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Blackburn Pumps Reviews

Blackburn Airtower 2 Pump Review

November 19, 2018

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Blackburn Airtower 2 Pump Review

Blackburn Airtower 2
4

Summary

The discontinued Airtower 2 provides a great combination of competitive pricing, ease of use, stability, and inflation speed, if you find a perhaps discounted NOS (new-old stock) model available via popular online retailers. At this cost, though, expect a couple of sacrifices when it comes to handle comfort and hose length.

  • Comfort
  • Ease of Use
  • Price
  • Stability
  • Inflation Speed
  • Gauge Accuracy

Pros

  • Competitive price
  • Great firsthand experience
  • Mostly positive online customer feedback
  • Good quality, volume per stroke, and stability
  • AnyValve head works with Presta and Schrader, without requiring disassembly/reassembly
  • Comes from a reputable manufacturer

Cons

  • Discontinued, but still available from many online retailers (as of this writing)
  • Plastic handle leaves something to be desired from a comfort perspective, especially after reaching higher PSI
  • The gauge is inaccurate
  • The hose could be longer
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User Review
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In this review, we’ll take an in-depth look at the popular Blackburn Airtower 2 track pump, including our extensive firsthand experience and online customer feedback.

Updated March 23, 2018


About the Blackburn Airtower 2

Last redesigned in 2016, the Blackburn Airtower 2 floor pump is a popular model, both online and in many bike shops. This is often due to its user-friendly design built for mountain and road bikes, durable steel barrel, easy-to-read gauge, and a super stiff, fiberglass-reinforced nylon base.

It also comes with the company’s AnyValve Head, which promises to fit Presta, Schrader, or Dunlop valves, without requiring users to switch parts. Just attach it to the valve, flip the extended thumb lever, and start using the handle to pump air.

And with its special design, Blackburn tells us that the Airtower 2 is “designed to push more air per stroke,” and helps you save “energy that you might need for riding.”

With many essential features and a competitive cost, this track pump certainly seems to deliver a lot of value for the money. We tested the Airtower 2 extensively over the course of more than a year to find out if it lives up to the manufacturer’s advertising claims.

Taking a Closer Look at the Airtower 2’s Pricing & Specifications

Quick Facts
ManufacturerBlackburn
ModelAirtower 2
CategoryFloor/Track Pump
Dimensions28” x 14” x 7”
Weight 2.6 lbs (2.4 lbs on home scale)
Hose Length37”
Volume Per Stroke315 cm3
Third-Party Pricing$32 – $40
Max Pressure 160 PSI (11 bar)

Pump Construction

On the outside, the Airtower 2 features a steel barrel, which is available in White, Burgundy, and Silver colors. This sits atop a polypropylene-constructed base that Blackburn advertises delivers maximum stiffness and stability, as well as 315 cubic centimeters of air per stroke.

With its plastic t-handle and 315 cubic centimeter volume-per-stroke, the Airtower 2 remains a popular bare-bones bike pump model, even though Blackburn discontinued it in October 2018.

Integrated into the front of this base is a three-inch gauge with an impact resistant diaphragm that reads up to 160 PSI (11 bar). A plastic t-handle controls pumping.

Here, we can see the Airtower 2’s 37”-long hose and its wide base that promises to deliver stability.

Hose & Head

The Airtower 2’s hose is 37” long, at the end of which is Blackburn’s 2.5”-wide AnyValve pump head. Its proprietary design promises to “detect between Presta, Schrader, and Dunlop valves” and feature “standard and overdrive lock modes” that are “designed to work with valve clearance as low as 15mm.”

Blackburn’s AnyValve head is also available on models other than the Airtower 2, which delivers quick and easy adjustment depending on your valve type.

When finished, the hose goes over the handle and locks into place using a notch placed on the barrel just below the t-handle.

Side picture of Blackburn Airtower 2 showing hose locked into place over t-handle
The Blackburn Airtower 2 at rest, with its hose locked into place over the t-handle.

Airtower 2 Pricing

The Airtower 2 comes with a $39.99 MSRP, although we found third-party pricing tended to fall between $32 and $40 at the time of our research.

Despite its competitive price, the Airtower 2 is fully rebuildable, with spare parts (hoses, AnyValve heads, rebuild kits) priced between $4 and $8.

How well does it work in the real world?

My Long-Term Experience With the Blackburn Airtower 2 Pump

I picked up an Airtower 2 from a local shop during the summer of 2017, and have used it multiple times per week among our family’s half-dozen stable of bikes since.

For the most part, this involves Presta valves, although we frequently use it on children’s bikes outfitted with Schrader valves. I like the fact that you don’t have to flip parts to switch between valve types. And despite its lower price point, I’ve yet to encounter any functional problems.

This certainly doesn’t mean the floor pump is perfect, though. Here are my thoughts:

Ease of Use

At 37″, the Airtower 2’s hose provides adequate reach for most applications (perhaps with some repositioning beforehand), although I certainly wouldn’t complain if it were longer.

