Every cyclist’s home workshop should include a track pump – but there’s no way you’re going to be carrying one of these huge and heavy metal pumps whenever you’re out on a bicycle ride.
There is nothing worse than getting a flat tire when you’re out on the road. In addition to having a puncture repair kit in your saddle bag, a bicycle pump should also be one accessory you shouldn’t leave home without. Carrying a mini pump to inflate tires is always handy. A mini pump will still be a lighter and much cheaper option than CO2 cartridges. And even if you take a CO2 inflator to speed up getting back on the road, you may still need a fallback option to get you home if you get multiple flats.
A scaled-down version of a frame pump; a mini-pump is small enough to fit in a bag or pocket, or clips into a mount that fits under a bottle cage. Mini-pumps are popular because they’re light and tidy. They don’t get a tire up to pressure very quickly, but their fans see this as worth putting up with given how rarely they need them.
A mini pump should be pocketable or attachable unobtrusively beside your water bottle cage so that it is always ready for action when the inevitable happens. Some are so small that they will fit into a saddle pack, although pump stroke and efficiency are likely to suffer in such a short pump.
Most minipumps will come with a mount which screws onto your bottle cage bosses and allows you to tuck your pump in beside your bottle, where it’s out of the way.
Some mini pumps are like shorter traditional pumps, with a hose which is screwed into the barrel and onto the valve before use. Others have an integrated adaptor which pushes directly onto the valve and is secured by pushing out a lever.
Protection of the valve connector and sealing between barrel and handle are important considerations if you plan to use the frame mount. For pre-ride inflation, we would always recommend a good track pump with a gauge.
When shopping, consider the psi capacity of the pump:
- Models up to 90psi are suitable for mountain or comfort bicycles.
- Models up to 120psi offer fastest for mountain or comfort bicycles; OK for some road bicycles.
- Models up to 160psi are ideal for road bicycles.
Many mini-pumps now come with a built-in hose. This handy feature reduces pumping stress on the valve stem, which can actually break off during use by a standard rigid pump if you’re not careful.
Mini pumps vary widely in how well they work. Some just won’t get your tires up to recommended pressure, so you’ll have to ride carefully after using one to avoid a pinch flat, but there are a few gems out there that work almost as well as frame pumps.