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Crankbrothers Sterling Review

This high-value pump works exceptionally well with high volume tires and features a universal nozzle
Crankbrothers Sterling
Photo: Crankbrothers
Best Buy Award
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Price:  $70 List | $69.99 at Amazon
Compare prices at 2 resellers
Pros:  Works great with high volume tires, stable, universal nozzle works with Presta and Schrader
Cons:  Not so great with high-pressure tires, gauge is harder to read than some
Manufacturer:   Crank Brothers
By Clark Tate ⋅ Senior Review Editor  ⋅  Oct 8, 2021
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67
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#4 of 11
  • Ease of Attachment - 25% 8
  • Inflation - 25% 5
  • Stability - 20% 8
  • Accuracy - 15% 7
  • Gauge - 15% 5

Our Verdict

The Crankbrothers Sterling is such a cool option. Compact, light, and stable, it executes our two favorite floor pump evolutions in stealth style. A flip pedal at the base lets you toggle between high pressure (road tire) or high volume (fat tire). The aluminum body keeps the pump light, and its short stature (25 inches) and relatively broad tripod base make for a sturdy pump that stands on its own nicely. It is smaller than some, so it takes longer to inflate tires than the top options, and its gauge isn’t the easiest to read since it’s entirely behind glass, but it gets the most important things right. In our opinion, no one could go wrong with this pump.

Compare to Similar Products

 
Awards Best Buy Award Editors' Choice Award Best Buy Award   
Price $69.99 at Amazon
Compare at 2 sellers
$120 List$45.00 at REI$54.99 at Backcountry
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$49.95 at Amazon
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Pros Works great with high volume tires, stable, universal nozzle works with Presta and SchraderNozzle works with Presta and Schrader valves, accurate, well-placed pressure relief valveInexpensive, stable, comfortable, auto select nozzle for Presta and Schrader valvesRelatively affordable, accurate, secure connection, valve core tool and pressure relief valveMetal base, solid performance across the board, good value
Cons Not so great with high-pressure tires, gauge is harder to read than someExpensive, heavy, tippy in one direction, not great for high-volume tiresNozzle can be tricky to use, no ball or bladder adaptersNot meant for high volume tires, not the most precise or easiest gauge to readHeavier than most, short hose, not as up to date
Bottom Line This high-value pump works exceptionally well with high volume tires and features a universal nozzleWith a bleeder valve in its handle and a nozzle that works with Schrader and Presta valves, this pump does its job wellA comfortable pump with an auto selecting nozzle and low price tagA thoughtfully constructed, accurate pump that’s great for high pressure tires up to 220 PSIBuilt to last, this popular model brings a lot of performance per dollar to the table
Rating Categories Crankbrothers Sterling Specialized Air Too... Bontrager Charger Lezyne Sport Drive Topeak JoeBlow Spor...
Ease Of Attachment (25%)
8.0
9.0
5.0
7.0
5.0
Inflation (25%)
5.0
7.0
7.0
5.0
6.0
Stability (20%)
8.0
6.0
9.0
8.0
7.0
Accuracy (15%)
7.0
8.0
7.0
8.0
5.0
Gauge (15%)
5.0
8.0
7.0
5.0
7.0
Specs Crankbrothers Sterling Specialized Air Too... Bontrager Charger Lezyne Sport Drive Topeak JoeBlow Spor...
Max PSI 160 140 160 220 160
High Volume or High Pressure Both Both Both High Pressure Both
Weight 2.7 lbs 4.9 lbs 3.1 lbs 3.3 lbs 3.8 lbs
Height 25 in 25 in 27 in 30 in 27 in
Hose Length 36 in 45.5 in 38 in 50 in 30 in
Tubeless Recommended? No No No No No
Accessory Inflators Included? Yes No No Yes Yes

Our Analysis and Test Results

The Crankbrothers Sterling is a well-made and well-designed bike pump that sells for a very reasonable price point. It's incredibly stable, has a universal nozzle, and works like a dream with high-volume tires. Some things about the gauge could be improved, as well as aspects of performance with high-pressure tires, but nothing so big as to keep us from heartily recommending this pump.

Performance Comparison


The Sterling has a universal nozzle, high pressure and high volume...
The Sterling has a universal nozzle, high pressure and high volume settings, and is one of the most stable options in the test.
Photo: Clark Tate

Ease of Attachment


The universal nozzle on the Sterling works well. Just press it down on the tire's valve until it connects and flip the lever up to lock it in place. The chuck is compatible with both Schrader and Presta valves; no adapters or adjustments required. This is an incredibly useful feature if you use both valve types often and is a favorite of our friends who own bike shops or rental businesses.


The hose is one of the shorter options in our review. It's mounted on the right side of the gauge, is angled outward, and swivels a full 360 degrees. It's pliable but already holds a curve from its storage position over the handle. It's not the nicest option in the test, but it works fine.

