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Ridden & Reviewed: Mini Pump Shootout

April 15, 2015

As the saying goes, when talking about repairing roadside punctures there are two kinds of people in this world: CO2 people and pump people.

For years I was a pump person. Specifically a frame pump person, as I am old enough to remember when such devices were ubiquitous in that mini pumps were truly worthless and CO2 inflators weren’t entirely reliable and the cartridges seemingly weren’t as readily available.

Fast forward to the 90’s and beyond and I had converted. I had abandoned the Zefal and Silica (with Campagnolo head) frame pumps of my youth for the ease and speed of CO2 inflators. No more exhaustion just to reach 65 psi on a road tire and tube set-up needing at least 90 psi. No more breaking valve stems with an accidental change in the angle of the frame pump. I was new. Modern. Reborn.

Then a few years ago I was on a ride with a local hero. A former collegiate racer and domestic pro. He was riding what was then a current year S Works road bike and had done what one might think of as impossible: attached a frame pump to his superbike. As we gorged on mid-ride tacos I asked him, “why the frame pump?”

The answer was surprising, yet reassuring. “Yes, a CO2 would be faster, but really, how long does it take with a modern frame pump to inflate a tube well enough to finish your ride? Plus, I never run out of air. And, it’s pretty environmentally friendly when you stop and think about it.”

I did. And I set about to find a solid portable pump.

Both the Road Drive from Lezyne and the PRO Touring Mini Pump offer nice features and reliability.

Both the Road Drive from Lezyne and the PRO Touring Mini Pump offer nice features and reliability.

I settled on a modern take on the classic Zefal-style frame pump and it was fine. Especially on my Independent Fabrication, which has a round, nearly horizontal top tube as well as a pump peg on the back of the headtube. And on what was then my decidedly not S Works level Tarmac, it worked fairly well provided it was secured with a pump strap. And while I thought about the wise words of the more experienced rider, I still wasn’t entirely sold.

Then I traveled to Vegas.

In a hotel room the afternoon of CrossVegas I was wanting to fiddle with my tire pressure. Of course, I hadn’t traveled with a pump and despite the fact that Interbike was down the sidewalk, I didn’t really want to traverse the show floor demoing pumps. My roommate, being ever prepared, had a pump: the Lezyne Road Drive.

With one use I knew this was my new pump. The rattling knocks of the frame pump would be gone. The Road Drive fit nicely in my center jersey pocket along with a tire lever and two tubes. The aluminum construction and rubber o-ring seals holding the handle to the shaft when not in use felt quality. And the hidden hose with a pump head that threaded on to the valve stem sealed the deal. The fact that there was that flexibility significantly decreased the chance of accidentally ripping a valve out of a tube during inflation. This was my pump. Well, it was my roommate’s, but I was going to get one just like it.

And I did. And I’ve used it for years now with no issues. Yes, it’s not as fast as a CO2 canister. But good things come to those who wait. Besides, with thousands of miles ridden and numerous punctures, I’m sure the Road Drive has more than paid for itself when measured against the cost of countless CO2 cartridges (there hadn’t yet been a buy 1, get 1 free Spring Sale Deal of the Day on those).

Then Kelly in the buyers’ office turned me onto something. A new mini pump. Slightly shorter and lighter weight, it sports a larger circumference barrel and seemingly pushes more air than my beloved Road Drive. It also has a slick magnetic “lock” to hold the pump closed when not in use. And it too fits nicely in a jersey pocket with a few other trusty items. It’s the Touring Mini Pump from Shimano house brand PRO.

Could the PRO Touring Mini Pump be my new pump of choice? At $19.99 it's hard to beat.

Could the PRO Touring Mini Pump be my new pump of choice? At $19.99 it’s hard to beat.

Aside from being “pro” (I mean, it says so right on the thing) it also has another great feature: price. While my Road Drive sells for $44.99, the Pro Touring Mini Pump is shockingly less at $19.99. No it’s not constructed of aluminum. No it doesn’t have the fancy little hose mechanism. But it pushes air as well–or dare I say better–than my Road Drive. “Ten-ish” fewer strokes to 90 psi with the Pro Tourning Mini when tested against the Road Drive in wholly unscientific testing.

Do I still love the Road Drive. Yes. Undoubtedly. It has style for miles and works well. The hose feature is great. But for $20, the Pro Touring Mini isn’t just blowing hot air. Plus, I hear it’s on sale at Spring Sale.

Nothing against you CO2 folks. I like you. I really do. But for those of you considering making the switch, or just in need of a new pump, these two fit the bill nicely.

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