The best high-pressure suspension pumps for your mountain bike tried, tested and rated by our experts, plus what to look for in a shock pump.
If you’ve got a mountain bike with suspension, then a shock pump is an essential piece of kit that you’ll need to ensure it performs perfectly. Most mountain bike suspension systems run on air-springs, so to get the fork or rear shock set up or adjusted, you need a pump that can add air at a high enough pressure. A high pressure suspension pump is designed specifically for this purpose.
Just getting started or looking for a quick guide? Our fundamentals of suspension set up is a good place to begin. To complete your DIY air inflation requirements, you’ll also need a good quality tyre floor/track pump for home use and portable mini-pump for emergency use in case you puncture on a ride.
Best budget shock pump
Weight: 207g | Contact: hotlines-uk.com | Rating: 9/10
Reasons to buy: Easy to use, accurate and reliable readings, great value for money
Reasons to avoid: Stock battery has short life, small volume
Lifeline is one of the cheapest pumps around but we think it’s excellent value for money – the digital unit and head are virtually identical to the ones used on the Cane Creek Digital Pump and Topeak Pocket Shock Digital, right down display, mode switch and battery.
Talking of battery life, we found that the stock battery doesn’t last long and the lack of off-switch plus the tendency for it to turn itself on in your bag if it gets knocked doesn’t help. But it will auto off after about 90 seconds, and we found that removing the back plate to replace the battery was pretty easy.
The pump itself is solid, with a bleed valve, extra-long hose and comfy handle, though it has quite a small volume so 100 strokes equates to about 81psi.
But it does the job fine, and for the money, this pump is hard to fault.
Best for overall performance
Weight: 171g | Contact: upgradebikes.co.uk | Rating: 10/10
Reasons to buy: Looks top quality, efficient, smooth action, accurate gauge, compact size
Reasons to avoid: Can trap fingers on handle
Easily the most efficient pump that we’ve tested, and one that outperforms its price. The mechanical isn’t quite as accurate as a digital pump, but it has a bigger range being rated to 400 psi.
It looks top quality and we found it a joy to use, pushing air in on a pretty much one-to-one ratio. Our 100 strokes got our test fork up to 90psi, which were the best figures for any of the shock pumps in our test.
You do have to hold the dial at the front but rubber coating makes that comfortable, though it is possible to get your fingers trapped under the handle – hold the handle to the side, and it’s fine.
It’s also nice and compact which makes it easy to carry with you in a pack or pocket.
Best digital shock pump
Weight: 108g | Contact: upgradebikes.co.uk | Rating: 9/10
Reasons to buy: Slim shape easily fits in a pack, digital gauge ensures accuracy, easy to use
Reasons to avoid: Unusual battery, price
Aside from its striking black-and-gold good looks, this is a very capable little pump. It can pressurise shocks up to 350psi making it the second highest pressure pump in our test, after the Lyzyne Shock Drive, with a simple bleed nipple for fine tuning pressure.
We found the design with t-handle very easy and comfortable to use, and the hose can be stowed into a recess while not in use. The chuck on the hose is ‘zero-loss’ which means you don’t experience any pressure loss from the shock when disconnecting the pump, and the hose is flexible and braided.
A digital display offers accurate pressure readings and can switch between psi and Bar, and also has an on/off button to save power, though it will also auto-off after a period of inactivity. It takes a slightly tricky-to-find CR1220 battery, and is one of the priciest shock pumps we’ve tested though.
Overall, it looks good, is great to use, and packs a powerful punch with a small size that makes it compact enough to stow in a pack.
Weight: 196g | Contact: extrauk.co.uk | Rating: 8/10
Reasons to buy: Braided hose, Pressure Rite connecter means no air loss when disconnecting, accurate digital reading
Reasons to avoid: Pressure only goes up to 300psi, short battery life and no spare battery
While this has essentially the same fixings and digital gauge as the Lifeline Digital Shock Pump, the Topeak Pocket Shock Digital has a better finish and smoother pumping action.
The hose is braided which increases durability and the Pressure Ride connector allows you to disengage the male part from the shock’s Schrader valve before unthreading the pump, which means no loss of air – definitely a plus point.
A bleed valve allows you to fine tune the pressure, and our test found the digital readout to be accurate, but since the pump only goes up to 300psi heavier riders may not find this offers enough to get their rear shock pressure perfect.
