Topeak Road Morph Pump with Gauge for Dummies

I’ve been pretty lucky when it comes to flats (knock wood). I’ve had very few on the side of the road, and none when it was raining.

Sunset on the Lake Okeechobee Scenic Trail

There WAS one memorable night when I was taking a newbie on a Full Moon Ride on the Lake Okeechobee Scenic Trail (LOST). Wendy and I had started in South Bay, had dinner in Clewiston and timed it perfectly to be on the second stage of the dike right at sunset.

When I made a sharp right turn and accelerated to climb the steep incline to top the dike, I noticed the sunset was spectacular and that my bike was handling squirrelly like it had a flat tire.

It DID have a flat tire

Two things happen at dusk on the LOST: the sun goes down (although I’ve never seen the fabled green flash just as it drops below the horizon) and the mosquitoes come out. I HAVE seen them. And they are legendary, not legends.

Because I don’t get many flats (knock wood), I don’t get much practice fixing flats, so I’m not very fast at it. I am less fast when I’m holding a flashlight in my mouth, wrestling a tire back on the rim and swatting monster mosquitoes with both hands and my elbows.

I put on every piece of clothing I had with me: arm warmers, leg warmers, jacket… it didn’t matter. They were biting me right through my shorts.

I can’t remember if that was Wendy’s last ride or not.

So, what DO I carry for flats?

Being a good former Boy Scout, I carry one or two spare tubes, depending on where I’m riding; a patch kit; a Crank Brothers Speed Lever Tire Lever; a CO2 inflator and several cartridges and a pump.

I’ve read a lot about the Topeak Road Morph G Bike Pump with Gauge, so I ordered one for my Surly Long Haul Trucker to replace one that was “OK,: but took a lot of pumping.

59 of 70 Amazon reviews were 4 or 5 of 5

A quick search of the touring group archives and other reviews made it clear that the Topeak Road Morph G with gauge was a good choice. It is a long-barreled pump that throws a good volume of air into the tire with each stroke, it has a (flimsy-feeling) foot rest and it connects to the tire with a hose, so there is less danger of damaging the tire valve.

One person who rated it a 4 on a scale of 5 knocked it down for no manual for newbies.

Well, I’m not exactly a newbie. I’ve been to town and seen the elephant, but I made some kinda embarrassing stumbles to figuring everything out.

How does the pump mount on the bike?

The mounting bracket is designed to take the place of a water bottle cage or attach to the bike with a pair of plastic zip ties. A couple of small rubber “bumpers” fit behind the mount to protect your bike’s finish. I was going to give them a shot of Goop to hold them in because they kept falling out, but I couldn’t find my tube. If you’re going to swap the pump between bikes, I’d be afraid those bumpers would be history in no time.

I’m a big fan of Velcro cable ties, so I used two six-inch ties instead of the plastic zip strips to attach the pump to my seat tube. They’re easier to put on, don’t require cutting and are less likely to mar my paint over time (I hope).

Here’s what the Road Morph looks like on the bike

One of the things I like about the Surly Long Haul Trucker is the way it’s set up with lots of room to mount things like fenders, large tires and three water bottle cages.

The pump fits nicely out of the way and the fender will keep it from getting a coating of road gunk. (Or poodle poop soup if you’re riding in Palm Beach on a rainy day.)

So, what were the stumbling blocks?

When Mrs. Kelpe taught me in the First Grade that C-A-T spelled “cat,” I decided that I didn’t need a picture of a cat any more. Despite the fact that I made my living taking pictures, I still prefer written instructions. Unfortunately, with Topeak, you’re stuck with pictures.

Take, for example, setting up for valve types

There’s a nifty picture of how to change the pump head from Schrader valves (like you’d find on your car tires) to high-pressure Presta valves like you’d find on a road bike.

Well, I’m one of those guys who finds it easy to take things apart and not-so-easy to put them back together. Realizing that limitation, I usually like to READ the instructions first.

I cautiously unscrewed the first piece, then even more cautiously pulled out a greasy black rubber dohickey, looked it over and put it all back together. I wanted to configure it for Schrader valves for a reason I’ll go into later.

It didn’t work.

The head wouldn’t go over the Schrader valve stem. It must ship with Presta as the default. I cautiously took it apart again and reversed the greasy black thing. It would slip over the valve now, but it wouldn’t depress the valve stem in order to let air go into the tire.

I took it apart one more time looking for the third piece in the picture. No joy.

Finally, working on the Bigger Hammer Theory of the Universe, I gave the head a rap on the table and the small point piece popped out. I reversed it and life got better.

Presta to Schrader adapter

Wayne at my LBS Bicycle won’t pump up a Presta valve directly. He always uses a Presta to Schrader adapter because he says it is less likely to damage the tire valve. I’m not as cautious, but I always have an adapter on one of my tires and a spare in my tool bag.

My old pump attached directly to the valve and put a lot of sideways pressure on it while I was pumping, so I used the adapter on it.

I could see where it would be easy to drop those small pump head parts on the side of the road, so I opted to leave the pump set up for Schrader valves. If I run across someone with Prestas, I’ll slap my adapter on their tire. (By the way, the adapter in the picture is installed upside down. I leave it that way because it’s easier to take off. I normally use a floor pump in Presta configuration when I’m at home.)

