The Crankbrothers Gem floor pump is inexpensive, tested well in all our trials, and has some unique features as well. Most notable is its HV/HP switch which allows pumping in either a high volume or high-pressure mode and makes this pump one of the most versatile we've seen. Smart use of this switch allows it to pump a tire very quickly. Its gauge is smartly designed to wrap around the barrel of the pump for added stability, which it hardly needs with its sturdy metal tripod base. For just a few dollars more than the ultra-low-budget models such as the BV Floor Pump, this is a lot of pump for the money, and it has earned our Best Buy award. It replaces our previous BB winner the AerGun X-1000, still an excellent deal in its own right.
Crankbrothers Gem Review
Compare prices at 2 resellers Pros: Inexpensive, durable, metal tripod base, large accurate gauge, HV/HP switch
Cons: Clumsy pump head design, plastic gauge case
Manufacturer: Crank Brothers
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Our Analysis and Test Results
The Crankbrothers Gem Floor Pump is the new winner of our Best Buy award for the greatest value for a floor pump. It scored well in our tests across the board, is priced very reasonably, and comes with some unique features that help to set it apart from the pack. It's the only pump we've seen to offer an "HV/HP" switch to change the pump between high volume and high pressure with ease, which arguably gives it the additional value of functioning as two different pumps in one. It's not the cheapest pump out there, but for just a few dollars more, this is a high performing pump that offers a quality experience and is still a sweet deal.
With a very nice wide steel tripod base, solid all-around construction, and a low center of gravity, the stability of this pump is excellent. Our testers had little trouble standing this pump on various uneven surfaces, and it strongly resists any attempts to knock it over. Some pumps with large gauges that are up off the ground can be put off balance by this heavy protrusion; the Gem solves this problem by casing its gauge all in lightweight plastic and designing it to wrap around the barrel. The gauge is a whopping 3.5" wide but extends only 2" out from the front of the barrel. The front leg of the tripod extends 4".
The pump also feels quite stable while pumping, which is especially important on this model due to the option of pumping in high volume mode. Pumping a high volume of air per pump stroke can very quickly become a physically demanding task, requiring pushing down a lot of one's body weight onto the handle. The Gem hardly wobbles even in this HV setting and feels strong enough to take the necessary beating.
Ease of Attachment/Detachment
The pump head isn't a favorite design of our testers, with separate holes for Schrader and Presta valves on the same side of the pump head. This design can make it challenging to get a quick seal on your valve. With Presta valves it often involves a few air-leaking bumps before contact is made. There are some advantages too, including a very slim head that's easy to slide between your spokes, and there is no physical adaptation needed when switching between valve types (like some pumps which require disassembling and reassembling the head to accommodate a different valve).
While this design may not be our favorite, the actual head of the Gem works well, and our testers didn't have much difficulty with it. There wasn't much air leakage while connecting or disconnecting, and the locking lever is easy to engage. The hose is a relatively generous 36 inches long; maybe not quite enough to easily reach a bike in a work stand like the Blackburn Piston 4 or JoeBlow Pro X, but still longer than several other models.
We don't spend a lot of time discussing extra attachments with most floor pumps; the majority of these pumps come with a needle attachment (for sports balls) and a cone attachment (for pool toys). If a pump doesn't include them, you can pick them up for less than $5 online. However, the Gem earns a special mention as it does a great job providing a storage space for these attachments in a hidden compartment inside of the handle. If you don't need them, they'll never be in your way, if you do you'll always know where they are.
At 3.5" across, the Gem's gauge is one of the largest around, and as mentioned above it is cleverly designed to wrap around the barrel of the pump which helps with stability. It features white numbering on a black background with a light gray needle. PSI numbers are labeled every 20 PSI, with hash marks every 5 PSI. These small hash marks can be challenging to make out while standing above the pump. It's all easy enough to read but may lack precision for measurements smaller than steps of 5 PSI.
The gauge is all cased in hard plastic, which feels only a little bit flimsy. Most of any perceived flimsiness is probably because the gauge isn't securely attached to the barrel, but just tightened down with a screw and a nut in the back; this appears to be a feature rather than a bug, though it seems more likely to be annoying than helpful. In any case, the gauge can be awkwardly moved around to different sides of the pump, if you want to do that. It's not hurting anything.
Ultimately the Gem's gauge is nice and large, relatively clear, and accurate (see below), so we're pretty happy with it.
Inflation speed is a difficult factor to describe with this pump and its unique HV/HP switch, but ultimately, we found that a smart use of both the high volume and high-pressure settings can offer excellent results in this area.
When pumping purely in the high-pressure mode, this pump offers some of the worst inflation speed around. We needed 32 full pump strokes to get a hybrid tire from 20 to 80 PSI; most pumps in our tests require roughly 20-25 strokes to achieve the same result (the Blackburn Piston 4 manages it in only 18). If this were the only setting on the pump, it would be dead last in our speed ranking. On the other hand, operating in high volume mode, the Gem moved the needle the same distance with only 12 pump strokes — but we found depressing the handle to be very physically strenuous when pumping at higher pressures, which hurts the actual time involved quite a bit.
We found the best results were achieved when mixing the two methods and flipping the HV/HP switch when pumping in high volume mode became difficult. Flipping the switch is very simple while pumping, as the switch can be operated easily with a foot. Using this method, we were able to pump the same tire from 20 to 80 PSI using 16 gentle smooth pump strokes, a very impressive result. It does take a second to stop pumping and flip the switch, but it's not enough to significantly impact the time involved. Quality of pump strokes is quite good since the pump is so stable. The handle is on the narrow end but is comfortable enough to hold.
Our tests found the Crankbrothers Gem to have great accuracy, always within 1-2 PSI of our independent gauge. The needle moves pretty slowly when using the high-pressure setting, making it very easy to fine-tune your tire pressure when finishing off your pumping. There can be some minor air loss when connecting or disconnecting this type of pump head, though we didn't have any significant problems making it work with this model, and the 1-2 PSI differences we detected tended to be over the intended pressure rather than under, so this didn't seem to be an issue for the Gem.
This is a quality pump, and one of the more versatile options available, thanks to the HV/HP switch. It maxes out at 160 PSI so may not be suitable for extremely high-pressure track tires or some other niche uses, but it could be a huge asset for folks with a couple of different bikes running different pressures. Got a fat bike that rumbles on 10 PSI, a mountain bike that feels right with 35 PSI, and a road bike that flies at 120 PSI? No need for multiple pumps, the Gem's got you covered for all three. Use your pump savings to add to your piggy bank fund for that fourth bike you've been thinking about.
As our Best Buy winner, we think the Crankbrothers Gem offers excellent value. It's well made, performed well across the board in our tests, and has the possibility of operating as two different pumps in one. At around $50, it's a few dollars more than the entry-level bargain pumps, but you're getting a higher quality product that might meet all your pumping needs at once.
Our testers were very pleased with the performance of this pump and enjoyed its unique features such as the HV/HP switch, wraparound gauge, and hidden attachment compartment. The head design isn't our favorite, but it works well in practice. Its sturdy metal base, lightweight construction, and accurate gauge tie it all together, and it's available for a very reasonable price. The Crankbrothers Gem is recommended for anyone who likes to get high quality on a budget!
— Mark Schanzenbach