I've used countless pumps over the years: tippy ones, too-short ones, a few that wouldn't quite stay on the valve and at least one that threaded on and then unthreaded the valve core with it. I tried a handful that turned out to be poor air compressors packaged as equally poor pumps, and one or two that were all metal, cost hundreds of dollars and posited themselves as "heirloom" tools. But this is the only one I'd consider passing down to my unrealized progeny.

The Air Tool MTB is a reminder that simple, purposeful tools usually outperform those compromised by versatility. Specialized made this pump for airing up mountain bike tires. That's what it does. Instead of a spindly chamber that hiccups air at a high pressure, the Air Tool has a cavernous tube that exhales a large volume at a low pressure. Sure, I've used it to inflate road and commuter tires, but that's not the point, as emphasized by the 3" pressure gauge that tops out at 70.

The point is to fill mountain bike tires in a hurry. Each stroke with the comfortably shaped handle pushes 508 cubic centimeters of air, which will have your tires standing at attention in a jiff. The Air Tool's volume is often sufficient for seating tubeless setups, but I will concede that sometimes a blast of compressed air is just what the doctor ordered.

Using the Air Tool is simple as can be. There's no need to futz with gaskets when you're going from MTB to BMX to townie to kids' bikes, since the Switch Hitter head works automatically on Presta or Schrader. The large base keeps the pump upright, and Specialized added griptape to keep you upright. If you add too much air, the bleed valve embedded in the handle will let you fine tune in concert with the gauge's 1-PSI increments. I'm not sure how accurate the gauge is, but these things are all relative; actual pressure doesn't matter so long as you know what pressure is right on your pump.

I do wish the Air Tool was taller, especially after using Blackburn's Chamber HV, but I'm lankier than most. Aside from height, the Chamber HV is similar to the Air Tool: It pushes a large volume of air, and has a big ol' gauge. You can even swap the handle for a 31.8 handlebar. That's nifty, but the Blackburn's head doesn't automatically work on either valve type, and the bleed button is inconveniently located way down on the head.

I suspect the Air Tool's low-pressure design is to thank for the longevity of its internals. Despite more than 5 years of frequent use and some outdoor storage, the only issue I've encountered is nothing more than a minor annoyance—the grabber that keeps the end of the hose from swinging around has broken. The base has accumulated a patina where the paint has chipped away, the Air Tool's lone wrinkle. It doesn't show age anywhere else: no wobbles, stickiness or worn-out rubber bits. But I'm a realist. Those gaskets and O-rings will meet their maker someday, and when that day comes, I hope that Specialized will have a rebuild kit for me. Perhaps I'll stock up now. Who says an $80 pump can't be an heirloom tool?


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