Friday, June 26, 2009

About SILCA Pumps, Since 1917



"There are some rituals in cycling that never change. Eighty ago, you put on your cycling shoes, pumped up your tires with your Silca pump, and went. Now you put on your cycling shoes, helmet and sunglasses, pump up your tires with your Silca pump, and go. The sound of a Silca pump pushing air into a tire is as intimately associated with cycling as the click of the chain moving from cog to cog.

When Felice Sacchi founded Silca in 1917 in a country torn apart by World War I, little did he know that his company would not only still be going strong in the next millennium, but that it would also still be run by his family, in this case his grandson, Claudio Sacchi. Silca is the oldest company in the cycling industry to be continuously run by a single family.

But family ownership is only half of Silca’s storied history. The other half of the story is of continuous innovation to meet the needs of cyclists, who always need air in their tires. Felice Sacchi responded with pumps that were ever thinner and lighter as tire pressures became higher and bicycles lighter. Felice’s son, Giancarlo, accelerated this legacy of innovation with ideas that we now take for granted in all pumps. Seeing that cyclists wanted to know how much pressure was in their tires, Giancarlo was the first to know how much pressure was in their tires, Giancarlo was the first to build a pressure gauge into a pump, on the now-legendary Silca Pista floor pump. The Pista’s other hallmarks include the Silca brass chuck with its replaceable rubber valve seal, the replaceable and easily serviceable leather piston seal inside, and the comfortable handle with its integral clips to stow the hose. No other pump can be found in the garages of so many cycles. It is there because it always works, it archived pressures few other pumps can match, and it lasts and lasts, seemingly forever.


For the pump you take with you on ride, Giancarlo created a new standard when he saw cyclists rejecting the traditional clips for cables, shifters and front derailleurs in favour of integral bosses, or “braze-ons”, that were part of the frame without clips. The Impero was designed to stand in front of the seat tube, or hang underneath the top tube to fit bikes with two water bottles.In his later years, Giancarlo saw cyclists in the 1980s fixing flats with CO2 cartridge heads that did not allow regulation of the air going in. He produced the first CO2 cartridge head with a regulator knob on it to control air flow.


Claudio Sacchi, the third generation, has also delivered a series of innovations to keep Silca products fresh. Take, for example the extra long Super Pista, the most powerful pump ever made and the first choice among track riders as well as road riders for its high pressure capability. Mountain bikers love it too, for its high volume. The Super Pista inflates any tire quickly, with a minimum of strokes.

Claudio Sacchi also continues to make parts for the old models, as well as many of the old models themselves, always with top-quality parts. This is rare in our throwaway society but is key to Silca’s sterling reputation for durability and serviceability.

Silca pumps are serviceable in seconds. They require no tools for disassembly, and the few parts that wear out are easy to replace. The leather piston cup in the Pista, for example, needs only an occasional dab of grease to keep it lubricated and pumping, and the rubber seal in the brass head is similarly easy to service. Moreover, replacement parts are available all over the world. It is almost impossible to find a bike shop that does not carry service parts for Silca pumps.

If you want the best pump and don’t want to keep buying pumps year after year, there is only one choice for you: Silca. Beautiful Italian styling is the bonus."




Stories, including cycling trip stories, for the Italian Cycling Journal welcome; contact veronaman@gmail.com

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