SKS Rennkompressor Review
Cons: Gauge is small and difficult to read, small base lacks stability
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Our Analysis and Test Results
The SKS Original Rennkompressor is handcrafted in Germany, in just the same way they've been making them since 1966. Virtually unchanged over several decades, its construction is exceptionally high-quality, and it's one of the most eye-catching pumps we reviewed. Marketed as "the sole legitimate ancestor of all floor pumps," it's an old-school piece of German engineering with replaceable parts that can last you a lifetime. With one of the smallest gauges we tested and a fold-up base, our testers found some room for improvement, but at the same time, you have to respect a legend.
Ease of Attachment/Detachment
The pump head that ships with the Rennkompressor is a multi-valve design with separate holes for Presta and Schrader valves on the same side of the head and a locking lever which moves easily. This is a common head design, and not our favorite, due to the tendency to bump the opened nut of a Presta valve while connecting it which means losing a large amount of air. We didn't have significant problems with escaping air when we managed to make a good connection, but unfortunately, that doesn't often happen on the first try with this type of head. Attachment is made easier, however, by this pump's massive 48-inch air hose, which means you can reach both tires of a bike on a work stand while sitting on the floor between them.
It's worth mentioning that SKS makes several other heads, which can easily be swapped, but all we can do for the purpose of this review is to consider the parts that were shipped standard. Also of note, this was the only pump of those we reviewed to not include needle and cone adapters for pumping up items like sports balls and pool toys. We aren't really concerned with their absence, but if those fall within the realm of your pumping needs, you'll need to spend a couple of extra bucks to get separate adapters.
The permanent base of the Rennkompressor is heavy-duty (and heavy) cast iron, only about 5 x 3 inches at its widest points. The weight keeps it reasonably stable when standing on its own, but it's still one of the easiest pumps to knock over since there is no attempt at any kind of tripod shape. The fold-up feet provide no resistance to tipping — the whole point of them is to fold up out of the way. Basically, this base was designed to be compact, portable, and heavy-duty. While it succeeds in those areas, the free-standing stability suffers for it.
Stability while pumping is a definite improvement. There is some wobble in the folding feet of the base, but the rest of the pump is rock solid. The pumping motion offers one of the smoothest experiences of all pumps we tested, and standing on the rubber feet attached to the cast iron base offers ample stability while operating the pump.
It takes a few extra pumps to reach desired pressures on this pump compared to several others we tested, but it's also the only pump we tested that is rated to go all the way to 230psi, so its volume needs to be lower to make that possible (the strength required to push a high volume of air per pump stroke into a tire over 200psi is simply not available to mortal humans). What the Rennkompressor may lack in brevity of pump strokes, we believe it largely makes up for with smoothness of those extra strokes. Smooth, easy pumping with a comfortable wooden handle is a pleasant enough experience that our testers didn't really mind thrusting it down a few extra times.
The small gauge of the Rennkompressor, though it may be difficult to read, is one of the most accurate we tested. It was essentially perfect at all tested pressures, with some recorded differences of 1-2psi from our independent pump, an insignificant difference that is basically the margin of error for the comparison.
The only struggles with accuracy when working with this pump would be from either air escaping from the pump head (which is more of an issue during attachment than detachment, so unlikely to affect the pressure reading after pumping) or from an inability to read the gauge with precision.
With one of the smallest gauges we've seen on a full-size floor pump, we believe this is one part of the Rennkompressor that is due for an update. Just under 2 inches in diameter, base-mounted with readings all the way up to 240psi / 16.5 bar, it's very difficult to make out the small numbers on this gauge when standing above the pump. It's virtually impossible for those users who prefer to measure their tire pressure in PSI — these readings are in tiny grey print on a black background beneath a shiny glass surface. If that's not enough, the PSI numbers also get covered up by the gauge's needle as it moves around. After a few times pumping with the Rennkompressor, one learns to just crouch down and look at the gauge ahead of time for the conversion to the bar, then pump to that approximate spot, then crouch down again to verify. Hardly a high precision method, but good enough to get close.
We do appreciate the solid construction of this gauge; it's sturdily mounted to the base of the pump and cased in metal, with a thick rubbery plastic protective shell around it. Also, like almost everything on the Rennkompressor, it can be removed and replaced if damaged.
A Rennkompressor pump will cost about twice as much as several of the plastic-heavy pumps we tested and is right in the same range as others with higher quality construction. It's not the cheapest pump around by any means, but for a German-engineered pump that's built to last, we think it's an excellent value. Think of it as an investment in your cycling future.
There are a few things we'd change about this pump if we could. A larger, easier to read gauge. Perhaps some extra surface area on the base. A different style of pump head would be nice for our testers' preferences, and SKS makes those available. Overall, however, this is a fantastic pump. Built to last, compact, powerful. Its design is simple and maybe a little old-fashioned, but it's got it where it counts. The SKS Rennkompressor has been produced and used by professionals for decades, and it's one of our favorites.
— Mark Schanzenbach