Yep, just go ahead and use this nozzle with a Schrader valve or a...
Yep, just go ahead and use this nozzle with a Schrader valve or a Presta.
Photo: Clark Tate

The pump's handle hides a needle for soccer or basketballs and a plastic valve adapter for things like pool tools. It hides them well. One of the two blue plastic end caps displays raised symbols of the adapters. Pull it out using the lip at the bottom to access them. It's a nice touch, but without clear instructions, it can be hard to find, let alone appreciate.

The pump hides a needle and a cone adapter.
The pump hides a needle and a cone adapter.
Photo: Clark Tate

Inflation


The pump has two settings, one for high pressure and another for high volume. A pedal at the base of the pump controls the two. We didn't find it that easy to manipulate with the feet, though, so we usually leaned over and used our hands instead.


The pump action is smooth, and the 9-inch handle is wide enough, ergonomic, and comfortable to hold. Some rough ridges on the underside of the grip bothered one of our testers, but the rest didn't mind it.

The handle is comfortably ergonomic, but it is a pretty light and...
The handle is comfortably ergonomic, but it is a pretty light and cheap plastic with a rough ridge underneath.
Photo: Clark Tate

In our inflation tests, pumping a mountain bike tire from 10 to 30 PSI and a road tire from 40 to 80 PSI, the Sterling did well. It did especially well in the high volume (mountain bike) test, reaching 30 PSI in just 16 strokes. Only the Topeak JoeBlow Sport 2Stage, which has similar high pressure/high volume technology, is faster. It took 14 pumps to fill a road bike tire, though, the most of any other option in our lineup.

Just flip the pedal up to access more volume for high volume tires...
Just flip the pedal up to access more volume for high volume tires, or leave it down for high pressure tires.
Photo: Clark Tate

Stability


This is one of the most stable pumps in the test. It's compact, holds its weight low to the ground, and has a broad, tripod base that holds its own. It withstands knocks and nudges better than any other pump in our review.


The chuck is another matter. There is just one hose clamp at the top of the shaft (most options have two). It secures the hose over the top of the handle on the opposite side of the gauge. That makes it easy to grab the pump and go, but the chuck is left to knock around down by the gauge, which isn't great for the longevity of the chuck or the gauge if you travel with your pump often.

Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge

Accuracy


The Sterling isn't the most accurate pump in the test, but it was only off by a few PSI at a time. In the MTB test, it read 30 PSI. Our control gauge read 31. For the road tire, it nailed the 80 PSI pressure readings but tended to overshoot lower pressure readings (40 PSI) by a bit. That said, none of this pump's accuracy misses were large enough to give us cause for much concern.


The universal chuck doesn't release much air when you attach to or detach from a tire, which keeps the air in the tire where you put it. It also helps that the gauge is reasonably easy to read. As we'll discuss below, though, the gauge isn't very precise, and that can impact your accuracy to some extent.

The locking handle on the nozzle is comfortable and easy to use.
The locking handle on the nozzle is comfortable and easy to use.
Photo: Clark Tate

Gauge


The gauge is elevated about 9.5 inches above the ground, bringing it closer to your line of sight. It's also about 3.5 inches across, with reasonably large PSI numbers. (The Bar numbers are much smaller and quite hard to see.)


Still, the gauge isn't super precise. It only marks pressure reading at intervals of 5 PSI. So if you want to get your pressure somewhere between 30 and 35, you're guessing. Some gauges in the test mark their gauges in increments of 2 PSI, which is much more helpful.

The gauge is pretty easy to read but it only marks every 5 PSI...
The gauge is pretty easy to read but it only marks every 5 PSI, which doesn't help your precision.
Photo: Clark Tate

The numbers on this gauge aren't that big either, and they are set under glass. If the lighting is wrong, it can easily glare and block your line of sight. The gauge is our least favorite aspect of this pump.

It's not the easiest gauge to read.
It's not the easiest gauge to read.
Photo: Clark Tate

Value


Though not exactly cheap, this pump gives you a lot of performance for your money. Overall, we think it offers a very good value. Offering excellent high volume inflation performance, reasonably high pressure inflation speeds, and a universal gauge, it gives you the highest tech available in an incredibly well-balanced package. It's rare to find a piece of light, high-functioning, and reasonably priced equipment, but this one fits the bill.

Conclusion


Despite a less than perfect gauge and a few extra strokes to get our road tires up to pressure, the Crankbrothers Sterling really stole the show. It's perfect for anyone who regularly rips singletrack but also finds themselves on the road from time to time.

Despite a few imperfections, we think this pump would work well for...
Despite a few imperfections, we think this pump would work well for most mountain bikers.
Photo: Clark Tate

Clark Tate