When it comes to putting things on my bike or in my pockets, I’m a minimalist. For years I’ve carried just CO2 on my rides and hoped for the best, or cheekily relied on others for a pump on more remote adventures.
However, if you’re not racing, CO2 is wasteful and carries an element of risk. Will it work as intended? Have you accidentally pinched that tube you’re about to fill? Are you about to give yourself a freeze burn? And what if you flat again? A pump saves panic.
However, almost every time I’ve used a mini pump I’m left painfully aware of how inadequate some of them are. For that, I wanted to know which ones were worth carrying, and which should be avoided.
This is the most physically painful test I’ve done to date, and while the majority of mini pumps tested put the desired amount of air into the tire, some took a significant and tiring effort to do so. Some were a fiddle, while others simply rattled consistently when not in use. And a select few, by comparison, were almost a joy to use. And while I’m still yet to find perfection after having tested over 20 well-respected high volume mini pumps, I’ll happily settle for a few of the better options.
This article goes in reverse order. First, it’s the winners, followed by information on selection criteria, testing protocol and features to seek. An even longer, original, version of this article, which covers high-pressure pumps for road-use, is published on CyclingTips.com
1. OneUp EDC Pump (100cc)
• Valve: Presta-only
• Hose attachment: No
* Extra features: Pump head doubles as CO2 inflator, bottle cage mount, can store OneUp's EDC tool (US$59) inside barrel.
• Strokes to 30psi: 109
• Length: 257mm
• Weight: 163-grams (pump only)
• MSRP: $59 USD
This pump is genius. It’s the only pump on test that goes beyond traditional inflation needs, and yet, it’s one of the best pumps, too. The machined aluminum construction gives it a quality feel and plenty of grip in hand. The Presta-only press-fit head is no-fuss, and the pump will fill a tire before you start wishing it had a hose. That Presta-only head can also be removed and used as a CO2 head.
But that’s hardly the only trick here. OneUp has designed its pumps to work with its EDC tool system
(US$59) that are best known for stashing inside a fork steerer. Instead, you can store the customisable tools inside your pump barrel. This 100cc version offers space for a multi-tool, chain breaker, tire lever, chain master link and CO2 canister. And despite all of that, it’s rattle-free – something many simpler pumps fail at.
Built solid and well-sealed+
Impressive air volume+
More than a pump
Small handle, be careful of pinched fingers-
CO2 head often needs hex key to remove-
Expensive if including optional multi-tool
2. Topeak RaceRocket MT
• Valve: Presta and Schrader
• Hose attachment: Yes
* Extra features: Presta valve core tool stored in the handle, bottle cage mount
• Strokes to 30psi: 132
• Length: 201mm
• Weight: 126-grams
• MSRP: $40 USD
Where OneUp’s pump has Mcguyver himself stashed within it, the Topeak RaceRocket MT is a no-fuss, affordable and pleasant to use option. The aluminum construction is given a rubber grip for comfortable use, while the self-contained hose will work with both valve types.
The pump defies its size and weight with efficient pumping, and can handle higher gravel-bike pressures too. A valve-core tool is provided at the bottom to prevent the threaded hose from causing (likely) mischief.
No fuss option+
Metal construction and well sealed+
Comfortable use with hose and rubber handle
Rubber handle can slide above 40psi-
Hose can unwind presta valve cores-
Jagged edge at handle from valve core tool
3. Specialized AirTool MTB Mini
• Valve: Presta and Schrader
• Hose attachment: No
* Extra features: Clips onto a tube wrap with tire lever
• Strokes to 30psi: 170
• Length: 165mm
• Weight: 101-grams (pump only)
• MSRP: $25 USD
Designed for stashing in a pack or pocket, this tiny pump comes with a tire lever and plastic frame to wrap an inner tube around. The 101g pump hides a push-on head that locks onto the valve with a twist of the barrel. From there, its volume defies its size.
While it’s not the most comfortable pump to use, if you can’t remember the last time you flatted, then this pump is perfect for stashing away.
A true mini pump+
Hidden valve lock feature+
Impressive volume for size+
Not comfortable to use-
Tube wrap lacks tube protection
4. Birzman Velocity-Apogee MG
• Valve: Presta and Schrader
• Hose attachment: Yes
* Extra features: Inline pressure gauge, bottle cage mount
• Strokes to 30psi: 150
• Length: 224mm
• Weight: 145-grams (pump only)
• MSRP: $40 USD
Between the rubber grips, flexible hose and secure-locking valve, this is the most comfortable pump on test. Once learnt, the Apogee valve head works easily with both valve types, there’s no risk of pressure loss on removal, and it won’t unwind a Presta valve in the process.
There’s a pressure gauge that sits inline of the hose, and while it works, it would be better far better if the scale was tailored towards MTB pressures and not road. It’s only good to get you within 5psi of your desired pressure. Additionally, a slight rattle from the valve head is what holds this pump back from placing higher.