An embarrassing confession

After hooking up the hose to my newly converted Schrader configuration Road Morph and confirming that it really pumps the tire up quickly with less strain on the valve, I went to put it back on the mount.

What the bleep?

Why won’t the hose fit neatly onto the side of the pump like it did before? It’s too long.

After looking at pictures (including ones that I had taken minutes before) I figured it out. The hose pulls out of the pump head to make it longer when you’re pumping. When you’re done, you slide it back up into the head.

I can’t be the only person left scratching his head over this.

Too bad the guy who designed the packaging material didn’t have Mrs. Kelpe for a First Grade Teacher. She’d have taught him how to explain things.

33 Replies to “Topeak Road Morph Pump with Gauge for Dummies”

  1. YIKES! All that for air.

    I too had Mrs. Kelpe for my 1st grade teacher and by the time I had her teaching me the about the New World she had updated some techniques you might have missed out on. Being the older brother, you were able to remember the when the last dinosaur died, while I had to got to the school library and research it. Anyway, she told us all about keen inventors and how they were making lives better through technology…and how we should embrace change and accept new ways of thinking. You would have liked her classes with the updated information. If we could get her to wade in on this subject today I bet she would just reach into her pocket and pull out a CO2 inflator, walk over to your seat and “splash” you with a bit of compressed air and then give your mussed up hair (talk about remembering things, remember when you still had hair?) a bit of toss and hope that the demonstration would sink in. Pump fun. Co2 efficient. Now get out your Weekly Reader and let’s read about rolling resistance and dead weight….

  2. I can’t believe he leaves the adapter on the stem at all times!

    It’s bad enough to have dead weight on the bike. Far worse to have extra weight on parts the spin (wheels, pedals). That is really going to hurt him in the sprints.


  3. Pictures are NOT worth 1,000 words when they’re used instead of instructions (although they can be handy in ADDITION to words).

    A lot of manufacturers quit killing trees to print instructions when they realized that most Americans don’t bother reading them anyway. They prefer to blunder blindly ahead instead.

    Matt: You keep using strange terms. First it was “aerobic threshold,” now you speak of “sprints.” Aren’t sprints what football players do in spring training, not bicyclists? :-)

  4. SLM, CO2 is great. That’s why I carry it. Unfortunately, when you’re a nice guy and let a buddy blast his or her tire with it, earning Good Karma Points, and then YOU have a flat and the spare CO2 cartridge doesn’t fill the tire or you have a second flat, what do you do?

    The pump is great for putting in just a little air when getting started. It’s great for topping off the tire so you don’t have to waste a whole cartridge and it’ll keep producing air as long as you have arms.

    The best part of CO2 cartridges is dropping the ice-cold exhausted one down the shorts of an unsuspecting friend.

    What always amazes me when I ride routes frequented by g0-fast weight wienies is how much more those empty cartridges weigh. They must be too heavy to carry after they’ve been used, because I see them on the side of the road next to the tube with a hole in it.

  5. Lurch,

    You need to watch the Tour of California or any of the bike races on Versus. You’ll see what sprinting is all about at the end of the race where the guys with fast-twitch muscles unleash an amazing amount of power in controlled chaos.

    Trust me, those lumbering hulks of football players don’t know what sprints are.

    Watch this for an idea of what bike racing is about

  6. You make some good points about CO2. They are great to share with other folks, as when you see them on the side of the road and you slow down and ask, “Got everything you need?” and hope they answer “Yep. Thanks.” and you go on. But if you do have to circle back and offer assistance the CO2 is a real nice device to get back on the road quickly again. I’m sure that you will get the kitchen gram scale out and weigh the cartridges and then weigh your new pump and tell me EXACTLY how many cartridges I would have to carry or not carry or whatever….but the CO2 is the way to go.

    Yes, it IS fun to drop the cold metal cartridges down unsuspecting bike shorts.

    Yes, riders do seem to think they weigh more empty than when filled and leave them on the side of the road. Tsk. Tsk. to those riders.

    Whenever I stop to help a rider part of my deal is, whatever I use to help them get going again, they now have to keep the throwaway parts. If I give them a tube, they have to haul the old busted one. Same goes for the CO2 cartridge. Heck, if I give someone a Cliff Bar I expect them the keep the trash as well.

    Of course, the next time we ride together, I will be sure to leave my heavy CO2 cartridges in the car since you have an unlimited amount of air in that machine you carry on your bike…

  7. Thanks for these instructions. The pictures on the box also had me fairly mystified, particularly with how to change from Presta to Schrader. This cleared it up.

  8. Glad to be of service. And even happier to find out that I’m not the only one who is directionally challenged.

    Come back any time and I’ll do my best to confuse you.

