The world's most in-depth and scientific reviews of outdoor gear

The Best Bicycle Frame and Mini Pump Review

When you flat out on the trail  having a good mini pump can prevent a long walk back to the car.
Wednesday August 15, 2018
  • Share this article:

Finding yourself sidelined with a flat tire 10 miles into your favorite ride is a universal bummer. Having the right frame or mini pump on hand can make the recovery processes much less painful. To help you figure out which of the many, many portable pumps on the market is right for you, we researched our brains out, reading up on dozens of top options. We bought 14 of the very best to duke it out in a head-to-head competition. From changing flats in the field to painstakingly counting out how many strokes it takes each pump to reach set pressures on road and mountain bike tires, our tests are meticulous. We rated these ride-savers on their pumping power, how pleasant and straightforward they are to use, and how easy they are to cart around. Keep reading for all the details.


Compare Top Products

Displaying 1 - 5 of 14
≪ Previous | View All | Next ≫
Summer 2018 Update
We just added three exciting products, all of which earned a Top Pick award for innovative features. The Lezyne Digital Micro Floor Drive offers insane pumping efficiency, the Blackburn Mammoth CO2'fer is a mini pump that also works with CO2 cartridges, and the Birzman Velocity Apogee MTB can double as a shock pump for your fork. We tested more pump options than ever. Read on to find the one for you.

Best Overall Road Bike Mini Pump


Lezyne Road Drive


Editors' Choice Award

$35.93
(28% off)
at REI
See It

Weight: 97g | Purpose: Road Bike
Great at high-pressure pumping
Lightweight
Easy to use
Not the best for higher volume tires

We award the Lezyne Road Drive our Editors' Choice Award for Best Road Bike Mini Pump for its exceptional high-pressure performance. The Road Drive can quickly take a tire to 90 psi and reached the highest pressures we achieved in our 200 pump test. The Speed Flex ABS hose provides a secure leak-free connection and best in class ergonomics while pumping.

Other products provide more volume per stroke, but none are as easy to use at high pressure. The Road Drive is such a solid performer in high-pressure applications that it has become our go-to when we stuff our pockets for a long road ride.

Read review: Lezyne Road Drive

Best Overall Mountain Bike Mini Pump


Lezyne Gauge Drive HV


Lezyne Gauge Drive HV
Editors' Choice Award

$49.99
at Competitive Cyclist
See It

Weight: 141g | Purpose: Mountain Bike
Great pumping performance
Awesome design and durability
On the larger side

When it comes to high volume inflating efficiency, the Lezyne Gauge Drive HV stands out. This option has the best pumping performance of any mini we have tested. Combined with the fact that the Pen Gauge ABS Flex Hose lets you see your real-time pressure, it is easy to see why the Gauge Drive is the runaway winner of our Editors' Choice Award for Mountain Bike Mini Pumps.

Among the largest mini pumps we've tested, this isn't the best option to mount to your bottle cage bolts or shove in a jersey pocket. If you like riding with a full hydration pack though, this is a great pump to toss in it.

Read review: Lezyne Gauge Drive HV

Best Buy Award Winner


Pro Bike Tool High Pressure Pump with Gauge


Best Buy Award

$29.98
at Amazon
See It

Weight: 129g | Purpose: Road or Mountain Bike
Affordable
Great pumping performance
Easy to use
Lacks hose air bleed

This model proves that you don't need a second mortgage to afford a functional mini pump. The Pro Bike Tool High Pressure Pump is an affordable option with the ability to serve double duty for both mountain and road applications.

Some pumps perform better at high pressures. Others excel at volume applications. This one can do either in a pinch. High-quality construction and functionality with a price that is hard to beat make the Pro Bike Tool a deserving winner of our Best Buy Award.

