Pretty much every accessory brand has a range of mountain bike pumps and CO2 inflators to choose from. Unfortunately, you have to work through a lot of them to find out which are genuinely good, which are generically okay, and which are unreliable or rubbish. Luckily for you, our test team has decades of experience trying to inflate tires in the darkest, dirtiest conditions and they know which products can be considered the best mountain bike pumps.
The best mountan bike pumps and CO2 inflators
Specialized offers a simple yet solid mini-pump for inflating high-volume mountain bike tires on the go. An alloy body and shaft are connected by a hose to a headpiece that has both Presta and Schrader valve heads. The push-fit valve heads connect well to valves and don't rip out valve cores.
The big volume design means that pumping up tires is faster, albeit more taxing on your arms. One of our only complaints with this pump is that getting a tire all the way up to 30psi does require some strength. However, seating tubeless tires with it is not an issue.
If you're looking for a simple, strong mini-pump that can handle modern mountain bike tires, then this pump is for you.
Merida's Telescope MTB mini-pump supports a max of 80 psi, so it's suitable for both mountain bike and gravel riding. The body is mostly constructed from aluminum, with the exception of the head, so this is a durable pump.
The head supports both Presta and Shrader valves, and the valve heads are protected from dirt and grim with a rubber cap and seal. The pump is small and light, so you'll forget that you even brought it with you.
Since it is smaller, you get less leverage, so inflating tires can take some time. However, considering the strong construction and reasonable price, this is a great option to chuck into your pack or pocket for emergencies.
This CO2-compatible pump from Birzman is stylish with its silver metal body construction and green shaft. The shaft connects to a valve head, and you can also buy a CO2 connector kit for even faster inflation. The CO2 kit costs £19.99 and adds an additional 46g.
Tire inflation works well and the price of this pump is on par with the competition. However, space between the shaft and body means that it gets wobbly when pumping, and the CO2 connector can potentially get leaky. If you can handle these inconveniences then the pump should work for you to pump up a tire on the fly.
With big volume 27.5-inch and 29er mountain bike tires now becoming standard fit on so many bikes, you need a pump that can push serious amounts of air. That's where Topeak's TwinTurbo system comes into play. The technology allows the pump to compress and release air on both the 'up' and 'down' stroke.
The increased resistance makes it pretty labor-intensive to use, but the wide shaft and alloy barrel make it a tough piece you can put plenty of muscle into without flexing and bending. The auto valve-adjust head has a solid locking lever for a tight seal. This newest model is actually a few dollars cheaper than Topeak's last MTB-specific mini-pump, however, this one doesn't have a pressure gauge.
Topeak build quality is always excellent, making it a great long-term investment, and it comes with a bottle cage clip if the length is too big for your bag or pocket.
Lezyne thinks harder than most about products, and the Pressure Drive is a particularly neatly packaged version of a system that lots of brands also produce.
The alloy pump with a separate screw-in hose design is decidedly retro and the short, relatively small-bore stroke takes a while to get pressure up by hand. However, the screw-in braided metal hose also has a puncture pin to open CO2 canisters for super-fast tire inflation. You get a CO2 cartridge supplied with the pump too so you’re good to go straight away. Lezyne also includes a secure, rattle-silencing multi-clip bottle bolt mount as well as a cunning double-barrel neoprene sheath and twin-strap system. That means the pump and cartridge can sit on your frame or you can just attach two cartridges and the hose to frame tubes or seatposts for racing, which creates a really versatile, decent value set-up that’s impressively tough.
Just be careful when unscrewing the hose from Presta valves as they can sometimes unscrew the valve core in the process, dumping all the air you’ve just put in.
Decathlon is always worth a look for basic kit done well, and while it’s a bit wobbly, this telescopic pump gets plenty of air in quickly. The extending telescopic action of the twin-tube alloy construction pushes on to high enough pressures to make it road bike compatible too, and the built-in gauge will give you a vague idea if you’ve done enough pumping. The swiveling hose has a reversible end chuck for Schrader and Presta valves, which means you don’t have to squeeze your hand and pump head between the spokes. You do have to be careful not to unthread the valve core when you remove the hose though and you need to pump straight to stop it flexing and sticking. The gauge is very much approximate rather than accurate, so double-check with a proper pressure checker as soon as you can. Considering you get a bottle clip and a locking head to stop rattle, it’s definitely a bargain at £15.
