First Impressions: Blackburn Core Mini-Pumps

Between tubeless tires and advances in puncture protection, cyclists generally suffer fewer flats these days. Nonetheless, if you ride long or far enough, you’re bound to experience a puncture eventually. While some riders favor CO2 cartridges for their compactness and convenience, there’s always the risk that you’ll run out of cartridges. Pumps, on the other hand, can be used over and over, which is must if you ride in remote areas (or have a tendency to forget to replace spent cartridges).

As with many bicycle accessories, choosing the right pump can be an overwhelming experience. Ultimately it really boils down to two criteria: valve type and volume/pressure. Aside from valve compatibility, the biggest decision is usually whether to go with high volume or high pressure. Thankfully, Blackburn Design’s new Core mini-pumps come in two versions; one for high pressure (Core Slim), and one for higher-volume tires (Core). Both pumps feature aluminum construction, rebuildable internals, and sturdy cage/frame-mounted brackets.

GRAVELBIKE gravel grinder blackburn mini pump tubeless
Whether you need high volume or high pressure, there’s a Blackburn Core mini-pump for you.

Designed solely for use with Presta valves, Blackburn’s Core pumps feature flexible, pull-out hoses. Unlike integrated press-on connectors, the hoses’ flex helps reduce stress on the valves, which greatly reduces the likelihood of damage (or worse, failure). Using thread-on connectors is nothing new, however, but Blackburn has gone to extra effort to insure that their air chuck doesn’t accidentally unscrew the core when removing the pump. While I wasn’t privy to the exact details of Blackburn’s design, I’m happy to report that I didn’t experience any unwanted valve removal during my testing. And in the unlikely event that a valve does become loose, it can be tightened with Blackburn’s included Presta core tool.

Core Core Slim
Weight (w/bracket) 153 grams 133 grams
Length (closed) 245 mm 229 mm
Strokes* 162 397
MSRP (USD) $39.99 $34.95

*Number of strokes needed to inflate 650B x 47 tire to 30 psi.

I tested each pump with tires ranging in width from 32 mm to 76 mm. To measure the Blackburn pumps’ efficiency I utilized Quarq’s Tirewiz sensors, choosing a 650B x 47 tire as my baseline (size). The tire was inflated to 30 psi, with the number of required strokes recorded. I repeated this ten times, averaging the results. Looking at the numbers, it’s pretty clear that the high-pressure Slim model moves far less air per-stroke than the Core pump. Even on narrower (32 mm) tires, though, I never found that the higher-volume Core pump required excessive effort to inflate the lower-volume tires to 60-70 psi.

To get a feel for the Cores’ reliability, I used them daily in place of my regular floor pump. It’s too soon to report on long-term durability, but Blackburn’s pumps are well known for their longevity and ability to be rebuilt. I, personally, have several Blackburn mini-pumps that have been in use for over a decade, so I expect the Core minis to offer many years of trouble-free service. And with their limited, lifetime warranty, you’re good hands if something does go wrong.

Disclosure: Blackburn Design provided review samples for this article, but offered no other form of compensation in exchange for editorial coverage.