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affe auf deux roues.

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KuwaharaHirameYoko! #kuwahara
The Kuwahara Hirame Yoko Pump Head.

The bicycle pump that I currently own is a Planet Bike floor pump, which, as the name implies, is a floor pump that helps you inflate tires. Fortunately, the pump head that came with this pump is a 2-way head, which allows you to pump up both schrader and presta valves, you know, for those times when you need to pump up a car tire or more likely a mountain bike or kid’s bike tire. Unfortunately, the presta part of the head grips so tightly that before I got “the hang of it” I had flattened 3-4 tubes, very nearly ripping the valve stem out of them. I figured that over time, the seal would loosen and it would be easier to get off the valve stem, especially since I bike to work nearly every day now, and top off my bike tires to 120psi every morning. That time was a long time coming, and never did.

A friend purchased a Kuwahara Hirame Yoko in Japan and informed me that reviews for the pump head were excellent and that it was “the” pump head to have. My first thought was, “that’s a really odd thing to say – it’s just a pump head, but hey, maybe one day I’ll give it a try”. It is manufactured by the same Japanese company that produced the BMX bike that Elliot rode in the movie E.T., Kuwahara, which is known for, well, its BMX bikes among other things. I put it on my Amazon wishlist to purchase another day, as it is quite expensive. I was very happy when my wife and her mother bought it for me for my birthday. Little did I know what I had just acquired.

Happily, removing the existing head from the pump required no cutting, so if I upgrade my pump, I can reattach the existing head to use for scrader valves. Installing the Yoko simply required inserting the stem of the head into the hose and tightening the included hose clamp (the hose clamp is strangely just a hose clamp, and not decorative or befitting the appearance of the head itself – which is by the way a heavy metal device, and rather decorative for what it is, with a solid and precise feeling).

Using the new head is fairly straightforward, despite the lack of instructions. The ring that encircles the presta valve hole loosens and tightens the grip that the head has on the valve. To adjust, simply open the lever, insert the valve stem into the head, close the lever, and turn the ring until the seal is good enough to hold in the air, but not too tight as to make it an issue to remove the head from the valve stem.

I have to say, before, I dreaded going out in the morning to inflate my tires, as I never knew when my hand might slip while wrenching the other pump head off either of the two valve stems on either of the two tires on my bike, resulting in pulling the valve stem loose from the tube. Changing a tire first thing in the morning isn’t my idea of fun. Now I actually look forward to going out and topping off the tires on my bike. The Yoko stays firmly on the valve stem, when the lever is opened after inflation is complete, the head makes a satisfying metallic pphhthunk sound, and the head slides off with relative ease. I would have to fully agree with all the reviews I’ve read that claim that this pump head, while mighty expensive, is the one you should own.

If you choose to own it, you can find it here: Kuwahara Hirame Pump Head Yoko