Read review: Pro Bike Tool High Pressure Pump with Gauge

Top Pick Frame Mount Pump


Silca Impero Ultimate


Silca Impero Ultimate
Top Pick Award

$165.00
at Competitive Cyclist
See It

Weight: 289g | Purpose: Road Bike
Durable
Good pumping performance
Heavy and large
High price

Frame pumps are not as common as they were 20 years ago. The advent of efficient minis that can fit in a jersey pocket and carbon frames with unique tubing shapes have decreased frame pump popularity. The Silca Impero Ultimate may be just the pump to reverses that trend. In addition to its stunning good looks and design, it is incredibly efficient. This pump will have you back on the road before your buddy hits 20psi with even the best mini.

It is expensive, and bucks the light and compact trend. If you prefer well-made heritage products and don't mind a little extra weight, then it won't be much of an issue. When it comes to frame specific products, this one is a game changer and is the clear winner of our Top Pick Award for Best Frame Pump.

Read review: Silca Impero Ultimate

Top Pick for Backpacks


Lezyne Micro Floor Digital Drive HVG


Top Pick Award

$74.99
(12% off)
at Amazon
See It

Weight: 242g | Purpose: Mountain Bike
Superior pumping volume
Lightweight
Air bleed hose
Too big for a hip pack or frame mount

The Lezyne Digital Micro Floor Drive is a miniature version of a full-size floor pump, delivering the pumping volume of a floor pump with the portability of a mini-pump. It can easily fit into a hydration pack, features an accurate digital pressure gauge, an air bleed valve and can bring a 27.5" x 2.2" mountain bike tire up to 24 psi in only 100 pumps.

Although compact for a floor pump, the Micro Floor Drive is still too big to fit in a jersey pocket, hip pack or mount on the bike frame. But for those who carry hydration packs and have extra space, the Micro Floor Drive is our top choice.

Read review: Lezyne Digital Micro Floor Drive

Top Pick for CO2 Users


Blackburn Mammoth CO2'Fer Mini


Top Pick Award

$39.95
at Backcountry
See It

Weight: 214g, 272g w/CO2 | Purpose: Mountain Bike
Integrated CO2 for instant inflation
Compact and durable construction
Pumping power is so-so
Lacks inflation hose

The Blackburn Mammoth CO2'fer combines a CO2 inflator and mini-pump into one low profile package, providing instant CO2 inflation capability. When using the CO2 feature, the Mammoth CO2'fer can bring a tire up to pressure faster than any hand pump. It is lightweight, compact and features durable construction.

Without CO2, the Blackburn offers only so-so pumping performance due to a short stroke length. It also lacks an inflation hose, requiring the user to fit the pump head directly onto the valve, increasing the chances of a bent valve stem head if you hold the pump at an incorrect angle. For those who like using CO2, the Mammoth CO2'fer is our top choice due to its quality construction and compact size.

Read review: Blackburn Mammoth CO2'fer

Top Pick for Doubling as Shock Pump


Birzman Velocity Apogee MTB


Top Pick Award

$30.79
(23% off)
at Amazon
See It

Weight: 136g | Purpose: Mountain Bike
Can inflate suspension forks
Threadless valve head with retractable hose
Very compact and lightweight
The hose could be longer

For those who want the versatility of a mini-pump and shock pump in one lightweight, low profile and finished package, the Birzman Velocity Apogee MTB is our top pick. The Velocity Apogee MTB delivers descent pumping performance considering its small size. It can also inflate a suspension fork, a unique feature in the mini-pump segment. It also has a handy retractable hose and a threadless valve head, making it one of the easiest pumps to use that we tested.

The Velocity Apogee MTB could have a longer hose for less awkward pumping, and although it can inflate a suspension fork, it is not powerful enough to inflate a rear shock. It doesn't have a pressure gauge, so suspension pressure has to be set based on sag. Overall, the shock pumping capability of the Velocity Apogee MTB makes it a unique offering and our top choice for dual purpose inflation.

Read review: Birzman Velocity Apogee MTB


Analysis and Test Results


Frame pumps and mini pumps are your best friend when you need to inflate a tire while out on a ride. Frame specific products are well suited for road and cyclocross bikes and provide quick efficient inflation due to their larger size.

There are a wide variety of minis. Some are designed to work well on high-pressure road tires. Others are designed specifically for mountain bike tires, which have higher volumes and need lower pressures. We break down the different options available below. Also check out our Buying Advice Article for more help.

