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Most cyclists have a couple of pumps: a mini pump for road-side rescue and a track pump for home inflation. The cycling industry is nothing if not adept at creating niches, however, and the travelling track pump might be just such a niche - for when you're on a biking holiday or just need to cram a lot of stuff in a small car for an event. Cannondale's Airport Carry On floor pump is just such a pump, with a capacity equal to many a full-sized track pump and a clever folding design to make it more packable.
We've reviewed a couple of mini track pumps in the past, from Lezyne and Birzman, designed with a reduced length and slimline foot to make them more packable, but what we've got here is a different approach. Folded for transport, the Airport Carry On (I didn't try, but I'm not optimistic that they'd let you) measures a substantial 72cm long, but has a maximum width of only just over 5cm, making it much longer but also much slimmer than its rivals.
It achieves this by means of rather satisfying folding mechanisms at both ends. The foot swings around an axis at 45 degrees to the vertical rather than hinging out as you'd expect, so that unfolded you've got a plate to put one foot on, and the pressure gauge at the other side of the barrel. When folded, the foot sits alongside the barrel and the gauge is out in line with the barrel.
At the other end, the handle pulls out and then pivots in a more conventional way but has the reassuringly solid feeling of something that's designed the last. There's a knurled aluminium lock-ring which is screwed up against the handle to fix it in place for use (I don't think our photographer had spotted that). It's a very good idea to use the lock-ring, as otherwise the handle could flip around when pumping, and there's a good chance you'll catch your finger in the hinge.
Set up for use, it's really not much different to a full track pump, with its stroke of 467mm being only around 50mm less than the Birzman Zacoo and the barrel being a similar diameter. The only significant difference to most track pumps is that it isn't as stable. You've effectively got two fairly small feet instead of the larger footprint of a full-sized track pump. The pivot at the bottom also reduces the stability - if you're absent-mindedly pumping then you might find it wandering off to one side.
In use it feels very smooth and efficient, thanks to the decent sized barrel. Inflating a 23mm tyre to 100psi took 30 strokes. The gauge indicates up to 160psi which will be enough for most people '' certainly reaching 120psi was supremely easy. The gauge is very small for a track pump, just 35mm across. That's an area where the travel-friendly design necessitates a compromise; you'll need decent eyesight to read it from a standing position.
There's a really long hose, enough for use in a workstand or such you don't need to rotate your wheels around if the bike is on the ground. The chuck is a novel design, dubbed EZ Head, which takes a Schrader in one side or a Presta in the other without any disassembly. Pushing it onto the valve forces that side's chuck jaws inside the head which both grips the valve and directs the air flow to that side '' it's simple, neat and effective. To remove it, you just pull. It's a reminder of how a breadth of patented designs can force manufacturers to engineer creative new solutions to a problem, as in bicycle gearing.
One thing to note: Cannondale's website says that this "Includes water bottle boss frame mount", and this description has made it onto several inattentive retailers' pages too. It definitely doesn't and is really much too big to be suitable for taking with you on a ride.
Should you buy a pump especially for travelling then? Personally I think I would struggle to justify it for one or two trips a year, but if space is at a premium '' either in your home or your team car '' then it could be a great option. If I didn't have a full track pump and needed to travel light then it would arguably fulfil both roles with aplomb. It's usefully cheaper than either of the competitors mentioned above and with its longer barrel outperforms both too.
Well-engineered foldaway pump for travelling that performs like a full track pump; recommended if you need to save space
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Cannondale Airport Carry on Floor Pump
Size tested: Black
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?
Folding handle and base for a compact travel companion
Lightweight alloy barrel and handle
New lever-less EZ Head
Rotatable 1.5inch/ 38mm gauge
Rated to 160 PSI/11 bar.
Includes water bottle boss frame mount [It doesn't]
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Length (folded for transport) - 720mm
Maximum width (folded) - 52mm
Stroke - 467mm
Has a pleasing heft to it - metal construction feels solid and good quality. The bottom end is mostly plastic but as a whole the pump feels well made.
It's quick to flip the foot around and lock the T-handle in place, and then it performs basically like a good quality track pump, albeit one with less stability than with a full-sized foot. The head is a novel design and works well, and a good long hose is welcome.
It's very solidly made. My experience is that it's the chuck that tends to fail first in track pumps, no longer able to hang onto the valve. No indication that this would be a problem here, and the pump is designed to allow replacement of internals and head.
A very similar weight to its obvious competitor, the Birzman Tiny Tanker, and usefully less than most full-sized track pumps.
The handle is chunky and comfortable to use, as long as you remember to screw the locking collar in place
Cheaper than competition from Lezyne and Birzman - it's a really nice pump for a pretty reasonable price.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
In many respects it performs like a full size track pump - it has a longer stroke than other "travel" track pumps. The head is novel and works well, and it was generally a pleasure to use. Only the reduced stability from the small footprint (and pivot) gives the game away.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Clever head, satisfying pivoting foot, long hose, general feeling of solidity.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
The gauge is rather small, in the name of compactness. The only thing that bothered me when using this as a replacement for a full-sized track pump was be the relative lack of stability because of the way the foot pivots, but to be honest, once you're used to this and have modified your technique a little, it's not a big deal.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? Yes I definitely would if I felt I needed a travel track pump
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes
Use this box to explain your score
I hadn't found myself thinking "I need a travel pump" but if I had, this would be the one I'd choose. It's really good enough to replace a full track pump, which is high praise indeed.
About the tester
I usually ride: On-one Bish Bash Bosh My best bike is: Rose X-Lite CRS
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Most days I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: road racing, time trialling, cyclo cross, commuting, touring, club rides, sportives, general fitness riding, fixed/singlespeed, mtb,
Jez spends his days making robots that drive cars but is happiest when on two wheels. His roots are in mountain biking but he spends more time nowadays on the road, occasionally racing but more often just riding.