Review: Blackburn AirStik SL
If you’re PRO (or if you actually are a pro) you’re probably clocking heavy mileage with a reliable and powerful, full size frame pump attached to your bike’s top tube. If you’re a poser like me, you’re using co2 cartridges or a mini-pump, like Blackburn’s AirStik SL.
Because for some reason, I don’t want anyone to see my extra gear, or I like to pretend that I train with a team follow car stocked with spare wheels, Bjarne Riis, and a portable espresso maker. Plus a mechanic, because Bjarne isn’t pulling shots. I guess lots of other cyclists feel the same way, which is why we have compact gear like this, that’s a compromise between functionality and size.
15.7cm long when retracted, 1.9cm in diameter and weighing 59 grams, this thing is tiny. Construction is impressive, the shell crafted of black anodized aluminum with nifty red highlights. The outer barrel and inner shaft fit together snugly, and you get a sense of excellent build quality. It’s also available in white, and while that color is pretty flash, it also looks like even more of a sex toy than the black version.
Blackburn says the AirStik delivers 37% more air per stroke. I haven’t done a head-to-head with my prior mini-pump, the Topeak Micro Rocket (which I left on the side of the road after a rainy day flat and which incidentally, felt like a cheap toy compared to the AirStik), but I can say that I reach ridable pressures a little more quickly, though not substantially faster enough for me to go raving about it.
For me, ridable means somewhere in the neighborhood of 80-85psi, enough pressure so that you feel confident while finishing the rest of your spin. Setting illusions of warp speed inflation aside, 90psi via the AirStik is going to take you somewhere in the neighborhood of 250-300 strokes for a typical 700×23 tire. I hope you don’t bonk.
Because while Blackburn claims you can hit 160 psi with this thing, neither you nor your training partners are going to want to sit around maxxing out its capabilities. Things start getting sweaty around 80psi, and you’ll probably need a gel if you hit 100. The plus side is you won’t contribute to landfill with your spent co2 cartridges (or like many, litter the side of the road with them) and you won’t have to ruin the sexy lines of your carbon fiber ride that, let’s face it, is probably too much bike for you anyways.
One thing the manual doesn’t go into, is that the pump head does not lock. You can, however, adjust the tightness of the opening for your tube’s valve by turning the ring on the head clockwise or counter-clockwise. I’d recommend moistening the tube valve with a little saliva before mounting the AirStik, to help prevent the possibility of ripping off the valve when you’re done inflating.
This is all getting a little kinky, so let’s talk about the frame mount, which is included. It attaches via water bottle cage bolts and it’s low profile: you remove your bottle cage, position the mount, replace your cage and bolt it all up. But the AirStik is so small you can toss it in your jersey pocket or even in a moderately-sized saddle bag. Which 99% of us will do anyways, since we didn’t buy this tiny thing so people could see it hanging off our bikes.
To summarize, mini-pumps are form before function. Too small to be truly efficient, yet miniscule enough to go unnoticed. If you want something that’s more reliable than co2 but can’t abide by a full size frame pump, the AirStik SL is, for the moment at least, about as good as it gets.
Have you found a mini-pump that’s the best thing since embro? Leave a comment and tell us all about it!
• the build quality: simply fab
NOT SO PRO
• mini-pumps take forever despite all claims to the contrary