Getting your suspension set up properly is vital to getting the most from your bike's performance potential. One vital step in that is getting a correct sag figure. For most modern mountain bike shocks, that means adjusting the air pressure inside the spring – and to do that you'll need a shock pump. Compared with a normal tyre pump, most shock pumps are designed to reach up to 300psi without straining a muscle or busting a seal.
Shock pumps are something traditionally given for free with the purchase of a full-suspension mountain bike or aftermarket suspension product. However, we’ve recently seen a trend for bikes to no longer include them and so thought it was time to find out which is best.
Components of a shock pump
This is one of the more important elements of a shock pump, as you’ll need to know what pressure you’re putting in, in order to set yourself a baseline for adjustment. Of course, it's vital that you use the sag measurement – how far the suspension compresses with just your bodyweight on the bike – to set up your shocks initially, but knowing how much air you need to get there makes the whole process much more repeatable.
It’s here that small gauges fall short, because they can be hard to read and the general size of the needle and print can cause an error in desired pressure. “There will always be some variability in how the gauge is read from person to person," Kappius Components' president Brady Kappius tells us. "And for this, a digital gauge increases the precision.”
It’s commonly said that the gauges on shock pumps only offer accuracy to within 3-5%, and so for repeatable results it's best to use the same shock pump each time.
To learn more about the issues with gauge accuracy and precision, we consult Josh Poertner, the CEO of pump manufacturer Silca.
“There is a very non-linear relationship between accuracy, precision, and cost," he explains. "Accuracy and precision are different.
"I analogize it to throwing darts: accuracy is how close you are to the bullseye, so for a gauge, how close is 100psi to 100psi? Precision is how repeatable your darts are. If you are always hitting the 20 but you can tightly cluster your darts you are inaccurate, but precise. Similarly, if you hit left of bullseye, bullseye and right of bullseye, your average accuracy would be good, but your precision would be bad."
To counter such issues, Poertner suggests that whatever you choose to buy, you should treat it as a reference. "If it's a shock pump, keep one in a box and use that one every time to set pressure," he says. "Use a different shock pump on the trail if you carry one along. Remember, all gauges, including digital, are subject to damage from shock, vibration and moisture, so keep your reference protected, clean, dry, and so on.”
Without a body, the pump wouldn’t exist. With this, look for a pump that offers a comfortable hold and a durable material. Aluminium is a popular choice here for weight, strength and corrosion resistance.
With such high pressures, you’ll want a comfortable handle. Some pumps feature a fold out handle, others offer little to grasp onto.
Just about every shock pump will feature a flexible high-pressure hose. That said, some frames feature tighter clearance than others and so a longer hose can come in handy.
All shock pumps tested here use a Schrader valve (car valve). One common argument is whether air is released from the suspension when the pump is disconnected, or if its just air escaping from the pump. Such pumps as those from Birzman, Syncros, Topeak and DT Swiss offer special ‘no loss’ valves, while the others claim to offer no air loss without the obvious feature.
A bleed valve is important for fine-tuning your suspension if there’s too much air. Most pumps here feature a basic button that lets you release bursts of air, while the Syncros takes a different approach. Placement of the bleed valve can be a nuisance, with some pumps suffering from accidental release.
How we tested
Below we review 11 pumps to see what the options are out there. Keep in mind that many of these pumps come out of the same factory, and so many share damning similarities – as apparent by the key measurements at bottom.
Each pump was assessed on its general usability, comfort and build quality. Additionally, we recruited Brady Kappius to custom-build a high-accuracy inline gauge to ensure repeatable results in our testing. With this, our benchmark digital gauge offers 1% verified accuracy.
A custom inline gauge let us accurately test all pumps to the same standards
With our inline gauge, we inflated the same Fox rear shock (from fully compressed) to 160psi. We measured how many strokes the pump took to reach this pressure. Additionally, we compared the pressure read-out a number of times on each pump to that of our verified gauge. Due to the analogue gauges offering some discrepancy on how these can be read, we have included photos of each.
All but one of the pumps tested is rated to a maximum of 300psi (20 bar).
Syncros SP1.0 Digital shock pump
The most expensive here, the SP1.0 is also the best on test. The digital gauge is accurate, and its angled design provides for a comfortable hold.
The pump’s head borrows a similar pin-drive mechanism to that of the Topeak DXG (see below), and so threading onto the valve and releasing the pressure pin is done in two stages.
Bleeding pressure was also the best of the bunch, with a knob that can be opened exactly how you wish. The whole pump is fairly compact, although it’s not light to ride with.
Price: £70 / $110 / AU$150
RockShox High Pressure Digital shock pump
Identical in design to the new digital pump from Fox, this model ticks all the boxes for anyone seeking a little more precision in their suspension setup.
The gauge proved to be equal to the Syncros, but an otherwise simpler and more familiar construction brings the price down.
Given the Fox digital pump is the same, we recommend picking the one with the logo you like best. And finishing on the best news, the batteries are replaceable (unlike the old Fox digital pump).
Price: £50 / $70 / AU$120
Birzman Zacoo Macht shock pump
Built as the smaller and travel-friendly sibling to Birzman's Zacoo Salut, the Macht shares similar features. At just 84g, it’s the lightest on test – something that became an obvious trade-off when inflating shocks from scratch. At 70mm, the hose length is the shortest on test, so reach to some rear shocks may be a fiddle.
The minimal 1in gauge is surprisingly accurate, and the countersunk bleed button behind it is a nice addition for such a compact pump.
