The Blackburn Core CO2'Fer Mini Pump makes inflating wide tyres on endurance, 'allroad', cyclo-cross and gravel bikes as easy as it gets, with the bonus of a very neatly integrated CO2 inflator that is handy when you're in a serious rush to get back on the move. It's a really nice pump to use, and though a little pricey it's a great investment.
Take it from me, you really shouldn't skimp on a decent pump. Being stranded by the side of the road flailing away with a pathetically incapable pump isn't something you want to experience. Trust me, I've been there. Many times. The Core pump is nothing like that experience – it's very nice to use and inflates a tyre reliably with no fuss or drama.
The Core is a solidly made mini-pump with its USP being a CO2 inflator integrated into the head. It is simple to use either manually or with a canister attached and saves having to remember to carry a CO2 nozzle in your saddle pack.
To use the pump, you extend the head to reveal a short flexible hose, remove the CO2 head, and use the knurled nut to lock onto a Presta valve, then pump away. That short section of hose might seem insignificant, but it reduces any risk of damaging the valve and gives you more freedom to pump as frantically as you can manage. It makes pumping the tyre up very easy.
Blackburn bills the Core as a 'mid-size barrel diameter' designed for mountain bike, cyclo-cross and gravel bikes. It might not be the first choice for a skinny road tyre, but with road bikes regularly breaching 30mm width tyres, it's not totally out of its depth when faced with a slick tyre. I've been using it for road and gravel rides where having one pump is easier than different dedicated ones.
Blackburn says it's rated up to 120psi, though you might be there for some time. For a 44mm 700C gravel tyre it took 150 strokes to get up to 30psi, which is fine, but progress was slower on a 28mm wide road tyre: 200 stokes only got me to 40psi, and 400 to 80psi, by which point you might get bored. That's the reality of small pumps.
While it does take a while to inflate a narrower tyre, the pump action is consistently light, making it an easy task with no heat or pressure build-up. You don't need strong arms to reach high pressures with this pump – good news for those of us not endowed with massive biceps.
If you can't be done with the faff of manual pumping, you can call on the integrated CO2 inflator. Instead of carrying around a separate CO2 inflator (the nozzle that attaches to the canister), you simply twist the head off the pump and it screws directly onto a canister. It's that simple. You can regulate the flow of gas as you need as well, and save any remainder for the rest of the ride.
Another neat detail is the one that gives the pump its name: a valve core remover is hidden in the removable end cap on the bottom of the pump. That's a bonus for tubeless tyres, where sometimes removing the valve core is needed for adding sealant or initial tyre installation.
What's not so good if you're a Schrader kind of person is that the Core is only compatible with Presta valves, so you'll need to think about using an adapter. The only Schraders I use are on my car.
At 22cm long, the Core slips neatly into a jersey pocket or you can use the supplied frame mount. It fits under the bottle cage and holds a CO2 canister on one side, the pump on the other. The mount is curved, it doesn't fit so flush on flatter tube profiles. You get a single 16g cartridge included so you might want to buy a couple of spares – just make sure they are the threaded type.
The pump is nice to use with good ergonomics and feels solid in use. It doesn't bend and flex at all, like some cheaper pumps can. It feels high quality, made with good materials, and the design and attention to detail is first class. The flexible hose means you can be as vigorous as you like with the pump, there's no risk of damaging the valve.
There are probably better options if you just want to inflate high-pressure road tyres, but if you want one pump for use across road and gravel disciplines, that's reliable, with the option of whacking on a CO2 canister, the Core is highly recommended.
At £37 retail, it's on the pricey side, but you are getting a CO2 inflator and 16g canister, which makes the price easier to swallow. That said, the Bontrager Air Rush CO2 is £24.99, and also comes with two 16g canisters.
The Birzman Infinite Apogee Road with CO2 is the same price as the Blackburn and includes a pair of gas canisters, but it's a bit long for jersey pocket storage and the Snap-It Apogee head isn't quite as satisfactory to use.
If having a pump that's compatible with Schrader valves is more important than having an integrated CO2 inflator, the Topeak RaceRocket HP is worth a look: it's £32.99 and works well.
The Blackburn offers easy inflation and a super-neat integrated CO2 inflator, and despite the reasonably high price it's a very good choice if you're on the hunt for a new pump this year. It's hard to fault.
Easy to use, reliable pump with integrated CO2
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Blackburn Core CO2'Fer Mini Pump
Size tested: Max 120psi
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?
Blackburn says: "The Core CO2'Fer is an excellent stand-alone mini-pump that adds the versatility of an integrated CO2 inflator and the peace of mind of a Presta valve tool, ensuring nothing goes wrong when all you need is an inflated tire. A remote inflation hose takes unwanted stress off the tire valve."
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Weight 159 grams
INCLUDES 16G CO2 CARTRIDGE
COMPATIBLE WITH MOST THREADED CARTRIDGES
INCLUDES RUBBER STRAP TO SECURE CO2 TO PUMP
RATED TO 120 PSI/8.3 BAR MAX
Very solidly made, doesn't bend and twist under even the most vigorous pumping.
The light action and smooth stroke mean it's a pleasant pumping experience.
Over several months, durability looks to be excellent.
It's about as comfortable as it gets with such a small pump.
It may seem pricey, but when you factor in the excellent performance and the integrated CO2, it's not so bad. It costs the same as the Birzman Infinite Apogee Road with CO2, and is a little more than the Topeak RaceRocket HP, though that doesn't come with a CO2 inflator or cartridges. It is £10 more than the Bontrager Air Rush CO2, though.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
It gets tyres inflated nicely. Better suited to wider tyres, though.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
It's nice and easy to use.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Takes a while to get a road tyre inflated to a decent pressure.
Did you enjoy using the product? 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
I'm struggling to find fault with this pump: it offers great performance with a neatly integrated CO2 canister, is reliable and durable, and makes inflating tyres as painless as it gets with a mini pump. It's a little expensive, perhaps, but otherwise excellent.
About the tester
I usually ride: My best bike is:
I've been riding for: 10-20 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: road racing, time trialling, cyclo cross, commuting, touring, mtb,
David has worked on the road.cc tech team since July 2012. Previously he was editor of Bikemagic.com and before that staff writer at RCUK. He's a seasoned cyclist of all disciplines, from road to mountain biking, touring to cyclo-cross, he only wishes he had time to ride them all. He's mildly competitive, though he'll never admit it, and is a frequent road racer but is too lazy to do really well. He currently resides in the Cotswolds.