Buyers guide to mini pumps

Every cyclist should carry a mini pump; they’re relatively inexpensive, easy to use and take up no room so you have no excuse. Here’s what t0 look out for.

Once you get into the habit of carrying one you won’t leave home without it even though you may be lucky enough to never actually have to use it.

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Mini pumps are pumps which are small and light enough to be carried in a pocket while out on a ride. They are a mini version of the old traditional frame fitting pumps you use to see on road bikes years ago but much sturdier.

They are perfect for roadside inflation and will easily put enough air in to get you back to base. They may not be as efficient as a larger pump but you’ll be impressed by the performance for their size.

Although they all look broadly similar there are enough subtle differences to differentiate them. Whatever you choose, any mini pump is better than no mini pump.

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Size

For some riders this is everything. They go for the lightest smallest model they can find. But be careful; these types usually require more effort to inflate a tyre to a half-decent pressure. Saying that, they are very small and take up virtually no room!

Weight

Weight isn’t really too much of an issue with mini pumps unless you are a proper weight weenie. Metal barrels add a little weight (as opposed to plastic) but this is more than made up for in rigidity and efficiency. If you’re really worried about weight, several manufacturers make a carbon barrelled version of their popular mini pumps, but these are usually at least twice the price.

PSI rating

Especially relevant for road riders as they need higher pressures. The maximum PSI rating is clearly marked on packaging making it easier to distinguish between high pressure and low volume models. Often the maximum PSI claims are a bit on the optimistic side so go for a model that claims to be able to reach pressures higher than you actually need.

The magic test of a mini pump is the amount of strokes it takes to reach the magic 100PSI mark, so if you’re doing any research this is what most tests are based on and a good indicator of how efficient a mini pump is.

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Comfort

Check that the mini pump is comfortable for you to use. No point in getting the world’s smallest pump if you have large hands and keep pinching yourself when pumping or the handle is a hard to use shape. T-handle pumps are comfy and efficient.

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Mini track pump

Speaking of comfort, these sort of mini pumps are very comfy to use. These are mini pumps which have a compact flip-out baseplate, a T-shaped handle and a small length of hose leading to the valve. Yes there is an obvious weight and size penalty but a lot of mountain bikers swear by them.

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Valve attachment

Most pumps attach directly to the valve but care must be taken when fixing and releasing as they put quite a lot of strain on the valve but there are also models with a locking handle to ensure a better connection and seal.

Some pumps now come with a flexible hose connection (think back to the pumps your dad used to have) which are much easier to use and have less potential to damage valves with only a small weight penalty.

Schrader or presta

Most pumps can now accommodate both valve types. Some need an adapter while some can attach directly to either. Flexible hoses are very cleverly designed to be flipped to accommodate either valve.

High pressure or low volume

Road tyres require high pressures so go for a model with a higher PSI rating. Mountain bike tyres don’t require high pressures so go for a low volume pump as this will inflate them quicker.

On the bike or on your person

Mini pumps are small enough to be carried in pockets but are also supplied with a frame mount which uses the bottle cage bolts to hold the mount if you don’t want to carry it on your person. The new range of mini pumps using flexible hoses are slightly longer than previous mini pumps so this is especially handy for these types. Just remember to use the elastic or Velcro straps supplied to ensure the pump attaches securely to the mount, don’t want it bouncing out.

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CO2 inflator

Some mini pumps also have CO2 inflator attachments for rapid inflation. The CO2 cartridge can be used via the pump for immediate inflation while the normal pump is there for a back up if you have no cartridge or to top up the tyre to higher pressures.

Which mini pump should you buy?

Leisure riders – Any mini pump from a recognised brand will do the job okay.

Regular riders – Efficiency is more important than minimal weight saving so go for a pump with a solid build that hits pressures without a great deal of effort. In this case it may be better to get a slightly bigger pump and attach to the frame for ease of carrying and peace of mind. Mountain bikers should consider a mini track pump style pump.

Racers – Racers will be carrying CO2 cartridges to do the bulk of their inflation duties so a small and light mini pump is a good idea just for topping up tyres to high pressures. Racers always like a bit of carbon too. The new range of CO2 inflator pumps may be a good choice for these riders as well.

Shop for mini pumps on Merlin Cycles

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