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A new head design makes the Birzman Velocity Apogee RG a crackingly good all-round pump for both road and mountain bike use - with the usual caveats about maximum pressure and comfort of grip.
Road.CC reviewed the previous Velocity model ('RG Mini') in December 2013 and rated it four stars. I must confess to taking exception in the comments with my own experience of that pump, notably being unable to get much beyond 105psi. That took 350 strokes and a change of arms were required.
The 2015 update branded 'Velocity Apogee' keeps the same body and internals, with the big change being the new 'Apogee' valve connector. The claim of 160psi remains, as does the need for new arms halfway through, a lot of patience from your side-of-the-road clubmates, and you probably won't get close to that figure.
I gave the 2013 model 3.5 stars because it did what I need it to - about 110psi for 23mm tyres, and only 80psi on a 28mm-tyred bike. (if you haven't seen the light regarding 15% tyre drop and why you need to rethink your tyre pressure, read this: https://janheine.wordpress.com/2010/10/18/science-and-bicycles-1-tires-a.... The RG Mini variant still works as new after a year, so reliability is sorted.
As the internals, amount of pumping needed and gauge accuracy are unchanged, this review will focus on the head. So is the 2015 Apogee-headed update worth it? In a word: yes.
The head is no longer unscrew-reversible to swap between Schrader (car/baby buggy/kids bikes) and Presta valves - because Birzman have found a way to make both work as-is without compromise, in a tiny package.
For Schrader valves the collar of the head is pushed to expose the red 'Schrader' writing, then screwed onto the valve. Pushing the collar forward locks the small centre pin inside the head, so when screwed on to a Schrader valve it depresses the core allowing air to move from pump to tyre. Anyone who's tried pumping a Schrader valve only to meet massive resistance due to a stuck/corroded valve will appreciate this.
Once pumped up the collar is then slid back to reveal the word 'Presta' - this unlocks the centre pin in the head, allowing the Schrader valve to spring back out and close so when the head is unscrewed no air falls out.
Birzman have patented this 'Air Lock' design, and claim it's particularly useful for mountain bike shocks which typically use Schrader valves. This avoids the need to 'over-compensate' for air lost during pump removal. The relatively small volumes involved and high pressures required are pretty critical for air shocks, so this means you can finally use your one pump for road, mountain bike and mountain bike shock adjustment. (Note: I have not tried this on an air shock - other mountain bike-specific reviews are available on this topic).
For road / Presta use the new design is a definite improvement on what was already a class-leading connector. I found the original RG Mini head to be better than anything else out there in terms of ability to seal and stay put, but once sealed tight it suffered from the need to unscrew very carefully so as not to also undo the valve at the same time and lose all your hard-won pressure. The new Apogee head does away with that risk entirely. Slide the head to reveal the 'Presta' in black, screw it on just one and a half turns to totally seal it on the valve for pumping, and when done pumping just pull it straight off. No twisting, and a fraction-of-a-second disconnect - so fast that the sudden discharge of the pocket of high-pressure air between the pump and valve creates a mini-vapour cloud if it's humid.
In testing and on the road the Apogee head stays put with not a hiss to be heard, even pumping vigorously up to the real-world limit of about 110psi. The short flexible hose allows a bit of hand movement without stressing the valve, and the pressure gauge is as accurate as ever - that is to say, within a few psi compared with various other track and hand pumps.
To get started leave the solid rubber end cap in place, and give the pump one quick stroke. The hose pops out a few inches which is good, because otherwise it's hard to pull out with bare/cold/wet fingers and impossible to do with gloves on.
The head of the Velocity is 6cm long, which means for an average hand you can get your little and ring fingers around it, with the other two and your thumb wrapped around the gauge for purchase. You definitely don't want to get the heel of your palm caught betwixt barrel and head when going at it. In use the pressure gauge can be turned around while connected to check progress.
The pump is 22cm long and weighs 118g, without bracket. That length is just a tad too long to hide inside all but the deepest of jersey pockets, so for the last year I've been in probable flagrant breach of Rule 30 putting it under a bottle on the frame. Luckily the bottle cage mount provided is an excellent design, tucking the pump in close to the bottle and holding it firmly with a combo of clip and rubber strap.
A quick review of the figures: 150 strokes to get to 60psi, where resistance starts to be felt. Then an extra 20 strokes per 5psi from there on, so for 80psi you're a few minutes and 220-ish easy strokes. At around 95-100psi it starts to get noticeably hard to pump, and to get to 110psi you're looking at around 350 strokes or three minutes of work. Beyond 110 abandon all hope of sympathy from your now-cold / bored / departed riding partners, and get thee to a CO2 shop.
As there doesn't yet exist a mini-pump capable of doing high pressure quickly and comfortably, my rating of Very Good must be viewed against the market. Accept that going past 100psi will hurt/take ages with *any* mini-pump, and the Velocity Apogee shines as a no-faff, solidly-connected, accurately-gauged, flexible-hose pump that will work for road, mountain bike or suspension fork use. If like me you mostly roll with 80psi onboard, the rating's more like Exceptional.
Cracking all-round pump for both road and MTB use - with usual caveats about maximum pressure & time
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Make and model: Birzman Velocity Apogee mini pump
Size tested: Silver - 160psi
Tell us what the product is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?
For all road and MTB riders. It's Very Good. Possibly Exceptional, if you don't need more than 80-90psi.
Birzman say: The Velocity Apogee RG is a stylish aluminum mini pump that handles high pressure with ease. It is capable of inflating tires to 160psi. Its extendable hose makes it quicker and easier to inflate tires than ever before. The Velocity Apogee RG features the new innovative Snap-It Apogee valve adaptor.
Gauge: 0-160 psi Size: 22x2.7cm
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
The new Apogee head is the star here - it stays put at high pressure and disconnects instantly. The pump is good for 110psi, but not much more.
It's solid. Feels very nice.
As good as anything on the market. No, better. The head is the business. The general issue of pumping high pressure with a small pump remains.
My RG Mini has lasted a year, and works like new. No reason to think this new model won't as well.
At 118g it's not the lightest, but it will do the job when you need it to.
As uncomfortable to use as anything else.
For under £30 it's a great deal.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Very, very good. Borderline exceptional. No blowoffs, no leaks.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
The head. It's all about the head.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
The head hand grip. They really need something ergonomic.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes.
Would you consider buying the product? Yes.
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes, definitely, but with the caveats on maximum real-world pressure need to be made clear.
Anything further to say about the product in conclusion?
If this was the improvement between 2014 and 2015, I can't wait to see next year's model.
Age: 42 Height: 183cm Weight: 71KG
I usually ride: Charge Juicer My best bike is:
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: A few times a week I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: club rides, general fitness riding, fixed/singlespeed, mtb, MTB, singlespeed and Dutch bike pootling
Living in the Highlands, Mike is constantly finding innovative and usually cold/wet ways to accelerate the degradation of cycling kit. At his happiest in a warm workshop holding an anodised tool of high repute, Mike's been taking bikes apart and (mostly) putting them back together for forty years. With a day job in global IT (he's not completely sure what that means either) and having run a boutique cycle service business on the side for a decade, bikes are his escape into the practical and life-changing for his customers.