Specialized's Air Tool Sport SwitchHitter II floor pump is a generally decent pump with a couple of thoughtful touches that make it friendlier and easier to use. It's a solid entry in a very crowded market; well worth considering but without anything that makes it utterly compelling.
- Pros: Comfy handle, easy-to-use smart chuck
- Cons: Not really "all-metal"
The SwitchHitter II part of the Air Tool Sport's name comes from the 'smart' chuck, which easily accommodates both Presta and Schrader valves. The lever then closes it firmly around either type, and it releases easily too. With some floor pumps, you need to really yank the chuck to get it off the valve when you're finished. That's not the case here, all you need is a gentle tug, so you're less likely to damage the tube, and the washer that seals the valve should last well.
With the chuck firmly clamped round the valve, it's time to start pumping. The handle is really nicely shaped, with a cross-section that almost looks like an aerofoil. No, Specialized hasn't taken to designing pump handles in the wind tunnel. That would be silly. Rather, the shape provides a flat section to press against and a round area for your fingers to curl around. It's a nice touch.
It took 30 strokes to get a 28mm tyre up to 90psi with the Air Tool Sport, compared to 29 with my old faithful SKS Rennkompressor. There are faster track pumps out there, but they tend to have other problems, like difficulty getting to high pressures for light users or mechanical complexity. Zefal used to make a floor pump, the Double Shot, that pushed air into your tyres on both the up and down strokes. It got tyres – even fat tyres – up to pressure in a dozen strokes, but its fiendishly clever concentric shafts and all-plastic construction made it more than a little fragile.
The Air Tool Sport doesn't feel fragile at all and I got a tyre to the maximum 160psi fairly easily, though the last couple of strokes did need quite a bit of oomph with most of my 95kg behind it to shove the air in. If you want to pair the Air Tool Sport with a separate tank to blow tubeless tyres into place it'll do the job, but there will be tubeless tyre and rim combinations where it won't work on its own.
Getting that 28mm tyre up to 90psi was easy for me, but my partner's 55kg daughter struggled. This is a perennial problem with floor pumps. Petite or svelte riders just don't have the mass to shove the plunger all the way down at higher pressures. Switchable pumps like the Ravx Dual Phase or Bontrager Dual Charger can help, and light riders would be better off with a pump like that than with the Air Tool Sport.
There are three places a floor pump maker can put the gauge: right at the top of the shaft; by the foot; and somewhere in the middle. Specialized has put the gauge down low where it won't get damaged if the pump falls over, but the downside is that it's not as easy to read when it's all the way down there. A movable arrow on the outside of the dial provides a more-visible indicator of your desired pressure.
Nicely executed as the SwitchHitter II chuck is, its plastic construction is a slight cause for concern. A recent user report on Specialized's own website mentions the head coming away from the hose at high pressure, though I had no such problem. The body of the chuck is attached to the hose with a plastic nut and while it's all acceptably thick and dense, I'd really like to see more pump makers offering a metal smart chuck for improved longevity and general robustness. Topeak has one on the Joe Blow Ace Dx, but that's a £140 pump.
Browse any of the big online retailers and you quickly realise you're spoiled for choice when it comes to mid-range floor pumps. For about the same money as the Air Tool Sport, the Crank Brothers Gem quickly inflates fat tyres too, while the slightly pricier Bontrager Dual Charger boasts a bigger gauge as well.
Compared with those pumps, the Air Tool Sport has a nice, solid feel, even though it lacks some features. If you want an unfussy pump that just gets on with the job, it's well worth a look.
Solid, easy-to-use pump that does the job without being especially exciting
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Specialized Air Tool Sport SwitchHitter II Floor Pump
Size tested: One
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?
It's a floor pump, for everyone who needs to get air into high pressure tyres.
"This economical, all-metal Air Tool Sport SwitchHitter II Floor Pump comes with all of the essentials for easy inflation and an accurate reading."
Can't argue with most of that, but "all-metal" is a stretch. There are plastic components holding the shaft to the base, conveying the air under the base and holding the hose in place.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
2" (50mm) oversized gauge is easy to read with excellent accuracy.
New ergonomic Wing handle.
All-steel construction on base and barrel.
42" (110cm) hose length makes the pump easy to use.
Auto selecting SwitchHitter II technology.
Max pressure: 160 PSI (11bar)
Everything is tidily finished and feels solid.
Gets your tyres to pressure with acceptable speed, and the SwitchHitter II chuck is very easy to use.
There's too much plastic here to expect it to survive being kicked around a professional workshop the way an SKS Rennkompressor does, but for a home user it's plenty robust enough.
The Wing handle is really rather nice.
The construction quality and smart chuck are pretty much exactly what you'd expect for £37, so it's neither unusually expensive nor unusually cheap.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
It works well. Air goes in your tyres, and the two main features, the Switchhitter II chuck and that shaped handle, do their jobs really well.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Faff-free Switchhitter II chuck means I can inflate the Schrader and Presta-equipped bikes in my family's fleet without hassle.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
A bigger gauge would be nice, but that's nit-picking.
How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?
For the features on offer, and particularly the well-executed and very effective smart chuck, the price is right in the ballpark. It's a bit pricier than the Fabric Stratosphere, but it's more solidly constructed, and it's cheaper than the Crankbrothers Gem, compared to which it lacks the dual-action feature but has a tidier smart chuck.
Did you enjoy using the product? Insofar as pumping up tyres is ever something to get excited about, yes.
Would you consider buying the product? Yes
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes
Use this box to explain your overall score
This is a good floor pump, hence the score of 7/10. It's not shiny and exciting and it doesn't have any fun gimmicks like a bleed valve or a digital display, but it inflates tyres easily and is overall simply nice to use. It's a proper reliable tradesman of a floor pump.
About the tester
I usually ride: Scapin Style My best bike is:
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: commuting, touring, club rides, general fitness riding, mountain biking
Acknowledged by the Telegraph as a leading cycling journalist, John Stevenson has been writing about bikes and cycling for over 30 years since discovering that people were mug enough to pay him for it rather than expecting him to do an honest day's work.
He was heavily involved in the mountain bike boom of the late 1980s as a racer, team manager and race promoter, and that led to writing for Mountain Biking UK magazine shortly after its inception. He got the gig by phoning up the editor and telling him the magazine was rubbish and he could do better. Rather than telling him to get lost, MBUK editor Tym Manley called John’s bluff and the rest is history.
Since then he has worked on MTB Pro magazine and was editor of Maximum Mountain Bike and Australian Mountain Bike magazines, before switching to the web in 2000 to work for CyclingNews.com. Along with road.cc editor Tony Farelly, John was on the launch team for BikeRadar.com and subsequently became editor in chief of Future Publishing’s group of cycling magazines and websites, including Cycling Plus, MBUK, What Mountain Bike and Procycling.
John has also written for Cyclist magazine, edited the BikeMagic website and was founding editor of TotalWomensCycling.com before handing over to someone far more representative of the site's main audience.
He joined road.cc in 2013 and these days he lives in Cambridge where the lack of hills is more than made up for by the headwinds.