in its resting position, the pump head grabs the pump base magnetically, keeping the handle in place. Grabbing a pump by its handle, what a novel concept!
The hose that transports that air is quite a piece of engineering as well. Most pumps simply use a single piece of extruded rubber, which can handle a couple hundred PSI without bleeding too much air. Silca's custom hose is a three-piece affair: an inner PTFE hose, over-braided with a steel weave, and then protected with another outer later of urethane, for a total rating of twelve THOUSAND psi. This ensures your air isn't going anywhere except your tire, and ensures that the hose itself will last for several lifetimes.
Moving down past the understated aluminum barrel, we reach the base where a lot more tech is going on. First, the pump gauge floats off the ground a couple of centimeters, designed for a little extra protection in the event of the pump being knocked around, helping to preserve its 1-2psi accuracy rating.
The shaping of the large steel base is nice and low-profile, with a small lip all around to provide purchase even in cycling shoes. The pump ships flat, with the base removed, for easier packaging. Everything else is preassembled, so the only thing you have to do to assemble the pump is put on the base, and tighten a single, massive M10 countersunk bolt. The bottom plate is keyed to only sit in one direction, so that its two long feet are properly splayed towards you, the short foot supporting the area below the gauge.
The complete system is undeniably beautiful, in both form and function. It just works, flawlessly, and is built to last a lifetime. The very few parts that are subject to wear (just two of them, really) are easily replaced: the leather washer in the pump barrel, and the red synthetic elastomer gasket in the Presta head. These two parts are readily available from Silca, and have been for the last five decades. That should instill a lot of confidence that they'll be around a generation from now when, if Josh Poertner gets his wish, you're passing this pump on to your kids.
Is there a cheaper way? Certainly, but that's hardly the point. Although the SuperPista Ultimate is designed as a complete system, you can get a lot of the experience by simply buying the 17-4 Presta Head and attaching it to a less-expensive pump. Doing so might require a little DIY work, as not all pumps have a Schraeder chuck that would work to attach it. I have several pumps here at TriRig HQ, and all of them have been converted with Schraeder chucks, specifically to accept Silca heads. That should say something about how much I like Silca gear. None of my hybrid pumps can quite match the beauty or integrated function that the SuperPista Ultimatae offers, but of course that excellence comes at a price. Sure, there's a cheaper way, but is there a better way? I doubt it.