We can’t recommend this one for workshop use, but it’s a great travel and ride option.
Price: £35 / $50 / AU$75
Topeak PocketShock DXG
Lighter and with more features than the more generic options, the Topeak PocketShock DXG is clearly different. In a feature perhaps copied by Syncros, the Topeak uses a ‘Pressure-Rite' connector for separate valve attachment and needle engagement.
At a portable 176g and with an easily read gauge that sits close to absolutely accuracy, the PocketShock DXG is our first choice dial-gauge shock pump on test. Our only major gripe is with the placement of the bleed valve, which can be accidentallly used.
Price: £28 / $46 / AU$70
Lezyne Shock Drive
With a shiny alloy construction, the Lezyne Shock Drive has been built as an incredibly compact and lightweight travel/ride shock pump. Most impressive is its efficient inflation; although its inline gauge can be hard to get an accurate read from, so we prefer the traditional dial gauge of the Birzman.
At 92g, it’s only marginally heavier than the Birzman Zacoo Macht. The build quality and design thought of this pump is undeniable, right down to the hose that threads back into the handle to seal the pump when not in use.
Price: £28 / $55 / AU$60
RockShox High Pressure 600psi
Built for servicing the internals of RockShox rear shocks and inflating newest Boxxer forks, this pump literally offers double the maximum pressure of all others tested here. With such a high max, we found it surprisingly good at lower pressures too; although double the numbers in the same gauge space does inevitably mean a loss of accuracy.
It obviously serves a purpose for those working with specific needs, though its 340mm folded length makes it one best left in the workshop.
Price: £35 / $50 / AU$75
Topeak Shock ‘n Roll
The only dual-purpose shock and tyre pump on test, the Shock ‘n Roll is no doubt a unique item. Twisting between the two-labelled settings is simple, although the Presta-Schrader valve is less intuitive.
At 284g and 250mm long, it’s an impressive combination of two pumps, especially given so many mini tyre pumps do without a gauge. If you want both pumps in one, this is simply your one and only good choice. It’s also the only pump on test to include an under bottle-cage mount – in case you’re keen to get it covered in mud.
That said, most other shock pumps are more comfortable to use at pressure, and there are more efficient standalone tyre mini pumps out there for a whole lot less money if you don’t need the shock feature.
Price: £60 / $90 / AU$120
RockShox High Pressure 300psi shock pump
Just a newer, slightly revised version of the older pumps, this RockShox High Pressure is a safe choice if you’re seeking basic features. It proved efficient in inflation, closely accurate and simple to use.
There’s little doubt this one shares its design with other branded options, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing assuming you can find it for the right price.
Price: £27 / $40 / AU$60
Birzman Zacoo Salut shock pump
The polished alloy construction makes this one of the nicest looking pumps on test. A large gauge is easily read, and proved close to accurate.
A special zero loss head is easily used, and the countersunk bleed valve is there to avoid accidental use. Following the digital pumps, this was closely sitting next to the Topeak PocketShock DXG as our choice, but our sample then developed a sticky valve head that didn’t freely rotate. It's an issue that Birzman would cover under warranty, but we didn't experience the same problem with the others.
Price: £40 / $65 / AU$89
DT Swiss shock pump
From a distance, this pump may look generic, but it offers a handful of features to differentiate it. With this, the rubber-padded gauge is removable with a simple twist, dropping the 218g pump to a more portable and slimmer 154g.
Additionally, the head features an ‘Anti Air-Loss Coupler’, although we struggled to get this to work reliably.
With such features, it appears ideal for both workshop and travel use. However, we prefer a travel pump with a gauge, and in this format this one is just average.
Price: £40 / $50 / AU$55
Fox shock pump (old)
This is a true classic – and one many riders will be familiar with. We threw one into the test out of curiosity, and found it’s age has led to gauge accuracy drift – something that falls inline with what Josh Poertner suggests happens over time.
Otherwise, it continues to pump as it should and many of its features remain unchanged in the latest offerings.
Price: £17 / $25 / AU$34
Strokes to 160psi
Gauge pressure (at 160psi actual)
Syncros SP1.0 Digital
£70 / $110 / AU$150
RockShox High Pressure Digital
£50 / $70 / AU$120
Birzman Zacoo Macht
£35 / $50 / AU$75
Topeak PocketShock DXG
£28 / $46 / AU$70
Lezyne Shock Drive
£28 / $55 / AU$60
RockShox High Pressure 600psi
£35 / $50 / AU$75
Topeak Shock n’ Roll
£60 / $90 / AU$120
RockShox High Pressure 300psi
£27 / $40 / AU$60
Birzman Zacoo Salut
£40 / $65 / AU$89
£40 / $50 / AU$55
218g (154g w/o gauge)
FOX standard (old)
£17 / $25/ AU$34
For the most accurate inflation of your suspension, narrow your choice to the digital offerings. Our favourite is the Syncros SP1.0, although it’s also the most expensive. With this in mind, the RockShox Digital or Fox Digital are sensible purchases.
If you’re after a pump to leave within your riding pack, you should probably be looking at either the Lezyne Shock Drive or Birzman Zacoo Macht. We prefer the Birzman due its more accurate gauge, but the better-sealed Lezyne is superior for setting pressure from scratch.
And if you’re just seeking a general shock pump to get a close suspension setup, then our testing has shown it’s hard to go wrong with the generic-looking standard pumps from any of the big brands – they are much of a muchness. If you forced us to pick one though, the Topeak Pocket Shock DXG works exactly as it should.