What makes Silca pumps unique?
19 AUGUST 2022
By Dan Duguid
The Silca brand was originally started in Milan, Italy, in 1917 by Felice Sacchi. Since then, it has gained a name for itself through its innovative pump designs. Silca can lay claim to being the first company to add a pressure gauge to its pumps, the first to produce a high-pressure frame pump and the first to work with plastic for its pump handles after WWII. Somewhat unexpectedly, it was also the first to move back to wooden handles on its premium pumps.
Fast forward a lot of years and in 2013 Felice’s grandson, Claudio, sold Silca to Josh Poertner, previously the Technical Director at Zipp Speed Weaponry. Poertner, a lifelong fan of the brand, had previously worked on a deal to purchase Silca’s disc wheel adaptors whilst at Zipp. His experience, drive and passion for the brand made him the ideal candidate to safeguard Silca’s reputation for high quality and innovation. And, whilst the company now resides in Indianapolis, USA, Poertner has striven to stay true to Silca’s philosophy of crafting legacy products.
Historic use of high-end materials
Silca’s historic use of high-end materials means that many of its pumps are still in action today, decades after they were first purchased, and rather than contributing to a throw-away culture, Silca continues to support these long-lived products by ensuring spare parts are available for their ongoing maintenance, should you ever need them. In many cases it is possible to periodically rebuild Silca pumps to ensure a lifetime of service.
In fact, many of the pumps produced today pay homage to the history of Silca. For instance, the Pista, a pump that was originally designed in 1962 when Fausto Coppi’s mechanic wanted something slim enough to fit under the seats of a team car, has actually been re-introduced into the range in a updated design.
The use of materials from Silca’s history, blended with today’s technology, is what makes Silca’s products unique. Favouring a leather gasket over a rubber one is a standout brand feature, and it’s not just for show. While rubber will diminish in time and not seal up against the microscopic imperfections of a pump tube, causing reduced pump efficiency, leather will mate to these imperfections, creating an even better seal with age. When Poertner took over Silca, sourcing the leather gasket was a priority for him. To this day, it is still produced by the original vendors in Italy that have manufactured it since 1946.
As with the gaskets, Poertner sourced the brass check valve pins for the pumps from the same vendor in Milan, Italy, that Silca has used since 1947. Manufactured by craftsmen, their brass plunger design ensures that air can only flow in one direction. It thus creates a solid seal that can typically last 25 years or more. Compare this to the more common rubber ball or disc and spring designs, and its plain that the durability and sealing action of the brass check valve cannot be beaten.
In terms of products, the SuperPista Ultimate Hiro Edition track pump is the pinnacle of all things Silca. It not only combines the two key elements of the leather gasket and the brass check valve, and accurate to 1% but oozes extravagance, featuring a Purpleheart wooden handle, reinforced with stainless steel, originally inspired by Japanese cooking knives.
Meanwhile, the air hose is actually a high-pressure brake line, taken from a racing car, made up of a three-millimetre diameter Teflon tube, over-braided in stainless steel and covered by red polyurethane. It is these small and hidden details that many never see that make all the difference to how well your pump performs and why the SuperPista Ultimate Hiro Edition won ‘Best in Show’ at Interbike when it was first introduced to the range.
Design and Accuracy is Key
Of course, the use of high-quality materials isn’t the only thing that distinguishes the brand, design and the accuracy is also key. Tyre pressure is important when it comes to the performance of the bike, with the tyre being the only connection to the road, with all forces going through it. Get your pressures wrong and you’ll have less traction to drive the bike forward and will also notice a reduction in lateral grip in corners, downward grip for braking and comfort. Silca puts a lot of its focus on this accuracy and the ‘marginal gains’ that can be achieved with it.
This is where Poertner’s unmatched knowledge really comes into play. His experience comes from his days with Zipp and working with athletes such as Fabian Cancellara, who he helped to win Paris-Roubaix in 2010 on carbon wheels for the first time. Working with athletes tackling the toughest one-day races in the world has forced Poertner to covet accuracy.
All Silca pumps are therefore incredibly precise. One product that recently resulted from Poertner’s unrivalled experience is the Truth Gauge. This was conceived to accurately measure pressures down to 0.5psi during equipment testing at Roubaix 2009. It is every bit as important today, with tyre pressures being lower due to larger volume, making accuracy critical to finding the perfect balance of feel and traction.
Silca today continues to push forward, recently adding larger volume pumps to its range with the Gravelero to suit the new trend of wider tyres and rims, with more in pipeline. Combined with the recently launched Ultimate Sealant, the constant drive forward in pursuit of the best possible products continues to put Silca at the helm of bicycle inflation. With the no compromise in the brand’s approach to materials and design, it is no wonder that the original Silca pumps have been passed down through generations, and Poertner’s purchase of Silca and continued commitment to quality is set to see this trend to continue. A Silca pump is a true investment and will most likely be the last that you ever buy.
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