SKS AIRSTEP FOOT PUMP
The SKS Airstep Foot-Pump is a well-designed, premium take on the traditional foot-pump, but one with a whole lot of new-fangled features. These combine to make a well-specced bit of kit which hits its design brief pretty much in the bread-basket. “Horses for courses,” applies to most gear, but it is very apposite in this case. It won’t suit everyone – their purpose, or their pocket – but if it does, then you may well have found your perfect pump-buddy.
Pros: smooth and efficient; several thoughtful features.
Cons: 102psi max will be too low for some.
“Air-Gonomic” and such puns may reinforce unjustified stereotypes regarding the German sense of humour, but they also hint that this is not just a pricey version of on old favourite. The carefully shaped pedal (stirrup), is designed to allow maximum efficiency; the pump is easily hung on a wall, the hose spirals into a recess when not in use; the gauge is on the large size – even if I’d prefer to see psi on the larger outer calibration.
There’s no little sliding red arrow to show your target pressure. Again, not a deal-wrecker, but a feature that you get even on some cheaper-end track pumps. Weighed down with age as I am, staring down at a gauge from nearly six feet above is enough to send me off to a well-known high street optician. Little things can make a difference.
The head fits Schrader and Presta – which you’d expect – but claims to fit rarer, even obscure, valve types, too. With the valves in series and the long lever, some small wheels – such as those on my Surly Ted Trailer are a problematic fit. On the other hand, Brompton spokes have not got in the way.
62 strokes took 700x23/25 Schwalbe Durano tyres to 100psi with ease, just below the pumps stated upper limit of 102psi. Mind the Durano will take 115psi, so hitting the top is officially out of bounds for the Airstep. Mind, a bit more leg-work pushed things closer according to the independent pressure gauge. Still a good bit below those really high pressures some folk like to run. By the same chalk, I could not get the sharp blast tubeless set-ups require, which I can with a decent track pump.
75 strokes took 700x32c Schwalbe Marathon Supreme to 85psi tyres. That’s their max. Cushty.
26x2.10 (54x559) MTB’s? 80 strokes to 65psi.
As mentioned above, heavily-spoked trailer wheels or on some kids’ bikes may be problematic. Having said that the 12 inch tyres on my Bob Yak imitation, went to full pressure in a few strokes.
Needless to say, it fits a car tyre valve, but I’ve found it a little hit and miss at opening the valve.
The good news is that all of this takes, as promised, very little effort. Certainly, it is less than a track pump. Let’s face it, legs are what cyclists are generally best with. SQLab and the University of Bayreuth, where the concept was designed and tested, have certainly worked a trick or two. Mind you, it ain’t as easy as something like the Fumpa Pump.
Size 9.5 (UK) shoes have fitted comfortably on the pedal. As ever with foot pumps, working too vigorously can make things leap about. Steady and smooth is more efficient. You’ll work out your best foot position.
Storage is easy – even ham-fisted Steve has managed to hang it on the wall and not knocked it off. You’ll find a small plastic bracket in the box; two screws and a bit of elbow grease and you have your hanging-hook.
Truth is, you can buy a foot pump for less than a tenner. It won’t be as well-engineered, may be less durable, and will probably require more effort – my ancient el-cheapo model did; nor did it like going over 80psi. Even so, you can’t escape the feeling that the Airstep commands a premium price. Balance this against its many qualities.
Mind you, my personal preference would still be for a floor/track pump, such as Blackburn Piston 4 (220psi max). At a similar price (but has been seen cheaper on-line), it goes that bit higher in pressure, although with a bit more effort at the top end.
The Fumpa Pump removes the effort completely, but is twice the price. Mind you, it will go to higher pressures and is light enough to carry with you.
To buy or not to buy? That may well depend more upon how much you want to avoid putting pressure on your back; and, if you are away from the workshop, how willing you are to cart it about just in case. Let’s face it, a CO2 cartridge takes even less effort; as does the Fumpa.
In many ways this is a grand bit of kit. It is ideal for those who want to avoid putting pressure on the back and arms – and its weight counts a lot less if you are on an E.Bike. Of course, it will suit a fettler in the workshop, or the multi-bike functionary in the car park or at the trail head. Bear in mind that it won’t go much above 102psi, but many cyclists don’t need more.
Verdict: 3.75/5 Very well-conceived and made, but appeal may come down more strongly to personal preference than it does with some other products.
PUBLISHED FEBRUARY 2020