A portable air inflator as an Editors’ Choice item? Is this your idea of an April Fool’s joke or something?
No. This is for real. I love this tool.
Those already in-the-know about portable inflators might be like, “duh, dude!” This review is not for y’all. It’s for everyone who’s thinking, “WTF is this guy talking about?”
Also, I am not an expert on portable air inflators—this is the first and only one I’ve ever owned—so I’m not going to be doing any performance comparisons or anything like that. This is more of a public service announcement. Here it is: If you are a rider of bikes, you need one of these gadgets.
I’m not sure why I didn’t glom onto the concept of the cordless inflator the first time I saw a fellow mechanic using one in the pits of an XC World Cup back in 2007. Perhaps it’s because back then there were hardly any available and they actually were a bit of a joke. But cordless tool tech has come a very long way in recent years. They’re making everything cordless now. Dewalt has a forced air propane heater on its cordless system, Milwaukee has a flippin’ drill press on theirs, and not to be outdone, Makita has an 18v coffee machine.
Personally, I’m invested in the Makita LXT 18v system (next purchase, coffee machine!) so I went with the Makita inflator, model DMP180. Since this one came out, they’ve added two more. One is a bigger, beefier version of this one, also on the 18v platform, and the other is on Makita’s new 40v XGT platform. But I’m perfectly happy with this one because it’s strong enough for all my bike (and moto) needs, and it’s little enough to bring anywhere.
Which is one of the biggest reasons for it totally replacing floor pumps for me. Seriously, if anyone needs a floor pump, hit me up. I have a shitload of them and I will never touch one ever again.
But you’ll have to show up at my house to pick it up, because floor pumps are a stupid pain in the ass to ship. They’re also a pain to travel with. And even to just have around. I feel like I’m constantly tripping over a floor pump in the shop, or trying to find a good place to store it.
This little guy goes right in the top drawer of my toolbox next to my cordless drills. When I go for a ride, I just grab this little guy, throw it in my ride bag, and I’m all set. I can throw it my bike bag when I travel as well. You know, I think I’ll actually get a second one, just for my ride bag. Hang on a sec while I get on Amazon …
So, yea, floor pumps are no longer allowed in my shop. Except the Lezyne Shock Digital Drive shock floor pump. That thing rules. But, its days are numbered. As soon as they make one of these inflators that can go to 300psi, it’s going right onto eBay.
This inflator goes up to 120psi, which I do actually get close to because I use it to air up suspension forks. See, the Lezyne floor shock pump is already halfway out the door. And forget about traditional shock pumps. I mean, I still have one, but it’s basically relegated to my ride bag at this point.
I even use the inflator to top my tires up in the shop, where I have a really nice air compressor that might even be more accessible. The digital pressure gauge on the inflator is accurate and has a .5psi resolution. It’s easier to read and more accurate than the gauge I currently have on my compressor inflator tool, so I actually prefer using it for setting tire pressure.
It also has a feature where you can set the pressure, hold down the trigger, and it’ll stop pumping at that pressure. But in reality it doesn’t work that well because Presta valves suck. Especially ones clogged with sealant. If the inflator is too fast for the valve, pressure will build up in the hose and give a falsely high reading, which will cause the inflator to stop short of the desired pressure. Reserve’s valves flow much better and will allow you to use this feature. But I don’t really need it anyway. I’m happy to just pay attention for the seconds it takes to get to the pressure I want. Also, the tool does not have a switch lock, so you can’t walk away from it anyway.
Other manufacturer’s inflators do have switch locks, but that’s also not a feature I require for my general use. I have used it to top off car and truck tires before, but that’s not my main use. This is also why I’m not really tempted to “upgrade” to the bigger DMP181.
Although, that one does have a pressure release valve which can come in handy. And, it has three speed settings, so for Presta valves, you could potentially put it on the lowest speed and actually use the automatic stop feature. Maybe at the lowest speed, pressure wouldn’t build up in the line. But it’s bigger, making it slightly less portable.
Speaking of speed, I have had success installing tubeless tires with this tool, but that’s only because most tires and rims fit together well enough these days that floor pumps also work on lots of setups. If this were 2007, there’s no way in hell it’d work.
And this brings me to my final point. An inflator like this definitely does not replace an air compressor. The compressor is an essential tool that gets used for much more than inflating things in my shop. And while the inflator can install a tubeless tire, I’d only use it for that purpose if I had to. Basically this tool is a digital floor pump. It has the same capabilities, except it’s more convenient in every single way. It’s even more convenient now that I replaced the generic head with a Specialized Smarthead—the one and only part on my floor pump that’s not useless to me at this point.
Now, who’s coming over to take all these floor pumps off my hands? I have a couple “really nice” Silca ones …