  9. well thank you very much sir. The “hose slides back in the pump” really made my day. I carried the pump in my pocket cause I did not want the errand hose to get caught in my spokes.
    There is more joy to this story. I saw a woman with obvious bicycle issues by the side of the road during my ride today. Her bicycle and pump must have cost more than what it takes to feed a family of four for a year in let’s say pakistan. But her bleeping pump did not work. I was pushing on her “pump” but it was constructed in a way that it would suck more air out of the tire than it put in. So I whipped out mine. I had never used mine since I have those awesome continentals that resist the worst NYC “pavement” (I use that word in jest) so here I was, trying to help a damsel in distress. And yes, the morph finally did its duty and she went on her way. Now my pump is back in velcro on my cannondale. Thanks to you.

    Oh and velcro is indeed great, but why do people put thier cough drops in pockets with velcro closures so they can emit a loud scratchy sound during the pianissimo parts of a chamber orchestra performance in carnegie hall? I’m pretty sure that the military uses velcro not too much, since the sound of a velcro strip detaching can be heard a mile away in a quiet setting.

  10. Glad I’m not the only person who was confused by that.

    You realize that you have angered the flat gods by saying that your tires have resisted NY “pavements.” Better go out and buy a couple of spare tubes.

    It IS a great pump, isn’t it?

  11. Thanks for the solution to the “hose too long” problem! I googled to find a solution, which led me here.

  12. Darren,

    Glad you found us. Based on the number of comments I’ve received, it’s comforting to know that I’m not the only one who was confused.

    Seems like Topeak would have explained that.

  13. That’s a great tip for mounting the pump without losing a bottle cage to the bracket – thanks!

  14. Nicely done. My site updates should be so well done. I really like Topeak products. They once replaced a flash stand, that was viciously atttacked by the office blonde and clearly not a warranty issue, without my even asking. However, the mounting principle is poor at best. I can pitch mine in my huge Arkel Utility basket pannier. Really nice work on your site, I’ll stop back by. Great sunset. Do you Bike Journal?

  15. Philip,

    I haven’t had any problems with the mount and it’s been on some rough trail and in hard rain. If I notice the Velcro is starting to fail, I’ll replace it.

    What you see is pretty much what I do. I have a second blog that I just launched that has leached some time away from this one for the last few months. You can see it at

  16. A very quick update from me on this – I can’t mount the pump “a la Ken” on my 58cm trucker, because there isn’t room between mudguard (fender) and seat tube.

    (For anyone else reading, it’s probably worth mentioning that my bike is an ’09, and so uses 700c wheels – I also run nice & comfortable 42c tyres). I suspect that folk taking the 26″ wheel option on a ’10 frame, or possibly using thinner tyres might get away with it.

  17. Oh! The hose just slides into the head! (*slaps forehead*) Thanks for the tip. Seeing that others had the same issue, now I don’t feel so bad :)

  18. Hay, Trying to view your blog on an EVO 4G and am having hassles. I can’t get the comments to load right. Just thought you should know, thanks!

  19. I broke the foot off the Road Morph I kept set for Schrader (same logic as yours). Fortunately, I had an older one set for Presta hanging on a little used bike on the ceiling. (Once I went recumbent, my wedgie bikes become stepchildren.)

    I remembered I needed to reverse the rubber sleeveto switch from Presta to Schrader. I couldn’t remember if I needed to reverse the pin piece, too. Your explanation confirmed I need to switch them both. So much easier than figuring it out by the side of the road while the mosquitoes swarm.

    Thank you!

    P.S. I carry my pump in the two Velcro loops my rack trunk bag offers just for that purpose. No issues, except that when the foot tab gets floppy it becomes possible to break it off, lose it and thereby ruin the pump. Fortunately, I discovered this in the garage and then came here to figure out the rest …

  20. lol, I too was puzzled and frustrated by my suddenly-too-long hose. Thanks for clearing it up. I looked at photos on Topeaks’ website, found your page, discovered “the trick” on my own, felt like a fool, and then promptly felt relieved to see that I wasn’t the only one.

    I’ve never had a compact pump before, let alone one with a tricky expanding/disappearing hose…lol, Topeak was thinking up ways to fuck with people.

  21. Thank you! I have been looking for help on changing the valve head. This post is very clear and i like the humor too.

    1. Sean, I figured I couldn’t be the only person in the world who was confused by the features on an otherwise wonderful pump. Glad I could be of help.

  22. I can’t get it to fit on my tire, the mountain bike kind, I switched both insides and the thing keeping it from sliding on is the cap holding the two inside pieces in, but it fits with that off then the rubber pieces come out of course I’m gonna go break stems left and right until someone tells me what magic I’m supposed to cast to make this thing fit thanks!

  23. Oops wait, the flip at the end to lock it in place is supposed to be extended outwards when locked, I’ve never used a pump in my life that does it that way. This thing hurts my hands too much to get my tires to 60psi but it’s close, feels like it’s about to pop so good enough, NOT a pump for people with bad hands though phew that handle on the end needs a lock too!

  24. Well its now 2014 and I had the same issue with the hose length suddenly adjusting :) Thanks for sorting that one out!

  25. Count me as another that JUST today figured out the “slide the Hose down” which isn’t as bad as finding out AFTER a road tour that it had a”flip down” piece to use as a stand up pump, thus being able to put more air in … I love this stuff
    Thanks Again


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