The Silica Impero mounted under the top tube on a Trek Emonda.
The Silica Impero mounted under the top tube on a Trek Emonda.

Value


We know that buying a quality product at a great value is always the goal. That's why we plot the products' performance scores against their sticker price, as you can see in the infographic below. To use the chart, hover your mouse over the dots to find out which product it represents. Bigger, blue dots are award winners. The lower lefthand corner is where the highest scoring, lowest cost product congregate. Notice that the Pro Bike Tool is the lowest cost award winner. That's why we call it the Best Buy.


Pumping Performance


This is where the rubber meets the road. Putting air in the tire in an efficient manner is critical. In general, products designed for mountain bikes don't work all that well for road bikes, because they are often unable to hit the target pressure. Road pumps will get a mountain tire up to pressure, but often require so many strokes that you might decide to walk home instead. The best pumps allow you to hit your target pressure quickly, with a minimal amount of strokes. Also, the effort required to achieve that pressure must be manageable.

Pump manufacturers often provide max pressure ratings for their pumps. We found that most pumps are incapable of reaching those claims because it gets too hard to compress them under high pressure. In addition, when a pump cycles through several hundred compression cycles in rapid succession, heat builds up. As the chamber heats, the metal expands, decreasing the piston seal's effectiveness. This allows air to escape and reduces the volume of air per stroke. So the faster you pump, the more inefficient your pump will become. How well a design manages these factors determines how well it will perform for its intended purpose.


The highest scoring mini pump for road applications is the Lezyne Road Drive. The Road Drive consistently achieved a pressure of 69psi in a 25c road tire at 200 pumps, and can achieve 100psi with minimal increase in effort at around 300 pumps. Other products we tested were able to achieve a higher pressure at 200 strokes, but the effort to compress those pumps was substantially greater.

The Lezyne Road Drive only works on Presta valves.  It has a thread-on chuck on one end of the hose and a slip-on chuck at the other end.
The Lezyne Road Drive only works on Presta valves. It has a thread-on chuck on one end of the hose and a slip-on chuck at the other end.

Our top scoring mini pumps for mountain bike tires are the Lezyne Micro Floor Digital Drive and the Gauge Drive HV. Both pumps are fairly large, but they can move some air, particularly the Floor Digital Drive. It hit 40 psi on a 27.5" x 2.3" mountain bike tire at just 200 strokes. For comparison, the Lezyne Gauge Drive was only at 37 psi after 300 strokes. Pumping effort per stroke remained relatively easy for both. (You will need to carry a hydration pack to lug the Micro Floor pump around.)

The Impero is an incredibly efficient frame pump  reaching 103psi in only 112 pump strokes.
The Impero is an incredibly efficient frame pump, reaching 103psi in only 112 pump strokes.

The Silca Impero is our top scoring frame pump, hitting an impressive 103 psi at only 112 strokes in a 25cc road tire. Silica uses a leather piston that can better adapt to the micro changes in chamber diameter that occur with heat buildup. Due to this design, loss of efficiency during pumping is minimal.

The Pro Bike Tool also scored well, with excellent all-around pumping performance. It hit 74 psi at 200 strokes on a road tire and 22 psi in a mountain tire at 300 strokes. We were impressed with its versatility. But it struggled to hit 90 psi in a road tire due to the increased pumping resistance at high pressure. It is hard to design a product that does everything well, but the Vibrelli Mini gets pretty close.

Mini-pumps with hoses help make pumping less awkward while ensuring a secure fit to the valve head  minimizing air pressure loss and a potentially bent valve stem.
Mini-pumps with hoses help make pumping less awkward while ensuring a secure fit to the valve head, minimizing air pressure loss and a potentially bent valve stem.

Ease of Use


Flat tires always seem to happen at the most inopportune times. We all have busy lives, and most of us try to make the most of our time by planning a ride that uses up nearly every minute of the available window. So when a flat occurs, we want equipment that is reliable and foolproof. Some products are easier to use than others.

