Review: Birzman’s Built-to-Last Bicycle Tools & Pumps
When we first found Birzman’s pumps, the quick connect Snap-It valve head really looked appealing. Not only did it seem quick and easy to use, but wouldn’t accidentally unthread a valve core during removal. Fortunately, it’s mostly proven to work just as well in practice as in theory. We’ve been testing the Zacoo Maha II all-alloy road bike floor pump, and the rest of the pump is built rock solid and has some pretty nice features beyond the Snap-It valve.
We’ve also been testing some of their tools after lugging almost 20 pounds of solid metal from Eurobike and provided a quick overview last October. Now, with about 10 months of use on the pumps and tools, here’s how they’ve held up…
The Zacoo Maha II, like all of their floor pumps, has hose retention clips. This model sports an alloy shaft and base with extruded alloy handle that’s quite comfy. They tilt the shaft backward at 5º to further improve ergonomics. It’s a nice feature, but at 6’2″, I’m bending over too much to really notice. Shorter folks might enjoy that feature more than me.
The gauge is easy to read and sits next to a convenient accessory holder for all the various needles and adapters you’d need to pump up other sports and recreational equipment, and all those little parts are included with the pump. It’s a much appreciated touch. The solid base provides plenty of footprint and foot space and keeps things from rocking or flexing when pumping.
Birzman’s road-oriented floor pumps go to 220psi, and their high volume mountain bike ones go to 110psi. These worked great to get road and ‘cross bikes set up with tubes, but they didn’t move enough air to seat a tubeless tire. I’d like to try their high volume versions.
The valve head has a pressure release button that’ll let air out of the tires for fine tuning the psi. To fit Schrader valves, just unscrew the Snap-It head and thread the silver base onto the valve.
Overall, it’s a great pump. It’s held up well and the Snap-It valve head is incredibly convenient. Except when it’s not, and that’s really the only gripe.
One other minor gripe is the short-ish hose. In a stand, you’ll need to have the valve at the bottom of the wheel, and even out of a stand, unless the pump is within a few inches from the bike, you’ll need to have the valve on the lower 2/3 of the wheel to have much slack in the hose. Other models from Birzman do have longer hoses, so choose according to your needs. UPDATE: All floor pump models now ship with the longer hoses.
Now, about those Snap-It heads:
The Snap-It valve works by clamping two small jaws (arrow) around the threads on the stem. Slide the head over the stem, then slide the bezel down to seal it around the stem and close the jaws. As the name implies, it “snaps” shut to hold itself in place.
Depending on what type of valve stem you’re using, it may or may not work for you. Obviously it, and any pump that threads on, won’t work on smooth stems or extenders. It grabbed well on most threaded valve stems, but occasionally it’d fit a little loose. This chart shows a few common stems so you can see generally what worked. Even on the valves where it was a bit loose (presumably because the valve stem was a shade narrower than normal), you could hold the valve in place and pump with your other hand. Not ideal, and not something you could do with the mini-pumps, but not the end of world. If you stick with standards like Stan’s valve stems and the like, you should be fine. Just make sure it has threads.
Surprisingly, it’d grab onto a Token valve extender well enough to inflate the tire, but it wouldn’t accurately reflect the tire pressure.
I also tested the Birzman Infinite road bike mini pump. Yes, it’s shown here with a mountain bike tire, for which it also works except that it takes longer to pump up to a rideable volume. They make high volume MTB mini pumps, too.
The hose pulls out from one end and threads onto the other. The male end did come loose one time and threaded out with the hose, but it has a slot that allows a flat head screwdriver to tighten it back into place.
The other point worth noting is that you need about 1/2″ of threads for the pump head to grab. Any less and it just won’t attach securely. Like the floor pumps, the Snap-It head threads off to work with Schrader valves, and those work flawlessly on all tested (we have a lot of kids bikes, scooters, etc., around the house, and I even used the floor pump to top off my car’s tires once).
Are these pumps the Godsend I was hoping for? Close, but there are few a still tubes and valve stems around here they won’t properly latch onto. But very few pumps work with every single tube and stem. Considering the convenience and ease of use of the Snap-It head plus the overall exceptional build quality of the rest of the pumps, I’d recommend them with the caveat to make sure to use standard threaded valve stems or tubes.
BIRZMAN BIKE TOOLS
The Birzman Ratchet Wrench set has proven rock solid and extremely useful. It, combined with the Specialist Wrenches shown below, have transformed swapping cassettes from something I dreaded to something I (almost) enjoy. These really reinforce the notion that having the right tool for the job makes any job far easier. Plus, they look killer.
The case’s latches flip down, which seems like a small thing until you need to open it with full, greasy hands. Everything’s held in place snugly and marked so you know what you’ve got:
The Specialist Wrenches are shop-quality, oversized chromoly tools with big, grippy handles. The set includes a pedal wrench, outboard bearing bottom bracket tool, cassette freewheel remover and chain whip.
Even a “sissy bar” handle extender comes with it.
Lastly, the chain tools bring a bit of glamour to an otherwise unsexy product.
The larger of the two gives you plenty of hand space and leverage to hold it steady while delicately inserting or removing pins. The tiny one shares the form factor but is small and light enough to throw in your pack.
The full size chain tool has a spring loaded center guide to securely hold any width chain.
After 10 months of consistent use, the tools show hardly any signs of wear. They’ve worked flawlessly, are easy on the eyes and comfortable in the hand. US pricing is being finalized, and Birzman is bringing their products stateside later this year.