Shock Pump Shootout
After a decade of mounting curiosity, we decided to gather up as many shock pumps as we could find and test them side by side, in a no holds barred, shock pump shootout. We suspected that age old mysteries would be revealed, and that we’d find subtle surprises hidden in the function of each pump. Our results were
We decided to try and be as scientific as we could when setting up our test. We clamped a 2007 Fox 36 RLC into a bike stand to serve as our test mule. Each shock pump was fixed to the Fox fork with zero pressure in the left leg. Each pump was cycled 100 times. Care was taken to fully extend the pump shaft each time, as to maximize the air charge for each stroke. The pressure reading on the pump dial was then recorded. After we used each pump to deliver the 100 strokes, we removed it as swiftly and cleanly as humanly possible, to minimize air loss from the fork. Then, a hand-me-down Accu-Gage tire gauge was used to measure the pressure in the fork’s air chamber. For those of you who follow the national road racing calendar, NRC, you’ll know that we have a great stage race here in Arkansas with nearly a 30 year history, the Joe Martin Stage Race. This particular tire gauge was owned by Joe Martin himself, making it an historic piece of Arkansas cycling. Never to be a mantelpiece, this gauge has been used extensively and proven itself to be a worthy and accurate tool. This second measurement was then recorded in order to chart pressure lost, if any, by the removal of each pump.
We tested seven different shock pumps -- Fox Suspension Pump, Marzocchi Low Pressure Shock Pump, Manitou SPV Shock Pump, Manitou Suspension Pump, Topeak Pocket Shock DXG with Dial Gauge, Magura Suspension Pump, and Rock Shox Suspension Pump. When we planned this test, we fully expected to find a best pump from the bunch. When we gathered all the pumps for the test however, our gleeful anticipation waned. To keep everything fair, we cleaned, inspected, and lubricated all the pump plungers. After we’d tuned them all, we developed a suspicion that all of our test subjects were manufactured by the same folks off in some mega, shock pump factory somewhere. Six of the pump barrel/body assemblies were exactly the same, barring differing powder coat finishes. Only the Topeak had a unique design. What differed on those six pumps were the plunger handles on two; the Fox and the Magura. The rest were exactly the same as the next. The O-ring assemblies and plunger shafts on every pump we tested were identical. The pump barrels were the same length for the Fox, Rockshox, Manitou, and Marzocchi pumps. The barrels for the Magura and the Topeak were 1.6cm and 1.8cm longer, respectively. Each of the pump barrels had a 14mm outside diameter.
As we tested each pump it became clear that we were going to need to focus more on the ergonomics of each pump. The Fox pump had our favorite handle, a round smooth button -- a great drawer pull in the kitchen. It lacked the ultimate comfort of the Magura handle, but it slid more smoothly into our pack and was more compact. The Magura and Topeak pumps had a provision on the pump chuck to minimize air loss at the Schraeder valve when removing the pump. We think that this is a great idea. We re-ran the tests with the Rockshox pump as our control gauge to check our after pressure settings. It was apparent that the hose on the shock pump creates a larger volume to fill to get a reading on the dial. Re-attaching this pump to get the reading lost 6 psi on average. As you can see from the result, the Accu-Gage actually recorded higher values for each pump test than the original pump showed on its own dial gauge.
|100 pumps psi||Accu-Gage reading||RockShox Pump Reading|
Armed with our faith in the trusty Accu-Gage, we reckoned that the Marzocchi, the Manitou SPV, and the Topeak had the most accurate gauges. It’s interesting to note that both the Marzocchi and the Manitou SPV pumps are "low pressure" models. What this meant for us, was that both had dials with lower max pressure readings and therefore finer increments marked around the dial gauge by which to take a presumably more accurate reading. Also interesting are the two highest pressures for the 100 pump test -- Magura and Topeak. Both of these pumps had longer barrels than the rest. We’re not going to try to calculate the added volume per stroke, but it is evident that the longer pumps put more air in the shock for a given number of pumps.
After a thoroughly exhausting research session, we hadn’t come up with any miraculous news about one shock pump being the "best." Nor did we find that one was actually much better than the next. Perhaps it is due to their being so similar and perhaps made in the same factory. While none were revolutionary, all would be a good addition to your tool kit for tuning purposes or epic rides. As stated before, the Fox pump had our favorite handle, but the Magura Suspension Pump and the Topeak Pocket Shock DXG with Dial Gauge delivered more air per pump. For the moment, you'll have to buy a Magura fork to get their pump, so that leaves the Topeak an attractive option. It is a little smaller and more packable than the Fox. If we had to pick a winner, we'd have a jury deliberation, and maybe a short lunch break. In the afternoon we'd crown the Topeak the winner here. It delivers plenty of air per pump, is compact, and has a sleek packable shape. It has their Pressure Rite connector that allows removal of the pump with no audible hissing of air that we’re all used to. Perhaps it works…it was below the average for pressure loss. It goes to 300 psi, so it will work for all low and high pressure shock pumping duties. It is competitively priced at $34.95 and will work on all brands of shocks and forks.