Zéfal Alaskan Motorcycle Tire
by Johnnie L. for webBikeWorld.com
Am I the only guy other than the webBikeWorld crew
who uses a hand-operated air pump to fill my motorcycle
Apparently so...there haven't been very many comments
sent in by readers with suggestions for new products to
I was scrounging around Rick's
garage and uncovered a pile of air pumps both large and
small that have been featured in webBikeWorld reviews
when I mentioned that I use a hand-operated floor pump
"Wanna try this one?" he asked, flashing the Zéfal
Alaskan before my eyes. "I've had this on the
back burner for months but just haven't gotten around to it."
So we took a couple of photos and I was on my way.
But not before Rick showed my his all-time favorite, the
old Zéfal Plus shown below in blue.
That pump is a true two-stage unit the he said was
about 20 years old. It pumps air on both the up and down strokes,
which is a pretty cool idea.
The gaskets are worn out, so it leaks too much air and
the Zéfal Alaskan was the only other two-stage pump he
found to replace it.
The Zéfal Plus had a replacement air hose and valve adapter
installed some time ago, which seemed to feel a
lot sturdier than the valve adapter on the Zéfal
Alaskan. In fact, one of my biggest gripes with
the Zéfal Alaskan has to do with its valve adapter,
which is the business end of any air pump. The
adapter on the Alasan seems like it was designed by
someone who never tried it on a motorcycle or car tire.
It's designed -- or over-designed -- to fit
both a Schrader and Presta valve stem. You've
probably seen a Schrader valve stem; it's the type used
on every car and motorcycle tire ever made that I've
The Presta stem is a nasty little narrow thing used on
Pro bicycle tires that are inflated to like 150 psi or
something -- I think there's a rant somewhere on
webBikeWorld about them. Basically, you want to
avoid them at all costs.
So the "ASV", or Auto Select Valves, on the
Zéfal Alaskan adapter is designed to automatically
adjust for either type of stem -- but it doesn't adjust for either
very well. Or at least it doesn't for the Schrader type...
I have a huge amount of trouble trying to get the
Alaskan valve adapter to seat correctly on any of the
motorcycle or car tires I've tried. Now maybe this
one is defective, but it looks fine to me and it was a
brand-new pump, with all the labels still attached.
If I mess with it enough, I can hold it on or get it
to hold firmly enough on the valve stem, but it takes so
much effort that it's not worth it. The problem is
compounded by the way-too-flexible lever handle on the
adapter. The handle is designed to be flipped up to lock the
adapter on the tire valve and create the seal necessary
to prevent air from leaking out when the pump is
This handle is made of thin plastic, and it flexes so
much that it feels like it's going to break off.
It's a very poor design, in my opinion. You can't
tell whether it's locking the adapter on the valve stem
or not. It should
be made from metal or at least some type of stiff
plastic that's 4-5 times thicker than they've used.
Also, the entire adapter body is pretty large and not
really optimal for fitting on a motorcycle tire valve
stem, which is usually buried under spokes or cast wheel
The Zéfal Alaskan digital readout, shown here in bar.
It switches easily back and forth between
bar and psi.
The thin plastic "Thumblock" handle is so flexible that
it bends nearly 90 degrees, making it difficult
to lock the valve adapter on to the tire valve stem.
Zéfal Plus (L) vs. Zéfal
The Zéfal Alaskan is available with either the
digital readout gauge shown here, or an old-fashioned
analog dial gauge. I can only find the dial gauge
version on the Zéfal website, so apparently they have
discontinued the digital version.
As a rule, I don't use the air pressure gauges that
are mounted directly on the pump anyway, instead relying
on my trusty Accutire pressure gauge. The built-in
gauges never seem accurate; either that or I can't read
them because of their too-crowded displays.
So the digital gauge of the Zéfal Alaskan does give a
clear readout in tenths of a psi (00.0) or hundredths
of a bar (0.00), which is a good thing, because Zéfal
claims it can pump up to 230 psi (16 bar)! Imagine
a tiny analog dial with 230 gradations -- you probably
wouldn't be able to read it within 5 psi or more!
One puzzling issue is that although Zefal claims it
can pump up to 230 psi, the digital readout only has two
digits. I haven't tried pumping anything over
about 35 psi or so, so I'm not sure what happens when it
gets up to 99 psi. No matter...
