VIAIR TLC Inflator vs. Prestacycle Prestaflator Professional - which is best for tubeless tires?

If you're interested in using an air compressor for working on tubeless tires, you'll need a bicycle-specific product (an inflator) to connect the air compressor lines to the presta or schrader valves on your bike.

Two popular inflators for this purpose are the VIAIR TLC and the Prestacycle Prestaflator Professional. Let's take a look at these two options head-to-head and see how they stack up.

Features: VIAIR TLC vs. Prestaflator Pro Inflators

Let's review the features, at a glance:

VIAIR TLC Inflator Prestacycle Prestaflator Professional
Retail Price $69.99 $59.99
Handles presta?
Handles schrader? optional add-on
Built-in gauge?
Works with 1/4" I/M compressor fittings?
Includes carry bag
Includes blower tip
One-handed operation
Extension Hose

Two-handed vs. one-handed operation

The VIAIR TLC Inflator can be operated one-handed, which is useful because it allows you to hold a bike or a wheel with the other hand. It's more like the popular Arundel Shop Inflator in styling, another one-handed tool.

The Prestaflator Professional is more of a two-handed tool, one hand to put the inflator head on the valve, and a second hand to pull the trigger and dispense air.

Is this a positive or a negative? A little of both. While it's a little clunkier to use two hands on the Prestacycle tool initially, the inflation head being at the end of a flexible hose also has some benefits as well - it's easy to snake around corners or into small spaces (like the solid disc wheels often used in time trial or triathlon), for example.

Different handling of presta and schrader valves

The Prestacycle Prestaflator Professional handles both presta and schrader valves right out of the box, by changing a threaded-on fitting (included). Almost all mid to high-end wheels and tires on modern road, gravel, cyclocross, and mountain bikes will have presta valves, but it's a nice option to have schrader too. You'll have the flexibility to inflate car, motorcycle, or ATV tires, as well as BMX bikes, beach cruisers, and other models that use schrader valves.

The VIAIR TLC is designed for presta valves as it ships from the factory. It can handle schrader valves also, but requires an optional add-on fitting (not included.)

The Prestaflator Professional sells for $10 less

As of this writing, the Prestaflator Professional goes for $59.99, while the VIAIR TLC Inflator clocks in at $69.99. 

Included accessories

With the VIAIR TLC Inflator, you'll also receive a carry bag, which is nice for protecting the inflator in your toolbox or while in transit to an event. The Prestaflator Professional does not include a carry bag.

The Prestaflator Professional does include an additional accessory, however, to make up for that - a blower tip, which is useful for cleaning up sawdust or dust bunnies from your workbench. You can also use it to inflate pool toys, becoming the neighborhood hero at the pool party.

Maximum PSI

The VIAIR Inflator comes in 120 and 160 PSI versions, while the Prestaflator Professional clocks in at a max of 174 PSI. Is this meaningful? Not for most users, as these pressures far exceed the maximum pressures used on modern tires by quite a bit. Generally, it's not ultra-high pressures that help seat tubeless tires, but rather high air volume - a big blast of air, all at once.

VIAIR TLC Inflator vs. Prestacycle Prestaflator Professional - which should you buy?

You can't go wrong with either of these quality inflators, but how to choose? There isn't a significant cost difference, so make your selection based on features:

  • If you travel often to races or events, you might appreciate the carry bag that's included with the VIAIR TLC Inflator. It's a great option for working on bicycles, specifically.
  • If your needs include working on bicycles and other tasks too, you might appreciate the interchangeable tips included with the Prestaflator Pro as an alternative.
  • If you need to inflate schrader valves, the Prestacycle Prestaflator is the clear winner

Where to learn more

Got your inflator ready? Learn how connect it to your new compressor with my guide, "how to setup a home air compressor for use with tubeless bicycle tires."

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