We've found that pumps using a flexible hose and a thread-on valve attachment are the easiest to use. It takes a few extra seconds to deploy the flexible hose from the pump and thread the fitting onto the valve, but the interface provides a consistent leak-free connection while you pump.


As you can see in the chart above, Lezyne Road Drive is the easiest to use mini pump that we tested. Its Presta-only hose has a thread-on chuck at one end and a slip chuck at the other. The slip chuck is fast and offers a good seal in low-pressure applications. The Road Drive also has an ABS valve on the hose that allows you to bleed the pressure from the hose and release the Presta valve back to the closed position. This prevents air loss when unthreading the hose from the valve.

The Lezyne Road Drive is highly efficient at filling road tires  and the flexible fill hose allows the pump to be held in a comfortable and ergonomic position during inflation.
The Lezyne Road Drive is highly efficient at filling road tires, and the flexible fill hose allows the pump to be held in a comfortable and ergonomic position during inflation.

Another favorite is the Lezyne Micro Floor Digital Drive HVG. This mini-floor pump is a little more to carry, but it offers more comfortable pumping and more power than any other option tested.

The Silca Impero is the most straightforward frame pump to use. With its flexible silicone bumpers, it is by far the easiest to attach securely to a frame. The head is also easy to connect. It pushes on and does not rely on a lever to lock. Pumping is also easy with a smooth, consistent motion with a minimal increase in difficulty as pressure increases.

The Topeak Race Rocket HP is also a standout, with a flexible hose and air chuck system that allows the user to fill both Presta and Schrader valves with the same head. The Lezyne Race Rocket does not have an air bleed valve, so removing the pump from the tire valve is a bit more difficult than using the Road Drive from Lezyne. The Lezyne Gauge Drive is also a top scoring product with pump connections that are similar to the aforementioned Road Drive. The Lezyne Gauge Drive stands out with an inline ABS pen gauge that allows the user to see tire pressure while pumping.

This miniature floor pump moves volume than any other mini-pumps we tested.
This miniature floor pump moves volume than any other mini-pumps we tested.

Looks and Design


We ranked all of the pumps in our review on looks and design. This is fairly subjective. If you are going to mount a frame pump on a high-end road bike, you would probably prefer one that does not detract from the beauty of your bike. Beyond that, unless you intend to mount a mini to your bottle cage bolts, the pump will be stowed in a jersey pocket or hydration pack.

Design of the pump is a big deal though, and to rate it we look at things such as the material used for its body and handle. The more metal the better. Frame and mini pumps see a lot of abuse as they are often exposed to the elements for extended periods of time and only see action occasionally. We also prefer the flexible hose valve connections over a fixed air chuck at the head of the pump body. The flexible hose makes the pumping process more manageable because the user does not have to worry about putting leverage on the valve stem during inflation. Most hoses make the valve connection via a threaded chuck — this design feature provides the most secure leak-proof valve connection.


Our highest scoring product is the Lezyne Road Drive. Design highlights include an aluminum body and the ABS Speed Flex hose for reliable valve interface. The Lezyne Micro Floor Drive, Birzman Velocity Apogee, and Blackburn CO2'Fer Mini also score well for their performance and innovative features. The Floor Drive serves as a mini-floor pump, the Birzman doubles as a front suspension pump and the Blackburn offers optional CO2 canister compatibility.

A close runnerup is our Top Pick Award winner for Frame Pumps, the Silca Impero. The Impero features all-metal construction with silicone bumpers on both ends that create a secure interface with the bike frame and also protect the paint. The dual seal push on the head provides a solid leak-free interface with the valve. In addition, Silica uses a leather gasket to improve inflation performance and accommodate for heat buildup.

The Pro Bike Tool features a design similar to the Lezyne Road Drive; we rank it lower due to its lack of a locking mechanism for the handle. During testing, the handle would frequently extend on bumpy roads — not the end of the world, but annoying. The Lezyne Gauge Drive HV had a similar issue, but being a mountain bike specific pump we mostly carried it in a hydration pack which would prevent it from extending.

