Bikerumor Review – SKS Mini Bicycle Pumps

A while back, SKS sent us these two mini bicycle pumps to review…and for three months, I had only one flat, and of course, I didn’t bring either on that particular ride.  So, finally, I just decided to deflate some tires and give them a whirl.

From a technical standpoint, both pumps are great.  The Puro (left) twists open to review the valve hole, and when you open it up, it has a built-in pressure gauge that measures both Bar and PSI.  It’s a fine example of German design.  The Sub-40 is a ridiculously light pump, with our model weighing in at just 38 grams!

Both are Presta-only and are intended for avid and elite cyclists; they’re not really for the novice or casual rider.  They’re very cool, but do they work?

Read on for pics, details and video of the Amazing Exploding Pump!

 

Here’s what you get.  The Puro (above) comes with a bottle-bolt mount that positions it adjacent to a water bottle cage.  The Sub-40 (below) comes with a stretchy adjustable strap that can mount to any tube or post on your bike.

The Puro’s packaging claims 80g, our model weighed in at 82g.  Fairly light considering the features hidden within, which we’ll get to in a minute.

ultra lightweight bicycle pump sub 40 38 grams

The Sub-40 had a claimed weight of 39g, but ours beat that at 38g.  Throw this in your jersey pocket and you forget it’s there.  It uses their ThinSkin technology, which is basically fiber-reinforced plastic to allow for very thin tube walls, which helps it achieve such a light weight.

The Puro measures only 7-5/8″ long when closed.  Twist it open and the top pops out and extends to 11-7/8″, giving you about 4″ of stroke.

The black bit at the right end of the orange tube is the pressure marker.  It slides out as you pump to show tire pressure.  The clear tube that comprises the shaft of the pump has markings for both BAR and PSI.

Here’s the valve head on the Puro poking out of the top.  The rubber seal keeps gunk from getting down in there when closed, but it tends to slip off when you’re holding it against the valve and pumping.

The Sub-40 measures slightly longer on both counts.  7-3/4″ long closed and huge 13″ fully extended.  The handle slides over the body when closed, hiding some of the extra stroke.

The Puro retails for $22.99 (with a carbon version for $44.99).

The Sub-40 retails for $49.99 and is also available in black.

Now, on to performance.  Rather than drone on about how they pump, I’ve prepared these little videos showing you.  Fair warning, this is not my best voice work (it’s cold and I’m a little sniffly), but it does the job of illustrating the pros and cons.

VIDEO #1: SKS Pumps on Road Tires (High Pressure)

VIDEO #2: SKS Pumps on MTB Tires (Low Pressure)

Bikerumor.com Rating

It’s a mixed bag on these two. Neither one performed well on the road bike with higher pressures, even when starting as low as 60psi.  But they do have some redeeming features, and each one is rated separately.  Let’s start with the Puro first:

SKS PURO MINI PUMP:

The Puro has a claimed max pressure capability of 10 bar/144 psi.  I’ll be honest, there’s no way I would use this to pump it anywhere near 144psi…it would simply take too long.  Besides, mini pumps are really just intended to let you finish a ride, not to inflate to max pressure, so there’s not much point in it other than to suggest that the pump is overbuilt.

One the one hand, this pump is super cool.  The hidden pump head is very James Bond, and the pressure gauge mostly works, which is nice, and it’s fun to show it off.  But, do you really need to worry about accurate pressure for a mid-ride fix?  Maybe, if you’ve got a long way to go, I suppose.  Lastly, it forms an OK seal on the valve.

On the other hand, it just doesn’t pump very much air per stroke, and it’s a little awkward to hold on the valve.  I was constantly afraid I would rip the tip off the valve stem and ruin my tube.  Seriously, after about 100 strokes, it maybe put 3-4 psi in a mountain bike tire.  So, even though the features are really cool on this one, I just wouldn’t see myself picking this one out of the other mini-pumps laying around the office.  I give it 2.5 Thumbs Up because even though it looks good, it works OK and it’s cheap, it’s just not as much fun to use as the features might suggest.

 

SKS SUB-40 MINI PUMP:

I like the Sub-40 better, despite the “blowout” that occured during the road testing, and here’s why:  For mountain bike rides and commuting (with fatter tires), it does what it needs to do and it’s so insanely light that it doesn’t even register.  It formed a pretty good seal on the valve stem, and it had decent stroke feel, translating most of my effort into increased air in the tube.

However, on higher pressure road tires, this pump is worthless…and I’m soooo glad I didn’t have a flat when “testing” it on my road rides.  Not only is it really hard to push air in at mid- to high pressures, it tended to get stuck on the valve stem and/or blow apart.

