The Vel Air Flow is a sturdy, well-made pump that performs well, as long as you take the precaution of tightening your valve cores first if they're removable...
I'm a bit precious with mini pumps – one in particular that I've had for years. It's small, works remarkably well and whenever I lend it to someone I'm always asked what it is so they can get one. However, having a few bikes it's handy to have more than one as I like to frame mount them; I'm not a fan of carrying it in my pocket.
Good then, that the Vel Air Flow comes with a frame mount. As with most, it fits securely behind a bottle mount, with two clips and a Velcro strap to hold the pump.
The pump itself is a good looking thing, the body and shaft made entirely from machined alloy and an anodised black finish with laser-etched logos. The fitment parts are steel, with a separate hose attachment hidden in the body of the main unit. Very neat and stylish.
First ride out with it and after a while I heard an unusual noise – checking around as I rode revealed that the pump had slid down in the mount and was tapping on the frame, not ideal. Putting it back up and really tightening the Velcro strap did the trick for a bit, but it would drop down again over time and road vibration because of the slick anodised finish. This was only resolved after my first ride on wet mucky lanes – the combination of grit and water keyed the two surfaces and it hasn't slipped down since – but there are visibly marks on the alloy body as a downside.
On a sunny sportive, disaster struck a friend when they hit a nasty pothole and blew their tube. Bad news for them, good news for my test of the Air Flow, as I offered to pump the tyre up when ready. Here came the other first-outing issues...
There aren't any instructions with the pump and I figured it would be pretty standard. Remove hose, screw it onto the pump, pump away.
Almost right. I didn't realise that you need to screw the hose onto the valve to lock it on – it's not immediately obvious and the hose just blew off when a bit of pressure was in the tube, despite feeling like it had 'clicked' into place. Lesson learned.
However, when I tried the pump at home in the garage, which I should have done up front in hindsight, it threw up another problem: you need to screw the hose onto the valve fairly well, otherwise the twisting from the pumping action can unscrew it, if it's only on by a thread or two. But also, the valve I was testing had a removable core and the pump unscrewed the core with it when up to pressure. Cue a massive dump of the air, a fiddle to unscrew the core from the hose, and then start again.
With cheaper, non-removable core tubes this isn't a problem. Top tip – ensure the cores are screwed down tight with either a proper metal valve tool or needle-nose pliers.
Once beyond the learning curve, I found that the pump worked well for a small device, easily inflating mountain bike tyres, with a good few strokes, and doing a decent job on road tyres. I managed 90psi or so before my arm gave up, but that's more than good enough to get you onwards to a track pump, and for tubeless is probably more than you would need anyway.
The solid design and fairly thick shaft make the operation easier and suggest it will last for a long time, the steel and rubber parts of the pump weathering well too.
Cost-wise, it's not cheap at £34.99, but once past its foibles it is a good pump, solidly built and the detachable hose makes life a lot easier. A comparable unit, the Fabric R200, costs the same with similar features but is 20g heavier, and there's a plethora of cheaper units on the market.
If you want a good looking and solid pump then the Vel Air Flow is worth a look, but check your valve cores first. Will it replace my dependable Airace? Not until that is beyond use, but it's certainly good enough to carry with me on one of the other bikes rather than swap around.
Solidly made and nice looking pump that does a good job – but check your valve cores
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Vel Air Flow Pump
Size tested: 120psi max
Tell us what the product is for
Mini pump for on the road repairs and top-ups that can be frame mounted or will fit in a pocket.
Vel says, "Light, strong and capable of inflating up to 120psi, the VEL Air Flow Pump is your ideal ride companion. The full CNC alloy construction coupled with a durable black anodised finish with laser-etched logo adds a touch of class to your ride pack or jersey pocket."
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Intended for Road and MTB use
Presta and Schrader compatible with detachable hose system
Weighs only 95g
Includes resin mounting bracket and Velcro strap
It's a very nicely made pump; the all-metal construction is sturdy and looks like it will last, the detachable hose nicely hidden in the pump body.
Once you know to tighten removable valve cores, if your tubes have them, it does a good job of inflating to a reasonable pressure. Just make sure your removable valves are in tightly, otherwise it's potentially disastrous.
Other than some cosmetic marks on the pump body, it still looks good and looks like it will last for years.
At 95g (130g with the frame mount) it's reasonably lightweight for a mini pump, unnoticeable in a jersey pocket.
It's not particularly cheap, but if you look at how much use you will get out of it over the years it could well pay for itself, if it lasts as it should.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Good and bad – when it worked fine, with cheaper tubes, it did the job admirably. I'm a big fan of mini pumps with a rubber hose, but when used with slightly more expensive tubes with removable valve cores it can unscrew the core if you're not careful, dumping all of the air you managed to get in.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
The all-metal construction feels solid and looks good; when it worked, it worked well and was easy enough to use.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
The attachment method. On Schrader valves it was never a problem, but with Presta valves with removable cores it could fail. The rubber hose screws on to the valve itself (there is no handle or clamp) and needs a bit of effort to get on. When removing the hose, unless the core is screwed down tight, it can unscrew the core and dump the air (which it did twice).
Did you enjoy using the product? Mixed
Would you consider buying the product? Yes – now I know to check the cores are locked down tight.
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes, with the above advice.
Use this box to explain your overall score
Overall it is a good pump, well made and easy to use, but it would be even better if it came with some guidance on using it with removable valve core tubes.
About the tester
I usually ride: Boardman AirPro Di2 My best bike is:
I've been riding for: 10-20 years I ride: A few times a week I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: road racing, time trialling, cyclo-cross, commuting, club rides, sportives