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The Schwalbe SOS Mini Pump is a very mini mini pump that's well made, with a solid alloy construction and a pump head that attaches securely to the valve with a pretty blue anodised lever. It might take its sweet time to inflate a tyre, but it does so easily without any heat build-up or knee-trembling efforts towards higher pressures; true to its name, it will get you home in an emergency.
Full disclosure: I have a pathological hatred of mini-pumps. Well, maybe hate's a strong word... a pathological general disappointment and deep mistrust? If I need to use a pump I just want it to work and put air in a tyre within a reasonably swift time frame and not wear my arms out, bend the valve, suck the valve core out or run out of puff with a tyre not quite enough inflated.
Too many times I've handed my frame-fit pump to someone else who's been busy thwapping away with their exquisitely small but poor excuse of an inflator because I was bored, and wanted to be home before it got dark. But I also have an open mind and am ready to be surprised and impressed by a mini-pump that actually works.
The Schwalbe SOS mini pump is really well made and both looks and feels a top quality piece of kit. The body is anodised metal and feels sufficiently weighty to inspire confidence, and the locking lever is picked out in a fancy contrasting blue. A flip-out rubber bung stops any debris sneaking into the valve hole.
At 129mm long it really is tiny and easily slips into a pocket without waggling out the top. If you want to keep it instantly accessible it comes with a frame mount that fits under a bottle cage. The pump clips into it with a firm snap, and there's a Velcro strap for further security. Nothing rattles; a twist locks the two halves of the pump together for storage.
Initially there was a definite knack to getting it open again as the lock was very stiff and uncooperative, but it suddenly loosened up and become easy to use.
This locks firmly to both Presta and Schrader valves, but it's not a universal head; you have to unscrew flip internals around. It's only rated to 85psi as well; a deal breaker if you're old-school and still running 21mm tyres at 110psi, but for everyone who's embraced the benefits of wider tyres and lower pressures it's fine.
It's a fiddly-small head, mind you, and holding it steady without pinching your fingers as you pump requires a bit of a contortion. The tiny handle doesn't have any grip to it either, which is an issue in the wet and/or mud, while the end is sharply angled and can get uncomfortable under your palm.
While this inevitably takes longer than a midi-sized pump to get your tyres up, it's a largely effortless process with very little struggle as pressures rise. The construction helps as there's no flex or troublesome overheating either.
Schwalbe says the SOS is suitable for all disciplines, and it does a reasonable job across the board. On a 2.3in mountain bike tyre it's particularly slow, but it's at least consistently effortless throughout.
On a 23mm road tyre it took 100 strokes to 25psi, and a further 100 to 45psi; that took under two minutes. Reaching a 'that'll get me home' 70psi took 300 strokes. A rest and another 50 strokes took the tyre to a more reassuring 'we've still got a way to go' pressure.
On a 47mm tubeless gravel tyre, 100 strokes makes very little impact; it took 400 pumps just to reach 50psi, though another 50 took me to something pretty rideable in the roadside squeeze test. For giggles I faced up to a 2.3in wide 29er mountain bike tyre, and that took nearly 500 strokes to 40psi.
The Topeak Roadie 2Stage is just £1 more than the Schwalbe at £36.99, and is impressively efficient considering its diminutive size – though it’s still 30mm longer than the Schwalbe. As its name suggests the 2Stage has settings for either high volumes or high pressures; Topeak claims it can achieve 160psi, but Stu's arms weren't keen on trying.
The Lezyne Grip Drive HP is 99p cheaper at £35 and offers similar quality, but it’s half as long again so will stick out your pocket more, though the inclusion of a flexy hose makes it easier to use. While it’s rated to 120psi, Stu struggled to get anywhere near – and it doesn’t help that this pump gets very warm as you work.
Alternatively if you don’t need those higher pressures, the Zefal Gravel Mini Pump goes to 80psi, and our reviewer Ali thought it punched above its weight. He liked the machined ridges for grip and the flexible hose.
The SOS is small and light enough to be forgotten about whether it's a back pocket, on the frame or stuffed in a bag, and it gets the job done in an emergency perfectly adequately thanks to its solid construction and smooth stroke. It's not the fastest then, but if you're looking for easy to use and easy to carry it's a winner.
Usefully tiny and really well made – it's slow, but it's always easy to use
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Schwalbe SOS Mini Pump
Size tested: 12.9cm
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?
Schwalbe says: "The perfect help for emergencies on the road. Being only 12.9cm in length, it fits in any jersey or can easily be attached to the frame of the bike. A smart detail is the lockable pump handle by rotation. When inflating, it is clamped directly to the valve and not screwed. This prevents abrasion and ensures a highly airtight seal. An additional seal prevents dirt from getting into the SOS Pump. The anodised surface gives the aluminium pump a high quality design.
"Suitable for all disciplines."
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Material: aluminum, plastic
Pressure: up to 6 bar (85 psi)
Compatibility: Schrader and Presta valves
Colour: blue-grey anodised
Incredibly well made for a mini-pump.
For its size it does amazingly well. It's not the fastest, but has a smooth confident stroke that doesn't overheat or struggle towards higher pressures.
Alloy body and solid construction inspire confidence.
It's not especially comfy to use; the head is fiddly to hold, there's no grip on the handle and you tend to use the heel of your hand because the handle is so small, which can hurt after a few hundred pumps.
It compares well in construction and quality with other mini pumps this size and price.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
It lives up to its name by being a good mini pump in a SOS situations. It takes a lot of strokes to get a tyre up to pressure, but does it with very little strain or overheating.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Incredibly small, well made, with a good locking head.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Takes its time.
How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?
£35.99 is pretty average for a good-quality pump like this.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? It's changed my thoughts on mini pumps, so, erm, maybe
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes
Use this box to explain your overall score
While it's tiny, well made and has a smooth stroke, this really takes its time to fill a tyre. Overall it's good.
About the tester
I usually ride: It varies as to the season. My best bike is: The one I\'m on at the time
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Most days I would class myself as: Experienced
I regularly do the following types of riding: road racing, cyclo cross, general fitness riding, fixed/singlespeed, mtb, Fun
Jo Burt has spent the majority of his life riding bikes, drawing bikes and writing about bikes. When he's not scribbling pictures for the whole gamut of cycling media he writes words about them for road.cc and when he's not doing either of those he's pedaling. Then in whatever spare minutes there are in between he's agonizing over getting his socks, cycling cap and bar-tape to coordinate just so. And is quietly disappointed that yours don't He rides and races road bikes a bit, cyclo-cross bikes a lot and mountainbikes a fair bit too. Would rather be up a mountain.