The 90-degree bend of its AnyValve chuck allows for secure attachment between spokes and with a flick of the locking thumb lever, and I’ve found it creates a reliable seal 99% of the time.

If you’re not careful, though, it’s easy to whack your knuckles when releasing the lever. It also doesn’t feature an air bleed valve.

I found that the proprietary AnyValve head on the Airtower 2 pump provides a solid seal on both Presta and Schrader valves. Credit: Blackburn Design

Comfort During Use

For the most part, the Airtower 2’s 10″-wide handle feels comfortable, although there’s zero ergonomic design to it. It’s simply a cylindrical piece of hard plastic, which can lead to pressure points as you reach higher PSI. (Note: Based on the conditions in which I primarily ride, I typically don’t exceed 80-85 PSI).

Inflation Speed

When pumping, the base feels sturdy, although certainly not as stiff as aluminum or steel.

When inflating a 700 x 32C Continental Grand Prix tire, it typically takes the Airtower 2 about 50 pumps to reach 60 PSI, and about 80 pumps to reach 100 PSI.

Gauge Accuracy

I’ve found that the gauge’s pressure readings aren’t exactly accurate, though. For example, when my Prestflator displays 60 PSI, the AirTower 2 reads 53. At 50 PSI its gauge displays 38, and at 40 PSI it shows 31.

Comparatively, I’ve found the Airtower 2 consistently measures 8-9 PSI lower than actual readings when tested with my Accu-Gage PR160BX.

I think it’s important to keep these factors in mind if you plan on using the Airtower 2’s gauge as your sole means of measuring air pressure.

What’s everyone else saying about their experiences?

Online Third-Party Reviews For the Blackburn Airtower 2

Between 65+ combined reviews on Amazon.com, the Dick’s Sporting Goods website, and MTBR.com, the Airtower 2 pump had an average rating of about three stars as of this writing.

Airtower 2 Compliments

Many seemed to appreciate its competitive price, quick inflation, solid construction, and ease of use. Complaints commonly related to problems attaching the head, primarily associated with Presta valves and gauge inaccuracy.

From a professional perspective, Paul Smith at Bike Radar gave the pump a 4.5-star rating, based on its fairly long hose, accurate gauge, and simplistic functionality. Other than a bit of wobble during pumping caused by the plastic base, he summarized “it’s hard to fault what is otherwise a very good pump at a good price.”

Airtower 2 Complaints

Although she similarly emphasized that the Airtower 2 is for the most part, “easy to use, with a nice stable base, and super durable,” Emily Zell at OutdoorGearLab gave it a lower rating of 3 stars due to its “unreliable seal.”

Blackburn Airtower 2 vs. Piston Floor Pump

Based on what we learned from the Blackburn website, the Airtower lineup was discontinued in October 2018 and replaced with the Piston 1, 2, 3, and 4. Are there any meaningful differences?

Similarities

It seems they have more in common than otherwise, including a cylindrical plastic handle, welded steel barrel and base, 3” gauge, AnyValve head (the newest version), 315 cm3 volume per stroke, and an integrated hose keeper, although it’s located on the handle instead of the top of Airtower 2’s barrel. Both are priced about the same as well.

Differences

Outside of different graphics and color schemes, there are some slight design differences:

 Airtower 2Piston 2
Height28”25.9”
Handle Width10”10.5”
Hose Length37”38”
Blackburn’s Airtower lineup (left) was replaced by the Piston (right), which shares a lot of similarities. However, the Piston is a couple of inches shorter, features a 1” longer hose, and a ½-inch wide plastic handle. Credit: Blackburn Design

Should You Buy the Blackburn Airtower 2 Bike Pump?

The bottom line is that the Airtower 2 is no longer manufactured, although the Piston 2 comes with many of the same features and a similar MSRP. But, the Piston also comes with higher overall customer feedback on sites like Amazon, Dick’s Sporting Goods, and Competitive Cyclist (to name just a few).

However, we found the Airtower 2 still sold through several popular online retailers at the time of our research—often at a discounted price due to its discontinued status. Which begs the question: If you find one at an unbeatable price, should you pick it up?

Ultimately, we’ll leave that decision up to you. But, after more than a year of regular use, I’ve found it’s a highly reliable pump at an excellent price and comes from a manufacturer with more than four decades in business, not to mention a reputation among cyclists for great gear.

And Blackburn still sells replacement hoses, AnyValve heads, and rebuild kits for the Airtower lineup—a key feature to look for in any pump purchase—so you should be able to keep yours going for a long time.

Just keep in mind that the Airtower 2 might not be ideal if you plan to rely on its gauge as your sole means of measuring air pressure.

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Keep rolling: Bike Pump Buyer’s Guide

Derek is an avid cyclist with more than two decades of experience in the sport, and currently resides in Denver, Colorado. He enjoys all types, including road, MTB, cyclocross/gravel, commuting, and touring. When he's not writing reviews and guides related to bike accessories, parts, and gear for TreadBikely.com, he's riding, talking about cycling, or thinking about bikes he can't afford. #rolloutblissout
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