Had it not blown apart, though, I wouldn’t have seen just how simple the pump is, which is a good thing.  There’s not much to break, and it snapped back together quickly and easily, which could come in handy in the woods.

My opinion is this:  I will now carry this pump on all mountain bike rides as a supplement to CO2′s.  If SKS had said this is a MTB pump only, I would have given it a 4.5 Thumbs Up.  But, since the package claims a max pressure of 144psi*, and since there is no possible way I could have pushed this thing in above 100psi, it gets a 3.5 Thumbs Up.  For riders that want to only buy one mini pump for both road and mountain use, this isn’t it.  If you only ride fat tires and you’re a weight weenie, buy it now.

* Actually, their website claims 116psi max, but packaging we received claimed 144psi.

ADDITIONAL NOTES:

It’s worth noting that these opinions shouldn’t necessarily reflect on the SKS brand, just these products.  Mountain Bike Magazine has rated SKS one of their Reader’s Choice “Best Brands” for seven straight years, and the Puro won a EuroBike award in 2008.  We have some other SKS products in the Review Queue that I’m anxious to try, and they have quite a broad portfolio of accessories.

As always, filter our reviews through your lens…if you don’t use products the same way we described in our review, it may not apply.

As mentioned in the review, I didn’t get a lot of flats, so long-term durability isn’t considered in this review.

Comments

Yves - 02/06/09 - 10:25pm

Based on your videos I’d say you were very generous in your rating…cool features or not.

Froze - 07/02/09 - 9:56pm

I bought the Puro Deep Black model and liked the idea of the internal air guage; the bracket worked very well holding the pump tight; and it was a very good looking pump…but that’s as far as the positives go!

The Puro would only pump up to 60psi and not the claimed 144psi the company claimed, and this was after about 900 PUMPS!!! Then the darn thing must of broke because the second time I used it it would only go to about 45psi after about 900 pumps. Needless to say I found this pump wholly lacking and extremily tiring in the old arms.

The good news was that I called SKS and a very nice representative sent me a SKS Wese Carbon (semi) mini pump, and that one works very well and give it 5 thumbs up.

As far as the Puro goes I give it 5 thumbs down because of it’s complete inability to perform anywhere near it’s claimed performance, arm numbing pumping, and for extremily poor reliability.

Marko - 08/24/11 - 9:24am

Though the tests performed make obvious that neither one of the pumps is a bulletproof one-does-it-all type of thing, what they are not intended nor advertized for is being fool-proof. What does that have to do with the tests performed? Read on, I’ll elaborate in a moment.

It comes as quite a surprise seeing a tester of a website otherwise providing reliable information to cyclists use such a sloppy pumping technique. It is no wonder he’s ripped a number of presta valve needle bolts in his time.

The proper technique for using mini pumps is to put the wheel in the position so that the valve is on the top – the highest point on a wheel. Then, you hold the pump body with your non-dominant hand which has to be itself supported in some way. The best thing is having somewhere to sit on and rest the forearm of your non-dominant hand on your thing, which should be horizontal. This will keep the arm (and therefore the pump) steady. DO NOT grab the pump and wheel together with your hand. This encourages you to use strong grip for stabilizing which does exactly the opposite of what it should – provides opportunity to brake the needle bolt if the grip force is not perfectly coaxial with the valve. Grab the PUMP ONLY with your non-dominant hand. You can just keep your thumb touching the valve at the point of its entering into the pump to provide tactile feedback and therefore the neuromuscular feedback loop. Grab the pump handle with your dominant hand and start pumping. Keep your upper arms close to your body to aid strength needed for stability and consciously counteract each stroke of the pumping arm with the muscles of the one holding the pump.

The best thing is to dismount the wheel from the bike and that, during the pumping, it remains hanging, supported only at the valve. This way, if you keep the rocking motions at acceptable levels, the least non-axial (pertaining to valve axis) force will be exerted on the pump-valve connection.

About myself: With 46 years of age, engineering diploma and more than 40 years of active (that is almost daily) riding on all levels – from commuting to road racing, I still need some time trying to remember when was the last time I busted a presta valve while using a mini-pump! Maybe it’s for my memory is not as good as before :o)
The

froze - 10/10/11 - 2:52pm

I’ve been using mini pumps for over 30 years and I am quite able to use one, to say I don’t know how is laughable. There are numerous reviews discussing the failures of Puro. It’s funny, I still use various mini pumps to this day and no problems with those including the SKS Raceday they sent to replace the Puro. A person who has an interest in seeing these things sold will say all sorts of things to validate their claims and dispute those of others, so don’t take my word for it go on line and read the reviews from various sites and you’ll discover the general perception is negative.

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