Throwback Thursday: SKS Mini-Pump Shootout
SKS Mini-Pump Shootout
We compared these pumps head to head in a test that took into consideration their size, weight and the number of pumps required to inflate a 27.5-inch tire to a rideable 30 psi. Our intern had positively ripped triceps after this experiment.
SKS is a German company that’s been building bike products for the lion’s share of a century—since 1932. Their pumps have long been a favorite of the Mountain Bike Action testing crew, both in our garages and out on the trails. Their promise of “made in Germany with pride” is one that we’ve come to trust, especially when other low-end “value” pumps can be notoriously finicky and leave you stranded on the trails. Simply put, every pump eventually fails, but the SKS pumps we’ve used have lasted many, many years before finally kicking the bucket. If you’ve ever had a floor pump fail the night before a big ride, or a mini pump fail on the trail when you really needed it, you know the real value of this life- line. We’re believers in the product already, but because SKS offers such an extensive line of mini pumps for everyone—from the gram-counter roadie to the fat bike-riding adventurer—many riders find themselves wondering which pump will suit their riding style best. We rounded up the best pumps from their lineup to compare them and answer the question, which style of mini pump should you be riding with?
Size: 6.7 inches with a very narrow body
Weight: 62 grams (2.5 ounces)
Hits and misses: This sneaky little pump can easily be stored anywhere, including tiny seat bags or jersey pock- ets, without being the least bit noticeable. It’s an excellent pump to have in an emergency, but most knobby-tired riders will want something bigger when their riding buddies are waiting for them to air their tires trailside. In fact, we gave up when after 300 pumps we’d only hit 12 psi. If a fellow rider comes by while you’re using this thing, you’d be crazy not to ask a favor and borrow a bigger pump.
Inflation speed: You’ll be racing the sunset to hit a rideable pressure. We actually gave up and used some- thing more suitable.
Overall rating: ★
Ideal rider: Roadies
Size: 7.1 inches with a narrow body
Weight: 90 grams (3.2 ounces)
Hits and misses: The Airboy XL delivers exactly what the name would have you believe. It looks like the designer simply hit the “enlarge” button on the computer drawing of the original Airboy. The pump does deliver more air more quickly, but this is still a minimalist’s pump. It’s lightweight, small and easily carried in a jersey pocket, but plan on pumping for a while. For cross-country racers, where time matters when fixing a flat, we’d still recommend a CO2.
Inflation speed: You can do it, but it takes some gumption. Suits the needs of roadies better than mountain bikers overall.
Overall rating: ★★★
Ideal rider: Weight-conscious trail riders
Size: 8.2 inches with a slender body and medium-sized handle and head
Weight: 110 grams (3.9 ounces)
Hits and misses: The obvious benefit is the option to use CO2 and still have a pump, should you run out of cartridges or have the dreaded “Oh, shoot, I left the valve open as I screwed it in” moment. This is the most advanced pump in the lineup. And if CO2 is your thing, this is a great option. There are certainly lighter CO2 regulators out there for the cross-country race crowd, but if the convenience of not having to pump is your thing while trail riding, this is the right pump for you. We had issues with the regulator leaking a little but were still able to easily inflate a 27.5 trail tire with a single 16-gram cartridge, albeit at a cost of $3. The manual-pump portion works well but seems to be an afterthought to be used only if the CO2 supply runs dry.
Pump rating: It’s better to use the CO2 option, but it’s nice to have a backup plan.
Overall rating: ★★★★
Ideal rider: Riders who want the best of both worlds in a compact package.
Size: 11.2 inches with the largest handle and body and added gauge
Weight: 220 grams (7.8 ounces)
Hits and misses: As the heavyweight in the shootout, it was no surprise that this thing packed a serious punch when it came to inflating tires relatively quickly. It’s as close as you’ll come in the SKS world to bringing the shop floor pump with you. The barrel actually extends as a sort of two-part inflation barrel with the flip of a switch. Testers appreciated the large air volume being pumped, although the mechanism is clunky and not as ergonomic as we’d hoped for. The gauge is nice for those particular about their pressures, although we typically find the “squeeze test” is an accurate enough gauge when repairing a flat.
Pump rating: Quick but somewhat clunky due to the extendable barrel.
Overall rating: ★★
Ideal rider: Fat bike riders and picky pressure freaks.
Spaero Double Action
Size: 8.2 inches with a mid-sized body
Weight: 160 grams (5.7 ounces)
Hits and misses: The double action on this pump, combined with the relatively small and slender aluminum body, makes this pump a size-to-pumping-performance win. The extendable hose feature also keeps users from damaging valves while inflating. This pump inflated our tires impressively fast and with relative ease. The handle also detaches to be made into a T-shaped handle, which makes pumping much more ergonomic. It’s the only pump head in the lineup that threads on to the valve to prevent air loss during use.
It’s small enough to fit in a jersey pocket, although it will be happier living in a hydration pack. For all-around performance, we’d be hard-pressed to recommend something better. You may never look forward to a flat, but you’ll certainly dread it less with this bad boy in your pocket.
Pump rating: Easy-peasy by mini-pump standards
Overall rating: ★★★★★
Ideal rider: Anyone who wants a reliable mini pump in a fairly compact package.
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