The Silica Pocket Impero fits nicely in a hydration pack.
The Silica Pocket Impero fits nicely in a hydration pack.

Portability


When it comes to portable pumps, size and weight matter. The mini is a mandatory piece of equipment you will be carrying it all the time, either in jersey or hydration pack. Paying attention to the weight and size when you purchase will pay dividends in the long run. Pump length is also a consideration. In general, we advocate purchasing the longest one that you can fit in your hydration pack or comfortably carry in a jersey pocket. The extra length makes the pump slightly less portable, but it pays dividends in efficiency.


That said, the highest scoring mini we tested is the Topeak Race Rocket HP. It is the shortest product we tested at 18.5cm, and also the lightest at 87g. The Race Rocket simply disappears in a jersey pocket. The Lezyne Road Drive, winner of our Editors' Choice Award, scores lower due to its increased length at 23.5cm. We still find it easy to carry in a jersey pocket, but it will not fit horizontally like the Race Rocket, so it will stick out the top of most jersey pockets. Striking a balance between portability and capability, the Velocity Apogee MTB is only 17.75 cm and weighs 136 grams, but can inflate both tires and suspension forks, a very handy feature.

The Road Drive fits well in a jersey pocket.
The Road Drive fits well in a jersey pocket.

Our highest scoring frame pump is the Silca Impero. While it is heavier than the other frame pumps we tested, it has by far the most secure fit on a wide variety of frames. The silicone end bumpers are very malleable and flex to accommodate a wide variety of tubing shapes. Even on the roughest roads we never had an issue with dislodging the Impero. We acknowledge that weight is important, but feel the optimal security provided by the Impero outweighs the increased weight.

Durability


In general, mini pumps and frame pumps are a seldom-used item, but when you need them there should be no question of functionality. Any tool with moving parts is subject to wear over time, and we certainly made every attempt during testing to put the products through far more use cycles than the average cyclist will see in a season of riding. Most mini pumps and frame pumps deteriorate more from exposure to the elements than actual use.


All of the products we tested help up well over our six-month test period, though we did see some air chuck degradation. This is due to the delicate nature of rubber seals that are susceptible to drying out and cracking with both use and exposure to the elements. For this reason, our highest scoring products are the Lezyne and Topeak pumps. Their flexible, stowable hoses put less direct pressure on the air chucks.

The Pro Bike Tool is also a good choice. It uses the same stowable hose design as the Lezyne Road Drive with the addition of an inline pen gauge. Scoring slightly lower is the Lezyne Gauge Drive HV, as the hose attachment threads on the pump body are plastic. The other Lezyne products we tested use metal. The pump can get hot enough on occasion to damage the heated plastic threads when removing the hose. Overall, though, having the hose stowed inside the pump protects the valve from the elements and leads to longer life.

Rubber caps on the Lezyne Gauge Drive HV prevent contamination of the flexible hose and pump discharge.
Rubber caps on the Lezyne Gauge Drive HV prevent contamination of the flexible hose and pump discharge.

Other high scoring products include the Silca Impero and Silca Pocket Impero. Silica pumps feature a leather piston that is known to be one of the longest lasting, most reliable designs available. Many of our testers have 20-year-old Pista floor pumps that are still in working order with the same leather piston design. In addition, Silica uses a brass check valve in the head that is widely regarded as one of the most reliable designs available. What we don't like in regards to the Silica pump is the exposed nature of the head seals that are not protected from the elements when stowed on a bike.

Conclusion


Mini pumps and frame pumps are a critical piece of equipment for cyclists of all disciplines and experience levels. We hope you found our review helpful to your mini or frame pump purchasing decision. For more assistance see our Buying Advice Article. For more information on our testing process, see How We Tested.

Award winning pumps: Silica Impero  Pro Bike Tool High Pressure Pump with Gauge  Lezyne Gauge Drive HV  and the Lezyne Road Drive.
Award winning pumps: Silica Impero, Pro Bike Tool High Pressure Pump with Gauge, Lezyne Gauge Drive HV, and the Lezyne Road Drive.


Curtis Smith and Kurt Gensheimer