Bust one? Lost one? Never had one? Need one? Here’s what to look for in a decent shock pump that won’t let you – or your suspension – down. Well, unless you want it to, that is.
Consistency and construction
What do you need from a shock pump? You need it to work. And be reliable and consistent. PSI accuracy is nice and everything but it’s far more important to have a pump that works the same every time. And lasts a long time.
Things you don’t need in a shock pump: air loss prevention mechanisms. Air loss whilst unscrewing the hose from your fork/shock is broadly a myth. Shock pumps do not let air out from the suspension as you unscrew it. The air you hear is coming out of the pump body/hose.
“I’m sure I put 150psi in…”
And don’t do the thing of ‘proving’ that you’re fork/shock has lost air during the removal of a hose by instantly re-attaching the hose and looking at the resulting lower pressure readout. It’s the effect of air entering the hose from the fork/shock that causes the lower pressure readout. When you attach a pump, a small but significant amount of air escapes the fork/shock and fills up the pump body. This is what makes people think their fork/shock/pump has lost pressure during the previous inflation.
Sticky valve syndrome
If you do find yourself losing air during unscrewing it’s because something is faulty. Usually the valve on the fork/shock, but sometimes the pump head is faulty. A stick valve on a fork/shock can be cured simply with a quick squirt of WD40 and few plunges of the valve up and down.
On a related note, if you find your fork/shock losing air over time it may simply be that the fork/shock valve’s core needs tightening a bit. Valve core tightener to the rescue (you can attempt to use small flat blade screwdriver but don’t say we didn’t warn you).
Batteries not included
Now then. Digital or analogue shock pump?
Probably analogue. For most people and applications anyway. A shock pump is not really something you’re going to use that often.
But… digital is nice init? Accurate. Reassuring. Super consistent. Especially when dealing with modern fat forks (38mm) that run at relatively low pressures and 1 or 2 PSI here and there makes a significant difference.
The negative aspect of digital is batteries. Reaching for a shock pump only to find it stare back at you blankly is extremely annoying. The solution? Buy a load of batteries for the shock pump NOW. They aren’t expensive. Check out eVil eBay and order half a dozen. Keep them in same place as the pump. Problem solved.
Tempted by a twofer?
A quick word about 2-for-1 pumps. Pumps that claim to be mini pumps and shock pumps at the time. Avoid. Just don’t.
Best Mountain Bike Shock Pumps:
LifeLine Shock Pump
Summary: We’ve listed the LifeLine branded shock pump here because we’ve been served by it well in the past. We’ve certainly had better performances out of retailers’ own-brand shock pumps (LifeLine is Wiggle/Chain Reaction Cycles) compared to aftermarket shock pumps from budget brands.
Topeak Pocket Shock DXG
Summary: If you want something that’s a bit of a step up from the bog-standard, the Pocket Shock DXG is a great choice. Just about small enough to put in a backpack/bumbag. Decent enough to use a standalone shock pump at home. The slim/extended attachment barrel is easier and nicer to use than most.
LifeLine Digital Shock Pump
Summary: Again, we’ve gone with the LifeLine badged version of this digital shock pump. You may well see this design pump under a few different marques – most iconically (and expensively) under the RockShox brand – but we’re giving hte nod to the LifeLine badged version because, well, we’ve been using one for years without trouble.
Birzman Zacoo Macht
Summary: This is absolute my personal favourite shock pump BUT that is almost entirely because I test bikes and forks a lot. This fits in a jersey pocket, or a bumbag, and is most excellently useful for adjusting mid-ride. It’s not a pump I’d use in the workshop; the dial is too small and thus hard to be precise with. No fiddling. No screwing bit together. Nice bleed valve on the rear of the dial. It’s the best genuinely portable shock pump by miles.
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