The functionality, feel and quality of this pump is better than the other digital shock pumps listed here, but loses out a little to the Lifeline pump in terms of value for money.
Best dual-purpose suspension and tyre pump
Weight: 176g | Contact: freewheel.co.uk | Rating: 8/10
Reasons to buy: Presta adapter means this pump works on tyres and suspension, high pressure and high volume modes, neat design, frame clip included, compact size
Reasons to avoid: Not comfortable to use, hose a little short
If you’re looking for one pump to fulfil two functions, then the Truflow mini/shock pump is just the ticket. It comes with a Presta valve so it can attach to tyre valves, plus high-pressure and high-volume modes which can be switched between using a dial on the handle. High-pressure deals with suspension pressure, and high-volume is for inflating tyres.
Because it’s still quite compact, we found that it does take a while to inflate a tyre but is great for suspension setup since you can use the high-volume setting to initially boost a load of air into your fork, then the high-pressure setting to fine-tune it. We managed to get about 70psi in 20 strokes.
On the downside the pump isn’t very comfortable to use since you have to grip around the gauge and the handle has quite a blunt shape.
Overall, it’s a great value do-it-all pump and a perfect size for stashing in a hip-pack or clipping onto your bike using the included frame clip.
How we tested
We undertook some comparative testing to gauge efficiency, which involved inflating a Fox 38 fork from 0psi counting a 100, then 200 strokes and recording the pressure. We also made a note of comfort during this procedure because some of the handles don’t have a particularly ergonomic shape and holding the pump at the front is often round the gauge. We also bled off 10psi at the end to test ‘bleed valve’ functionality.
What to look for in a shock pump
If you’re looking to find the best shock pump for ensuring your suspension runs smoothly, then there are a few factors and features to consider.
Digital or analogue
Digital pumps are more accurate, but the battery life is an issue because the pump can turn on accidentally when it’s rolling around in your toolbox. Although plenty have an auto-off button that kicks in after about 90seconds.
You can purge air from the fork or shock using a small bleed button on the head of a shock pump, ideal for fine tuning your suspension setup.
The longer the better, especially on bikes with complex shock placement and hard-to-reach shock valves. Most should have some form of management to secure the hose.
Look for a flat or button handle, which is not going to leave a red welt on your hand when squeezing in those last few PSI during a shock inflation.
If you want to take a pump with you on a ride, you have a couple of choices. You can downsize to a mini-shock pump, which can be stashed easily in a bum-bag or you can mount the pump on your bike using a frame clip; there are both options here.
Do I need a shock pump?
If you have a bike that has forks or rear shock that use air pressure, which is most of them, then the answer is yes.
Firstly because rear shocks and forks will naturally lose a little of their internal air pressure over time, so will need to be topped up. Secondly, because to get the best performance out of your bike you’ll need to ensure the suspension is set up correctly for you and the terrain you’re riding on. Things like adding heavy backpacks or riding on rougher ground may require a change in the internal pressure of your suspension shocks, and to make those changes, you’ll need a shock pump.
Coil shocks don’t require a shock pump for obvious reasons, as they use the properties of the coil spring to control the suspension.
What’s the difference between a shock pump and a tyre pump?
While the mechanism for each of them is the same – pumping air manually from a chamber through a valve into a receptacle, eg tyre or shock – the main differences are related to the differing volume and the pressure of each.
Tyres have a high volume but run at fairly low pressures. Shocks have a low volume but run at very high pressures, and are extremely sensitive to minute changes in that internal pressure.
So to pump up a tyre you need a pump that can add a lot of volume per pump, and to add air to a shock you want a low volume pump that can add air at high pressure without letting it escape, and in small increments so it can be carefully controlled.
Shock pumps will also often have a small pressure release valve, button or nipple which allows small amounts of air to be let out of the shock in a controlled way.
Can I use a shock pump on my tyres?
As a general rule, no. This is because most shock pumps will be designed for a Schrader valve which is used on suspension shocks, and not the Presta valve that is most common on mountain bike tubes and tyres.Also because shock pumps work on high pressures rather than high volumes.
There are some exceptions, such as the Truflo Mini/Shock which is a combined mini-pump and shock pump. These types of pump will have Presta valve adapters, and are able to switch between high-pressure and high-volume modes. However, they’ll still take a long time to inflate a tyre compared to something like a traditional track pump.