Great valve head design+
Comfy to use+
Good build quality
Same pressure gauge scale as road pump-
Not perfectly sealed from grit
5. Lezyne Alloy Drive (Medium)
• Valve: Presta and Schrader
• Hose attachment: Yes
* Extra features: Presta valve core tool, bottle cage mount
• Strokes to 30psi: 105
• Length: 233mm
• Weight: 135-grams (pump only)
• MSRP: $50 USD
The Medium-sized Lezyne Alloy Drive is quite comparable to the Topeak RaceRocket MT. It offers a proven aluminum construction and an equal third-best output efficiency. Lezyne has solved the scream-to-the-sky-while-dropping-to-your-knees issue of unwinding valve cores by integrating a core tightening tool into the hose, and the pressure-release button should help, too.
However, it suffers from an obnoxious rattle, the mount is super flexy and the pump gets tough to use once above 30psi (in case you wanted it for non-MTBs). Personally, this isn't one I'd want to be mounted to my bike, but it's perfectly fine if suppressed in a pack.
Alloy construction and proven durability+
Efficient volume for its size+
Easy to source replacement parts
Enjoys unwinding loose valve cores-
Flexible mount knocks on frame-
Heavy effort at high pressures
The Topeak Mountain TT
is one of the easiest high-volume pumps to use at higher pressures. The chunky shape and similarly efficient volume to the RaceRocket MT is why this pump didn’t make the top ranks.
While Silca’s Tattico Bluetooth
is far from efficient for higher volume tires, the Bluetooth pressure gauge is perfect if you want to fine-tune your exact pressure (accurate to 1psi) when out on the trail. Its sealing and build quality are certainly up to off-road us, too. But that price, wow. Zefal’s Z Cross XL
has a polarizing (cheap) appearance but is extremely comfortable to hold and its telescoping design makes it efficient in use (equal to the Lezyne Alloy Drive, but with less force required). After the Topeak Mountain TT, this is the second-best at higher pressures (above 45psi). It is, however, quite a large pump
For absolute simplicity and low cost, the Park Tool PMP-4.2
will always put air where it needs to go. It’d be nice to see an external seal added to the head, but otherwise, it does what it needs to.
The most efficient on test was Topeak’s Mountain DA
. However, the Dual-Action design means you’re pushing and pulling with resistance, which makes it extremely tiring to use. It’s the perfect example where a pump with higher volume (and requiring fewer strokes) can still be more tiring to use.
The Topeak RaceRocket
and Blackburn AirStik 2Stage
should be considered if you’re looking for pumps that are good for both road and mountain bike. And if you simply hate pumping but don't want CO2, then the miniFumpa electric pump
is worth considering.
Also tested: SKS Airboy XL, Crankbrothers Klic HV, Fabric MilliBar MTB, Lezyne Sport Drive HV, Lifeline Performance MTB, PRO Performance HV, Specialized AirTool Big Bore.
Left, an overview comparing size and pumping efficiency. On the right are the key details of all pumps tested.
It’s surprising how quickly this test added up to 22 mini pumps to test. And that’s only scraping the surface of the hundreds of models on the market.
While I’ve inevitably left a few out, my first selection criteria was to include all the largest and most globally-available mini pump brands. From there, I looked at the best selling options across leading online stores, models that were highly reviewed by other publications and spoke to various brick and mortar stores, too.
With the leading and specialist brands selected, I asked the brands to supply the most popular and favourite mini pumps that balanced carrying size, weight and use. Seeking the “best”, price wasn’t a factor, but despite that, and somewhat surprisingly, no brand provided a carbon fiber version (Topeak and Lezyne offer such things, among others). Often, my request was a simple one, “Send the pumps your own staff would choose to carry on a ride.”
Some brands, with enormous and overwhelming ranges, sent a number of pumps, and wanted to send even more. Others provided just one or two samples.
Amongst all of this, keep in mind that there are only two major pump manufacturers in Asia, and the bulk of the pumps tested show similarities that reveal they’re manufactured by one or the other Given this, if you see another brand of pump on the market that looks and measures the same as one tested here, it’s highly likely it is closely comparable. And for this reason, this test only features a small few from generic brands. Pressure versus Volume
Your choice in mini pump should depend on your desired riding style. The design criteria for pumping a 29 or 27.5 x 2.5" tire is quite different to getting a road tire to a safe pressure. Take a garden hose for example – if you want to fill a bucket you’d put the nozzle on the widest setting to get the most water (volume) in the shortest time; whereas if you wanted to create pressure, you’d reduce the volume to restrict the water to be pushed out a smaller opening.
Pumps designed for road use are optimized for higher pressures, and for a given size, will produce less volume per stroke. On the flip side, pumps designed for mountain bikes are designed to produce a higher air volume but only need to achieve relatively low pressures. These are optimized to reduce the number of strokes taken, but can quickly become highly inefficient at producing pressure.
And there are dual-purpose pumps that claim to cover both high volume and high-pressure needs. Some achieve this with clever volume capacity switches, while others attempt to find a happy medium in the output. However, as my testing proved, there is always a compromise.
In my testing, I found that claimed maximum pump pressure and volume per stroke don’t mean much. Rather, the maximum claimed pressure is what the pump seals can handle, not what you can push. In many cases, high volume pumps simply become impossible to use at higher pressures, while high-pressure pumps are painfully inefficient at producing large volumes of air.
