The best mini-pumps are easy to carry in a pack or on your frame but still pack a mighty blast of air for those trailside emergencies. Here's our pick of pumps...
Whether you run inner tubes or tubeless, dual ply casings or tyre inserts, it takes a brave mountain biker to venture out without the means to fix a puncture. And that means carrying some form of pump. Given the CO2 cartridges are expensive, and wasteful, most riders use a mini-pump, the benefits of which are that they take up minimal space and can even be attached to your frame. But the difference between the best and the worst, in terms of durability and air volume shifted, can be vast, which is where this test comes in. Check out our alternative guide if you’re looking for the best tubeless inflator pumps for home use.
The best mountain bike mini-pumps
- Topeak Mountain TT G
- Lezyne Grip Drive HV
- Crankbrothers Gem Short
How we test
To gauge efficiency, we inflated a 2.6in Maxxis Minion DHR tyre using each pump and measured the pressure after 50 strokes, 100 strokes and 200 strokes. We also assessed how comfortable each pump is during use, because your arm will definitely start to burn after 200 strokes. We also weighed and measured every pump to see how much space they’d take up on the bike and when stashed in a pack.
‘View Deal’ links
You will notice that beneath each mountain bike mini-pump summary is a ‘View Deal’ link. If you click on one of these links then mbr may receive a small amount of money from the retailer should you go to purchase the product from them. Don’t worry, this does not affect the amount you pay.
Topeak Mountain TT G
Best for high-speed inflation
Price: £41.99 | Weight: 230g | Strokes: 50-4psi, 100-13psi, 200-27psi | Length: 25cm | Contact: extrauk.co.uk
Pros: Powerful and efficient. Comfortable to use.
Cons: Expensive. Gauge is not that accurate. Chunky.
Fat like a salami sausage, the Topeak Mountain TT G is a monster among mini-pumps, but it backs up that size with a powerful action. With a huge volume and a two-way action, that pumps air on both the pull and push stroke, it gets you back up and running in double quick time. Topeak makes loads of mini pumps, but you could hardly call the Mountain TT-G mini – it’s a monster. The length is pretty similar to the other pumps here, but the girth is way bigger, and it has a huge volume. It also features Topeak’s ‘Twin Turbo’ technology which means it pushes air on both the pull and push strokes. 200 strokes gave us 27psi in our test tyre – easily the best on test.
It’s also really comfortable to use, there’s a handy thumb lock and it comes with a mounting bracket should you want to carry this beast on your bike. The gauge isn’t that accurate, but it’s better than nothing. The pump we’d want in our pack if we got a puncture on a rainy winter’s day.
Read our full review of the Topeak Mountain TT G pump
Lezyne Grip Drive HV
A quality pump with an efficient action at a good price
Price: £33 | Weight: 125g | Strokes: 50-3.5psi, 100-11psi, 200-25psi | Length: 23cm | Contact: upgradebikes.co.uk
Pros: Well made. Grippy handle. Gets up to pressure quickly.
Cons: Handle is a bit short. Hose can leak air during installation/removal from valve.
With a high-quality alloy build and knurled handle the Lezyne Grip Drive HV is a pleasing product to handle and feels like it will last a lifetime. HV stands for High Volume, so it shifts a lot of air with each stroke – perfect for mountain bikes. 200 strokes gave us 25psi on our test tyre, which is about where we’d want it for most riding. The slippery shaft also made light work of getting to this pressure – even the last few strokes were fairly easy.
To inflate the tyre you attach a short hose (stored in the barrel) to the valve. This has a Schrader fitting on one end and Presta on the other. We’ve mixed feelings on the hose connection, as although it should put less stress on the valve, to install it you have to wind the whole pump on and it’s really easy to let air escape during this process. There’s a bleed valve should you actually over-inflate your tyre. An absolute top-drawer mini pump, that has an effortless action, shifts a load of air and is also fully rebuildable.
Crankbrothers Gem Short
Small in stature but powerful in action
Price: £21.99 | Weight: 136g | Strokes: 50-2psi, 100-10psi, 200-20psi | Length: 18cm | Contact: extrauk.co.uk
Pros: Compact and easy to carry. Powerful for its size. Good value.
Cons: Not much to hold when pumping.
The Gem pump from Crankbrothers comes in two lengths, and this is the shorter model at just under 18cm. To make up for its dimensions, it boasts a dual-piston that works in both directions and also the company’s Air Switch feature, that allows you to toggle between high volume or high pressure using a dial on the end of the barrel. When inflating our test tyre, we got to around 15psi before we had to flick it to the high pressure setting – this actually pushes less air into the tyre, so it took longer, but with less muscle.
To hold the pump on the tyre there’s a thumb lock, and this is useful because there’s not much to grip at the pump head itself. If space is at a premium, but you don’t want to compromise on pumping power, the Crankbrothers Gem Short is an excellent choice and great value.
Mini pumps have changed a lot over the last few years. Most now have a high-quality aluminium construction, anodised parts, extra grip handles, dual-valve compatibility and there are even some out there that you can put a tool inside. The upshot of all this development is that most modern mini pumps are more convenient but also more expensive.
What hasn’t changed is how you store them – which is either on the bike or on your person. Stashing them in a pack is recommended because the pump won’t get covered in dirt and grit and is less likely to seize up when you actually come to use it.
Even though they’re described as mini, the size, or volume, of a pump does have a big effect on how much effort is required to inflate a mountain bike tyre. Compared to road bikes, MTB tyres have higher volume but running lower pressure, which means you need a pump with a large air chamber if you want to inflate them quickly. Sure, a high-pressure/low volume mini pump will also work, but it will just take longer to do the job.
Most of the mini pumps tested here are high volume and we’ve covered a spread of styles and prices.
Look out For
Chances are you’ll be trying to inflate your tyre after refitting an inner tube and your hands will be slippery, so some form of grip is a must. The head and handle also need to be a decent size because you need to brace against them when inflating the tyre.
There are currently two valves in common use – Presta and Schrader. To work with both valves, some mini pumps use an insert that you flip over inside the head, but the best come with smart heads that automatically adjust without having to take anything apart. That said, as most MTBs use presta valves, you only need to do it once. Both solutions work, but you usually pay slightly more for the latter.
To ensure the pump doesn’t slip off the valve during vigorous pumping a lockable head is a good idea. This also stops air loss and leaks, which is good because you’ve usually killed your arm getting air in there.
A flexible extension hose does allow you to smash out the strokes without stressing the delicate valve stem. On most pumps the hose is housed inside the shaft, and it can also be double ended – Presta on one end, Schrader on the other.
To carry the pump on your bike you can use the supplied plastic snap-on clip, that usually mounts underneath your bottle cage. It needs to be offset to the side of the cage and come with a strap, so the pump doesn’t fall out on the first rough descent.
Some pumps come with the facility to attach a Co2 cartridge – handy for emergency inflation, usually in a race situation.
Helps give an idea of when to stop pumping. Some are more accurate than others, most add to the cost.