07 July 2010

bikefix Initial Review: Blackburn Mammoth mini pump

With its anodized aluminum barrel, sleek TwistGrip III head, and lifetime warranty, Blackburn's $20 Mammoth mini pump makes a great impression at the bike shop. Once free of its (entirely recyclable) packaging, its 157g make it feel reassuringly substantial and much more durable than anything else we've felt at this end of the pump price spectrum. According to Blackburn, the Mammoth is "a true mountain bike icon that fills fat tires quickly and painlessly." If only.

As we prefer here at bikefix, Blackburn's TwistGrip III pump head is designed to work either on presta or Schraeder valves (rather than both) at any given time. The reversible internals are easily set up to work on one or the other and will be familiar to most mini pumpers. The foldaway T-handle and fairly low-profile head make sliding the pump into an overstuffed pack easy and the oversized barrel has the capability to inflate high-volume tires relatively quickly (though we're guessing that the 60psi max pressure is a bit optimistic).

Out on the trail, trouble surfaced when a beginner rider broke out the Mammoth for its first use. Despite multiple tries, she couldn't get it to seal on the valve. We had a look at the pump and sure enough, she was trying to force a closed pump onto a presta valve and then open it. Confusing, to say the least, the directional arrows on the TwistGrip II head are backwards for riders who would engage the head by rotating the pump's barrel (those who rotate the head, wheel attached, around the barrel will be fine). Once the Mammoth was mounted on the valve, not two strokes were stroked before we heard a rather unladylike aw fuck! This thing pinches!

While the Mammoth's T-handle is good sized and snaps into an ergonomic pistol grip position, a moment's inattention will allow it to collapse and pinch the user's index finger between the red anodized shaft and very sharp edges of the handle slot. And it pinches. And the edges are sharp. While we didn't manage to draw blood, nobody we've handed the Mammoth to has escaped unharmed. Even without trying to inflate a tire, experienced riders pick up the Blackburn, have a fiddle, and what the hell?

The Mammoth has a good deal of potential. The price is right, it feels solid, and once one remembers to reverse the fixing instructions, mounting on a valve is easy. While it may be a mountain bike icon, and it may be capable of inflating tires quickly, the Mammoth's certainly doesn't do so painlessly. We sent its owner back to the store to pick out something a bit less dangerous.



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