Bell Air Attack High Volume Review
Cons: Cheap construction, gauge is inaccurate at higher pressures
Our Analysis and Test Results
The Bell Air Attack 650 is a very high volume pump with a max volume of 630 cubic centimeters, meaning it moves about twice as much air per pump stroke as most other pumps we tested. This makes it ideal for low-pressure tires. It's also extremely inexpensive, and this shows in the quality of the construction materials. Made almost exclusively of plastic components (except the barrel), there is a clear difference in the feel of this pump when compared head-to-head with heavy-duty models that use more metal and wood.
Ease of Attachment/Detachment
Like several other pumps we tested, the Air Attack uses a common head design with both Presta and Schrader valve holes right next to each other. This is not our favorite design, as it frequently leads to air loss when working with Presta valves, due to inadvertent bumping of the opened valve. This particular head was especially difficult on Presta valves; the Presta hole feels like an extra tight fit and air loss seems to be a certainty when attaching it. Our testers had to fight their instincts and push past the point of air escaping to achieve a seal, then engage the locking lever, which is extremely difficult to move on this pump.
The air hose is on the shorter end of those we tested at only 30 inches, and it starts all the way down at the base-mounted gauge. This makes it difficult to reach a bike in a work stand with this pump.
The base of the Air Attack is made of very lightweight plastic but does get a little extra heft from the gauge built into the front. The gauge helps prevent it from tipping forward, but there is nothing to prevent the pump from tipping backward, which it does fairly easily if bumped. The plastic of this base is not as rigid as other models we tested, so there is also a fair amount of flexion when operating the pump handle. Like most pumps, it's probably not going to go anywhere while you're standing on the base to use it, but there's a lot of wobble to it, which makes the whole process more difficult.
As a very high volume pump, the Bell Air Attack 650 has exceptional speed when inflating a tire at low pressure. At higher pressures relative to the pump's capability (over 70psi or so), it becomes exceptionally difficult to thrust the pump's handle down. Our testers managed to reach 80psi to complete our tests, and the Bell had the top score in that it required the lowest number of pump strokes to reach that pressure. However, this is countered by the huge amount of force that must be applied to reach 80 or 90psi with this pump. Most of these tests were run using hybrid tires; on skinny road bike tires, this pump is completely hopeless — but of course, they are not the intended use. The Air Attack is able to fill a high volume mountain bike tire to suitable pressure very quickly, and shouldn't really be considered for purposes outside of that.
Because of the enormous amount of air that is moved by each pump stroke on the Air Attack, it can be difficult to pump up to a particular pressure without overshooting it. An air bleed button on the pump head would be a nice addition to help make those small adjustments. As for the accuracy of the gauge, it does well at low pressures; at 30psi, our independent gauge confirmed that the gauge was exactly right. At higher pressures, however, the gauge was routinely off by roughly 10psi during pumping, then correct when reconnected. For instance, we pumped a tire up to 80psi, swapped it for our separate gauge which read 70psi, then reconnected the pump to have the pump's gauge agree with the 70psi reading. Then we muscled a tire up to 90psi (a real calorie-burning experience); the independent gauge read 80psi, then the reconnected pump agreed with that reading as well. The conclusion we draw from this is that the gauge is generally accurate, but somehow gets put off when the pump gets pushed up to high pressures. We encountered no problems with gauge accuracy at lower pressures, and it was always correct after being detached and reattached. That isn't how anyone uses their pump gauge, though, and this is a significant problem with the accuracy of the Air Attack.
The gauge is all plastic but is aided in its durability by virtue of being mounted right into the base. It's only 2 ½ inches wide, but it also maxes out at 100psi, so there's enough space for the necessary measurement hash marks and labels within that range. The numbers are bold and white on a black background, so they're easy enough to read even though they're down on the ground, far away from the user. Hash marks are every 5psi, and every 10psi is numbered, though the odd numbers are smaller than the evens. It's an awkward design visually, but it's clear enough when measuring your pressure.
This is not the best pump around, but it does get the job done and moves a huge amount of air per pump stroke. We think you'd be better off spending a little more on a higher quality pump. Several higher pressure, lower volume pumps we reviewed may also be preferable; even if you have to push the handle down a few more times, you'll have a better overall experience, the pump will be more versatile, and it's likely to last a lot longer.
The Bell Air Attack 650 is very affordable, very high-volume, and may work fine for folks only interested in those two qualities. But, ultimately, it has too many flaws for us to recommend it to anyone serious about acquiring a high-quality pump.
— Mark Schanzenbach
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