And if you must have one pump to cover your mountain bike and high-pressure road needs, then get a high-pressure pump (ideally one with an efficient volume). It’ll be slower and more tiring to use on the mountain bike, but it’ll eventually do the job. Testing protocol
The test was run over a number of months, with the field being narrowed fairly early on based on initial pressure, volume, the force of stroke and ease of use impressions.
Much of this testing used a calibrated inline digital pressure gauge assembled by Kappius components. This allows for live pressure testing and reduced testing variables. The gauge is setup for Schrader valve use, so I used a brass Presta adapter on one end, and a unique Schrader-Presta adapter from CantitoeRoad at the other end when a pump was Presta-only (such as the OneUp).
Custom pressure gauge used on the left, while the right shows a clear difference in purpose between a mini-pump designed for off-road rubber, and one designed for the high pressure needed for road riding.
I cheated a little for the efficiency testing by using a narrower 650x47mm (27.5x1.9in) Panaracer GravelKing tire (and tube) on a Hunt Adventure Carbon rim (24mm inner width). I tested each pump to 30psi, a pressure that’s at the higher-end for most, but gave a good feel for how the pump behaves for those who prefer/need higher pressures.
The number of full strokes (top out at the top, bottom out at bottom) required to go from zero to the required psi were counted. And the testing method was cross-referenced and double-checked with various pumps on numerous time to ensure consistency of the process. My method differs from the more common test method of measuring the pressure at 200 strokes, mainly because the custom gauge I used allowed for such a method without risk of pressure loss.
I hate rattles. I also rarely ride with a pack. As a result, most mini-pumps will be attached beneath the bottle cage and left on the bike full-time, and in my experience as a mechanic, it’s quite common for people to complain about a rattle in their bike that is actually the pump. And if the pump noticeably rattled once strapped into its mount, it was out of contention. This ruled out a few otherwise nice pumps too, such as the crank brothers Klic HV.
Even the best mini pumps will get warm to touch by the time you’re at your desired pressure, and it’s not that rare to hear the occasional whisp of air sneaking past the internal shaft seals once the pump is hot and under pressure. The inline gauge allowed me to see some pumps suffer in this regard.
Ease of use is largely subjective and was based on how intuitive the pump’s usage was, how quick it was to start using, general ease of use at the valve attachment and how comfortable it was during use. Pumps that caused arm cramps to keep them on the valve, or those with pinch points or slippery handles didn’t fare so well here. Features and considerations
There are many little details that make a workable pump, a good pump.
Perhaps most obvious are the ergonomics and materials used in order to make the pumping experience easier, especially given you’ll likely end up using the pump with wet or sweaty hands. Pumps with perfectly smooth finishes and no shape aren’t ideal here, and you’ll end up using more energy just to hold on.
Do you have bikes with both Schrader and Presta valves? Most should be able to get away with a Presta-only pump, but many pumps on the market can do both. Some will adjust to the different valve types automatically, others require you to flip a threaded chuck, and many still require you to open the valve head and flip the valve pin and rubber gasket.
It’s amazing to see how many mini pumps have moved the pump head to the end of a hose – all but solving the risk of breaking a valve as you lever it back and forth while pumping. Rather, a pump that uses a hose allows for more negligent pumping and is much easier to use in that regard.
Still, the hose is an added feature that can impact on volume, and increase weight and size. Additionally, threaded hose designs introduce the potential for unwinding tubeless valve cores. As a result of this, it’s increasingly common to find hose-equipped pumps supplied with a valve core tool. Simply make sure your valve cores are tight and you’re unlikely to experience issues.
If you’re planning on keeping the pump on your bike, then look for one with weather sealing at the head and barrel. Keeping the valve head free of dirt and water will ensure it works for many years to come, while a seal on the barrel isn’t as common, it is often used as an easy to prevent rattles.
Speaking of keeping the pump on the bike, you’ll need a mount for that. The Specialized AirTool MTB Mini and miniFumpa (electric) were the only pumps on test that did not include a mount for carrying the pump on the bike, beneath a bottle cage. All other pumps offer comparable mounts, although some are certainly better than others.
A mini pump should be viewed as an emergency-only item, and for that, a press of the tire to feel that it’s firm should be all you need to continue your ride. Still, pressure gauges on mini pumps are a popular selling feature. Generally speaking, the gauges are so small that unless they’re a digital gauge they’re almost impossible to get an accurate and consistent reading from. In many cases, the gauges were only good for getting to the nearest 10psi.
Do you view the mini pump as a back-up to your CO2? If that’s the case, then it may make sense to get a pump that doubles for CO2 duty. Many of these are surprisingly good – and often better than a lot of CO2 chucks people carry. A few of these are covered in the article on CyclingTips, and the OneUp pump also offers this function.
Finally, there are the extras that turn the pump into something more. Examples include the winning OneUp which hides an entire tool kit and puncture repair within itself; or the pump from Specialized which is tiny and can be wrapped in one with an inner tube and tire lever.
If you want more volume, head to CyclingTips
where both high pressure and high volume pumps were tested (a total of 45).