SKS are pump-building legends, and they take pride in packing that heritage and performance into some hand-sized inflators as well. The Airboy XL is a larger volume evolution of the original Airboy with a dual-chamber, dual plunger design so it fills bigger tires faster, although your biceps will be bulging to get much beyond 50psi so it’s not suitable for road use. The hooked head fits easily onto either valve type with an adjustable collar for a tight secure fit. The kinked rubber tip on the handle feels good in your hand and the smooth action makes it great for repeated use. It comes with a bottle cage clip and SKS also sells a full range of spares so as long as you don’t lose it you’re pretty much set for life.
OneUp is rapidly establishing itself as the kings of cunning stash components, and this pump is naturally a masterpiece. As well as working as a tough, alloy, high-volume (100cc unsurprisingly), short-stroke pump it also has a pull-out CO2 inflator head. That’s smart enough but the really unique bit is that the big diameter shaft means you can not only slide the CO2 canister inside it for storage, but also EDC’s super neat trail tool. Or the tool and a separate stash capsule for whatever else you might want to carry in a discreet weatherproof way. Unlike a lot of combo set-ups, the pump, inflator and mini tool all work extremely well in their own right too, so while the price is relatively high the convenience and packaging are brilliant for those wanting to minimize bulk on the bike or in their pack.
Crankbrothers is another company that always separates itself from the masses with smart, stylish design. The Klic pump range also lets you choose exactly what gauge and CO2 add-on features you want as well as High-Pressure HP or High Volume HV chamber sizes. Either way, the Klic name comes from the fact that the pull-out hose connects to the pump magnetically, which might seem a bit of a gimmick but actually works simply and securely.
The gauge plus CO2 option is listed here, but even if you have to resort to pumping by hand, the fat-shafted HV pump gets even big tires up to pressure fast. Just be careful not to grip the flip-out T-handle fully or the pump body will bite your knuckles. While pricing is slightly high, little touches like the rotating collar to keep the hose connector clean and a five-year warranty mean you won’t regret reaching a bit deeper into your pocket to pay for it.
Genuine Innovations are inflator specialists so it’s perhaps no surprise the AirChuck head is the nicest we’ve used. Like a lot of the best stuff, it’s a super-simple design. Screw the included 16 or 20g cartridge onto the head and then back it off to open it. The clever bit is that you then just push the spring-loaded head onto the valve which releases the air into the tire. Pull it off and the cartridge shuts again, making it super easy to regulate the fill if you’re blowing up a smaller-volume gravel or road tire or working with frozen fingers in winter. The fact you get two canisters included means it’s not as expensive as it looks at first glance either, and the build quality is properly bombproof, making this the head we always pack if we’re not taking an integrated pump set up.
Best mountain bike pumps: what to know before you buy
The bigger the tires you run, the more air you need your pump to move. Bigger shafts like Blackburn’s Mammoth are more likely to stick if they get dirty though, and high-volume pumps are hard work once you get to higher pressures. That means something in the middle like Crank Brothers Klic HV is the best bet for use across both road bikes and mountain bikes.
The simplest pumps like SKS’s Airboy XL slap straight onto the valve without any interference. However, something that uses a lever to lock the head in place will make for much fewer chances of leaks. A head that automatically works with either valve type makes life easier in mixed groups and sealing caps (that actually work) are very useful in filthy weather. Frame clips are handy if you don’t use a bag, but make sure there’s an o-ring or handle lock to stop the pump rattling or extending. Fold-out handles, screw-in hoses, and built-in storage can all make life easier if you’d use them but expect them to lift the price.
3. Pump or CO2?
The big choice for every purchase - and every ride - is whether to use a pump or inflator. Pumps are bulkier and slower to use, but the air you use is free and you can top up pressure accurately as many times as you need to. CO2 inflators are much smaller and provide an instant inflation hit if they work right, making them great for race or emergency situations. Cartridges are expensive though, even if you buy big catering packs on the internet, and make sure you recycle the cartridges to avoid waste. If you want the best of both worlds, then a combo package like Lezyne’s Pressure Drive is a great option.
Gauges are a common upgrade option to get you to spend a bit more, but their usefulness depends on two things: How well you can judge tire pressure with just a squeeze and how accurate the gauge is. Obviously, we don’t know how good your grip calibration is, but we can tell you that mini-pump dial gauges are very approximate, inline gauges only slightly better, leaving digital displays the best option but even they can be irritatingly inaccurate.