Small enough to fit in a pocket yet capable of filling a tyre, we put the best cycle mini pumps to the test
How we tested
We headed to the workshop to pump up flat tyres, to see what pressure each pump had reached and just how much effort this involved. Ease of stowage was considered, as was the robustness of the frame mounts. We also field-tested the pumps to see how they dealt with real-world puncture scenarios at the side of the road.
Our pick of the best cycle mini pumps
What is a mini pump?
A minipump is a bicycle pump which is small enough to fit in your back pocket, so you can always take it with you on a ride. As a minimum, it needs to pack enough punch that when you get a flat you can get home comfortably without bottoming out your rim on the road if the going gets bumpy – around 50psi minimum. Ideally it should allow you to get enough air into your tyre that you can continue your ride in comfort and your tyre doesn’t feel squishy while you are riding – which for a 23mm clincher means reaching near 100psi. Ideally you won’t feel so exhausted in the process that you need to sit down and have a rest after using the pump.
Some minipumps 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. Many now have a hose which is integrated into the pump itself. The hose is pulled out of the pump to use. This design means that the pump needs to be “the wrong way round” with the hose extending from the handle, which is held steady in use, while the pump is operated by pushing and pulling on the barrel. In practice, this arrangement has no real disadvantages.
With any minipump there is a compromise between compact dimensions and usability, with a longer pump being easier to stroke than a shorter one, as it takes less effort to reach higher pressures. Getting up to 100psi with a short or inefficient pump can become very hard work and you may need to take a rest in the middle before completing the task. Some smaller pumps can also get quite hot with the air compression required.
Why you need one
Everyone needs a pump. A minipump 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 fall-back option to get you home if you get multiple flats. A minipump 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 mini 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. The pump usually clicks into the mount and is secured with a Velcro and/or a rubber strap. It is likely to get mucky if you keep it here though, particularly in the wet and if you’re riding on lanes. 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.
How we score
10 – Superb, best in its class and we couldn’t fault it
9 – Excellent, a slight change and it would be perfect
8 – Brilliant, we’d happily buy it
7 – Solid, but there’s better out there
6 – Pretty good, but not quite hitting the mark
5 – Okay, nothing wrong with it, but nothing special
4 – A few niggles let this down
3 – Disappointing
2 – Poor, approach with caution
1 – Terrible, do not buy this product