The first thing I noticed about the SKS Airboy XL mini pump is that it is tiny – only 172mm long and 19mm wide. As a result, it’s almost unnoticeable in a jersey pocket and I could even fit it in my saddle bag if I wanted to keep my pockets empty (it also comes with a frame mount, though the pump’s tiny size means its easier to just keep it on your person). It’s about the same size as many of the CO2 pumps available today, so I was initially skeptical about how effective it would be at inflating a tyre.
However, it can be this kind of size due to the use of a two-chamber system, which essentially gives you double the inflation than you would expect from something so small. In a nutshell, it pumps twice, from either end of the pump, to increase its efficiency.
That makes it relatively easy to achieve the claimed maximum pressure of 73 PSI. It’s worth noting that the SKS website states a claimed output of 73 PSI and 115 PSI, depending on where you look, but we checked and 73 PSI is the correct figure. That’s certainly good enough as a rideable pressure to get you home, but SKS say the Airboy XL is best for high-volume tyres where as a high pressure isn’t as important, whereas the standard Airboy will offer a higher maximum output, but pushes out less air per stroke.
The design of the pump has been well thought out, with the curved handle providing a solid position for your hand when pumping. Often smaller pumps like this can become painful to use after a while, but that’s not the case here. The only issue that I had with inflation was with how the pump connects to the tyre as it doesn’t have any kind of locking system. Therefore, it needs to be pressed against the valve whilst pumping and, as a result, you need to keep it at a specific angle to create an effective seal.
The Airboy XL comes in at £24.99, which puts it in the same range as the Topeak Race Rocket and Lezyne Drive, and that’s a fair price, offering comparable performance and size.
Overall I have been impressed with the SKS Airboy as an emergency pump, but there’s a little room for improvement with the connection between pump and valve. That said, I’ve generally found that there’s a balance to strike between having an effective pump and one that is small enough not to be annoying to carry, so while other pumps in the SKS range offer a higher maximum output, the Airboy XL’s main selling point is its tiny size and its ability to effectively pump up to a rideable pressure after a roadside repair.