Mark asked Sanny if he fancied a pump. After picking himself up off the floor, Sanny realised to his great relief that Mark was talking about mini pumps. Armed with five of the latest offerings on the market, Sanny set out to find out which were all blow and which were all show.
Ah, the humble mini pump, that most essential of tools which you never really appreciate until faced with a flat tyre and a long walk home. For this test, we decided to look at some of the larger mini pumps on the market. Ultra-dinky, fit in your pocket and weighing about as much as a box of matches is all well and good but when you are standing in a muddy puddle, freezing cold water gradually seeping into every nook and cranny and with your fingers going numb as you try to wrestle your tyre off of the rim in a frenzy of fury and invective, you want a pump that is robust, easy and quick to use and which doesn’t leave you with skint knuckles nor a torn bicep. Having destroyed several mini pumps over the years (ripping the head clean off, bending the shaft, pulling off the handle and even thrashing one against a tree in good Basil Fawlty style when it simply refused to pump up a tyre to more than 2 psi), I have a keenly developed eye for what works and what doesn’t.
So what makes for a good pump then? First and foremost, it needs to be packable. The best pump is always the one you have with you. It needs to be able to withstand repeated uses in all weathers. It shouldn’t rip off a valve even if you are on the clumsy side of cack handed. The handle should be comfortable to grip. If it comes with a frame fitting, it shouldn’t jettison its cargo at the first sign of a bumpy trail (or Imperial entanglements for that matter). The pump action should be easy and free of stiction while it shouldn’t take an interminable age to pump up your tyre from flat. With this in mind, just how did our five pumps fare?
Blackburn Wayside Hybrid
Weighing in at a not exactly lightweight 395 grams, the Wayside Hybrid is a substantial and robust example of pump that also doubles as a mini track pump. In terms of features, it is hard to beat. The flip action foot rest provides a secure footing for the pump on even ground. The hose is a full eleven inches long which makes connection to the valve a painless affair with no need to adopt some kind of strange contorted position when inflating a tyre. The double headed chuck is a joy to use and made connecting the pump to the valve a problem free experience. The handle pivots at just over 90 degrees which gives a good hand position when using the pump. Instead of the handle being connected to a shaft which moves inside the body of the pump, Blackburn have opted to use an overlapping shaft design. It looks neat but in practice is a little awkward as you cannot easily grip the shaft to steady the pump, should you require to do so.
With a built in and easy to read pressure gauge and a useful, albeit awkwardly positioned high pressure / low volume switch, the additional volume over the other pumps made it the best suited for getting tyres up to pressure quickly. However, the cut away design of the handle and the unusual external shaft design meant that I would quickly get a sore hand every time I used it. With gloves on, this was noticeably less of an issue but I couldn’t help but wish that Blackburn had stuck with the previous design of one of my all-time favourite pumps, the Blackburn Mammoth.
If you want to get up to pressure fast and don’t mind the extra weight and less than perfect handle design, the Blackburn is a decent pump for those wanting track pump performance with none of the drawbacks.
- Price: £59.99
- From: Zyro
SKS Spaero Double Action
Now this is a very interesting little pump and proof that looks can be deceiving. On first inspection, it just looks like a regular mini pump but our German cousins are not known for the engineering prowess for nothing. Pulling the pump apart, the silver handle comes off and slots into the end of the pump. It’s a beautifully simple idea, well executed and one which solves the problem of skint knuckles sometimes experienced with other mini pumps. At the other end, there is a short extendable hose which features a double ended chuck. No more taking the chuck apart in order to swap small parts round then cursing your clumsiness when you drop a piece into the bog of eternal stench. Although a little shorter than I would have liked, the hose and chuck combined to make attachment and removal of the pump a simple task.
In use, the pump was a genuine pleasure to use. The pump action was smooth even at higher pressures. The lack of volume meant that it wasn’t the fastest to get up to pressure and not being a high pressure pump, it begins to struggle at pressures north of around seventy five psi. However, it is very light at only 159 grams, the supplied frame mount is suitably robust and the handle design is very good indeed.
It may not be the biggest volume pump in the test but clever design makes for a very good pump that is well worth closer inspection.
- Price: £39.99
- From: Zyro
Crank Brothers Sterling Large
As with so many of their products, the Sterling pump with gauge exudes a real air of quality. Constructed from highly polished aluminium that would give a Naboo starship a real run for its money, the Sterling is one of the smartest looking pumps we tested. Fortunately, its features live up to its initial promise. At the tail end, there is a twist switch that toggles between low pressure / high volume and high pressure / low volume usage making this a good candidate for both off and on road adventures. At the business end, there is an inbuilt pressure gauge that measures up to 100 psi with a reasonable degree of accuracy while a universal head switches between Presta and Schrader valves without having to fiddle with any parts. Weight is just south of 180 grams.
