Product Review: Crankbrothers Mini Pump

Crankbrothers’ product line aims to blend elegant design with top-notch functionality. Their new $50 Sterling pumps can be found at the top of their mini-pump food chain.

Tech features: Crankbrothers’ Sterling family of pumps gives riders the option of two different pump lengths, and each is offered with or without an integrated pressure gauge. The “LG” means that this pump is the long version with the gauge included. The Sterling’s body is constructed of CNC-machined, 6061 aluminum with laser etching for aesthetics and, in the case of the knurled handle, ergonomics as well.

Bicycle art: The Sterling pump will not only get the job done, it’ll look good doing it. The CNC’d aluminum body is sleek yet tough, and the pressure gauge is handy on the trail.
Bicycle art: The Sterling pump will not only get the job done, it’ll look good doing it. The CNC’d aluminum body is sleek yet tough, and the pressure gauge is handy on the trail.

The Sterling features two different pump settings that can be changed on the fly, depending on what size tire you are pumping up. You can either pump for high volume and low pressure or low volume and high pressure at any given time with a maximum pressure rating of 100 psi. The pump’s universal head fits both Schrader and Presta valves without switching internal components, and it has a standard-locking flip lever. A relatively large pressure gauge sits right below the pump head with markings up to 100 psi in 5 psi increments.

The Sterling LG is 10.9 inches long and weighs 7 ounces. It also comes with a five-year warranty from Crankbrothers.

Field test results: Let’s face it, no one really ever wants to have to use a mini pump on the trail. Unless you are fine-tuning your tires by a few psi here and there, if your pump is out of the pack, you’re bummed about your flat tire. At that point, the last thing you want is to struggle with a lackluster pump.

Crankbrothers has always offered tools and pumps with an impressive fit and finish, and the top-of-the-line Sterling LG is a shining example. The pump is sturdy in hand, and while it’s a bit longer than some of its competitors, we appreciated the larger size’s ease of operation. Pen-sized pumps are great for packing light, but much less enjoyable when you actually need to use them. If you are tight on space, check out the Sterling SG or S for more compact options.

Two pumps in one: With a quick turn of the knob located at the base, the Sterling pump is capable of adjusting to either high- or low-tire-pressure situations. The low-pressure mode is ideal for mountain bikes, but it’s nice to have the flexibility.
Two pumps in one: With a quick turn of the knob located at the base, the Sterling pump is capable of adjusting to either high- or low-tire-pressure situations. The low-pressure mode is ideal for mountain bikes, but it’s nice to have the flexibility.

While lacking a gauge has never been a deal-breaker for us when it comes to mini pumps, we do appreciate them—if not for getting your tire to the exact, desired pressure, at least for the mental boost they provide by showing you that you are indeed making progress.

The Sterling’s high/low mode is certainly handy. One setting handles 0–40 psi—essentially every mountain bike—and the other is used for 40–100 psi. The change is easy to make with less than a half turn of a switch built into the bottom of the pump. While mountain bikers will only need one setting, riders who also dabble in the road world will appreciate having one pump that can do it all.

The traditional, fixed pump-head design certainly works well and feels sturdy enough; however, we’ve also grown to like the short hoses that some pumps are offering to protect the valve and give the rider a bit more leeway when pumping away.

Durability-wise, the Sterling LG has been flawless. We’ve used some mini pumps that seem to give up the ghost quickly because of internal seal issues, but despite plenty of use, thanks to under-prepared riding buddies, the Sterling has been solid.

There are a lot of mini pumps out there, and the Sterling LG certainly isn’t the ideal pump for every situation. Its size hurts portability, but if you ride with a hydration pack, this shouldn’t be an issue. If you have the space, the Sterling LG is a great trailside companion.