The digital readout uses three AAA batteries, but
cross your fingers that you don't ever have to change
them. I took it apart just to see, and instead of
using some simple plastic clips or snaps to hold the
batteries, you first have to unscrew four very tiny
screws to remove the digital readout housing, then
unscrew another tiny screw that holds the batteries.
Trust me, this is a real pain.
Fortunately, the LCD readout must not use much power
and so far the factory installed batteries have been fine.
But since I never use the readout anyway, if the
batteries ran down, I wouldn't bother replacing them.
The digital readout doesn't seem very accurate
anyway. I compared it to my Accutire gauge and a
Roadgear digital air pressure gauge, both of which read
nearly identical. The Zéfal Alaskan digital gauge
reads about 3 psi high at 35 psi.
Another problem I have with the Zéfal Alaskan is the
pump itself. It seems very stiff and it's hard to
move the handle up and down through its strokes -- much harder than my basic single
tube Blackburn floor pump.
This issue is
compounded by the problem with fitting the adapter to
the tire valve stem. If the adapter isn't a
perfect fit to the tire's valve, backpressure builds up
in the tubes of the air pump, making it difficult or
impossible to move the handle up and down.
The 3-foot long air hose on the Zéfal Alaskan can be
removed by unscrewing it from the base. I thought
I could possibly find a replacement hose and adapter
like Rick has for his Zéfal Plus that might solve the
most annoying problem, the difficulty in fitting the
adapter to the tire's valve stem. But the threaded
connector on the Zéfal Alaskan seems to be non-standard,
so I couldn't find a suitable replacement.
The wide base on the Zefal Alaskan works well to hold
the pump upright and steady, and the wide "T" shaped
handle is made from firm rubber to make it comfortable
to use. Overall, the pump seems sturdy and well
made, other than the flimsy locking handle on the valve
So in the end, I have to say that for me, the Zéfal
Alaskan has too many design flaws. It is very hard
to get the valve adapter to seat correctly and the pump
is stiff and very difficult to operate. The pump
just doesn't work as well as the single-tube floor air
pumps I've tried -- the inexpensive types with the small
and simple valve adapters.
Which brings up another problem: the Zéfal Alaskan
has a list price of $99.99. Sure, it can be found
for as low as $75.00 or so, but for me, that's a lot of
money for something that I really can't use.
I'd like to like the Zéfal Alaskan, really I would!
The idea of getting air pressure on both the up and down
strokes is a good one, but not in this implementation,
in my opinion. If any webBikeWorld readers have
experience with this pump that is different than mine,
I'd love to hear it.
Zéfal Alaskan Air Pump
Suggested Retail Price: $99.99
|Review Date: October
Note: For informational use only. All material and
photographs are Copyright © webWorld International, LLC - 2000-2011. All
rights reserved. See the webBikeWorld®
page. NOTE: Product specifications, features and details may
change or differ from our descriptions. Always check before purchasing. Read
Terms and Conditions!
►Your Comments and
Please send comments to
Comments are ordered from most recent to oldest.
Not all comments will be published (details
). Comments may be edited for
clarity prior to publication.
From "T" (10/08): "No, you're not the only one using
a hand-operated air pump to fill motorcycle tires. I also use it
on our cars and anything else that has a Schrader valve on it and needs
to be inflated. Anyone who thinks they need something more than
that has serious physical limitations (which in that case shouldn't be
operating a motorcycle) or likes to spend more money than they need to.
That said, I too find that with my cheapo floor pump with an analog
gauge (bought from a bicycle store), the PSI reads lower than it really
is when I fill my motorcycle tires and usually follow up with a separate
tire pressure gauge just to be sure. It's more accurate with my
bicycles, perhaps because they typically have higher PSI capacity tires
(90-120 psi). Regardless, there's no excuse not to have one.
You can pick one up at any Target or WalMart store."
From "M.H." (10/08): "Do not despair, you're not
alone, I too use a floor pump for my tires. I have a Topeak Joe
Blow Sport Floor Pump, which I've had for several years. Costs
around $30, built in analog gauge, and best of all you can get parts for
it. No, wait, best of all, it's yellow ;-) I've used it on
bicycles, motorcycles, cars and trucks, works fine.
Speaking of Zéfal, I had Zéfal HP frame pumps on my bicycles for
years. Not very good pumps, expensive and hard to use."