In use, the pump isn’t a match for the larger volume pumps in terms of speed to 30psi. However, the twist switch is a useful feature that works well and unless I was inflating a fat bike tyre, pumping time was not unduly excessive. Despite my initial misgivings, I singularly failed to pinch my hand when holding the head of the pump against the valve. The design looks like you may do this but in practice, there were no issues to report.
An excellent pump particularly for those who like to mix road and of road duties. Backed up with a 5 year warranty, Crank Brothers appear to have produced a pump that will stand the test of time.
- Price: £44.99
- From: Extra UK
Topeak Mountain Morph
The Mountain Morph has been around in its current incarnation for several years now. It was arguably one of the first pumps to offer features more commonly found on a track pump in a smaller and lighter package. I’ve used one of these as my own pump of choice for fat biking over the last three years thus have been able to put in a lot of pilot hours. In terms of features, the Mountain Morph is a simple affair. At the base, there is a flip down plastic flap to place your foot on with the head connecting to the valve via a flexible hose. The head is old school in design in that you need to take it apart to swap between valve types while there is a useful indentation in the thumb lock lever to allow you to release air more easily from Schrader valves. At the other end, the pump features the classic shaft within the body design and has a fold away handle which locks securely in place. Weight is a respectable 235 grams while it comes supplied with a very secure frame mount.
On the trail, the large volume of the Mountain Morph makes an appreciable difference to the time taken when pumping up a mountain bike tyre. The action is smooth even as the pressure increases. However, on more than one occasion, I have caught my knuckles on the top of the pump. A small increase in the piston length would solve this. It’s an issue that can be resolved with more careful pumping action but is a feature that has always slightly irked me.
A very serviceable pump at a bargain price. It is beginning to show its age in terms of the pump head assembly but if you can live with that and the handle design, you will have a pump to get you quickly back onto the trails.
- Price: £27.99
- From: Extra UK
Lenzyne Micro Floor Drive HP
Last but not least in this grouptest comes the Lezyne Micro Floor Drive HP. Weighing in at 197 grams on my scales, excluding the supplied frame mount, the Lezyne beats even the Crank Brothers pump in terms of showroom floor shininess. In the words of Blackadder, it is shinier than the shiniest shiny thing that has ever been shiny. In terms of features, it lacks the pressure gauge of several of the others in the test. However, there is a version which includes it. The hose is by far the longest of those pumps tested which makes a noticeable difference in terms of convenience of use. A simple wire metal fold down foot peg helps keep things stable while the chuck is of a reversible threaded design. It is not as quick to swap between valve types as the Blackburn but we are only talking seconds here. The polished handle is small but fits comfortably between the middle two fingers while the hose screws into the base for secure transit. There is also a built in air bleed button but I never found I needed to use it.
When it comes to inflation duties, the pump is second only to the Blackburn in terms of speed of inflation. The pump action is smooth but powerful, the handle being designed in such a way that there is no danger of rattling your knuckles on the pump body. Of all the pumps on test, it was the first one I would reach for when going out for a ride whether on my cross bike or my fat bike.
A simple but extremely well executed pump that offers serious power in a light and compact package.
From: Upgrade Bikes
So which pump should you buy?
All of these pumps are excellent in their own way. The variety of designs illustrates that there is a pump out there for everyone. However, with this being a grouptest, it’s time to pick the winners from the also rans.
The Blackburn Wayside Hybrid packs a serious inflationary punch. By virtue of its size, its performance approaches that of a track pump in a smaller package. However, as the heaviest pump on test, it’s best suited for duties as a home pump.
The Topeak Mountain Morph slays the opposition in terms of value for money. At only £27.99 and coming with an excellent frame mount, there is an awful lot to like about it. Inflation is rapid. However, the old fashioned chuck design lacks the convenience of the others on test.
The Crank Brothers Sterling Large is a very well put together pump. Although it can’t match the likes of the Lezyne and the Blackburn in terms of sheer puff, it’s a lovely pump to use with the added benefit of a five year warranty. If you mix mountain, road and cross biking, this pump should be at the top of your list.
The SKS Spaero Double Action is the sleeper hit of the test. A t first glance, it looks entirely unremarkable but open it up and it reveals its true character. A simple but effective handle arrangement, a built in hose, compact design and light weight make for a pump that deserves to be in your pack. It may be among the least powerful of the pumps on test but for mountain bike duties, it is a winner. ST Recommended.
Which brings us to the Lezyne Micro Floor Drive HV. Of all the pumps on test, this managed to hit the sweet spot between power, ease of use, weight and design simplicity. It doesn’t hurt that it looks as cool as hell too. It has proven itself to be my first choice on all rides thus receives the best on test ST Recommended Award.
|Brand:||Blackburn, SKS, Crank Brothers, Topeak, Lezyne|
|Product:||Wayside Hybrid, Spaero Double Action, Sterling Large, Mountain Morph, Micro Floor Drive HP|
|From:||zyro.co.uk, extrauk.co.uk, upgradebikes.co.uk|
|Price:||From £27.99 to £59.99|
|Tested:||by Sanny for|