Review: Topeak Joe Blow Sport Digital Pump

Review: Topeak Joe Blow Sport Digital Pump

The Topeak Joe Blow Sport Digital carries a venerable pump name into the digital age, adding a triple-readout gauge to the iconic design. Whether this is a benefit or a drawback will be in the eye of the beholder, as there are display delays, and the hose isn’t too long either.

The Joe Blow is a legend of a pump – for at least 20 years the black and yellow steel barrels have powered countless cycling adventures. Recently Tony reviewed the Joe Blow III Sport, finding that for £40 it was a near-perfect buy. The Sport Digital adds a digital gauge – everything else is identical to the Sport III.

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The Joe Blow range has no fewer than 22 models in the lineup, the £40 (often cheaper) Sport III being pretty much the lowest offering. At £70 the Sport Digital is quite a premium for digits instead of a needle.

Covering the fundamentals, it’s a steel-bodied, steel-based pump with a 75cm pivoting hose that’s good for valves up to about a metre off the ground – so somewhat limiting for bikes at eye height in a workstand, or on a wall or car rack. The T-head connects to Presta, Schrader and Dunlop valves, with a stiff thumb-switch that really needs two hands to actuate if you don’t want to risk breaking a fragile Presta head. The whole head assembly is available as a spare part for about £9. The head or hose doesn’t feature a bleed valve, so you’re only going up, not down.

As Tony found, the handle is pretty good. It’s nicely curved, with a dual compound that’s pretty grippy if it’s wet, or hot and your hands are slippery.

In terms of inflation, the smooth action of the steel chamber helps get tyres up pretty quickly – a 29er 2.2in tyre got to 25psi in 30 strokes, and a 1.2L Birzman Tubeless tank to 150psi with only 50 strokes; 28mm and other similar sizes were likewise quick to inflate.

The Sport Digital maxes out at 160psi, and indeed pumping gets pretty hard around that point. These days, pressures like that are only going to be for tubeless tanks, and if you really want to go higher you can – but be prepared for a fight.

> How to choose your tyre pressure

The gauge displays in psi, bar and kg/cm2, and also shows battery level which is handy for knowing when to buy another two CR2032 button cells (the specifications say one battery, but trust me, it takes two). Once you get over 100psi, the gauge drops the decimal place. Accuracy is claimed at +/-1psi below 100, or +/-1% above 100. Compared with other pumps and a digital SKS Airchecker gauge, the Sport Digital was bang on.

Really, the only downside to the Sport Digital is the major selling point – the digital gauge itself. When you’re pumping, it only loosely indicates the range you are in. For example, when pumping at around 30psi, the gauge could be bouncing between 25 and 50, and will only settle down after maybe two seconds. Then after three seconds it drops back half a psi, every time.

This delay might not sound like much, but compared to an analogue gauge where your brain can keep track pretty well by averaging out where the needle is pointing, with a digital gauge this is impossible. So you end up stopping a few times to check, instead of heading straight to close-enough as with a needle gauge.

Maybe Topeak could come up with a less sensitive, averaging gauge. Once you understand that every stroke is pretty much bang on 3psi, things get a bit easier to aim for, but for £70 you’d expect an immediately more accurate result that didn’t require stopping to average out and display.

> Buyer’s Guide: 13 of the best track pumps

The price of the Sport Digital is in line with other digital floor pumps, such as the Lezyne Sport Digital Floor Drive. However the Lezyne Macro Floor Drive Digital paints a better value picture – with a longer hose and 220psi capacity for £20 less, it’s a good alternative.

I feel Topeak could do better here. With a longer hose and a more stable gauge, the Sport Digital would be a better, more usable pump. The fundamentals of build quality and spare parts are in Topeak’s favour here, and if you aren’t fussed by an immediately-visible pressure or a not-too-long hose then the Joe Blow Digital Sport is a good pump.

Verdict

It’s a solid pump, let down by a jumpy display and short hose

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Make and model: Topeak Joe Blow Sport Digital Pump

Tell us what the product is for and who it’s aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?

Topeak says: An easy-to-read mid-mounted digital gauge delivers accurate tire pressure readings up to 160psi / 11bar. Hammer type TwinHead® DX5 pump head with an extra-long, tangle-free hose makes it easy to reach valve stems. A durable steel barrel and large steel base with ergonomic padded handle make it easy to get your ride up to pressure fast.’

Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?

Topeak lists:

HEAD Hammer type TwinHead® DX5, Presta / Schrader / Dunlop valves with extra-long 360 pivot hose

BARREL Painted steel

GAUGE 160 psi / 11 bar, Mid mounted flip-down digital (Tolerance : < 100 psi +/- 1 psi / > 100 psi +/- 1%)

UNIT psi, bar, kg / cm2

BATTERY CR2032 x 1 (included)

VOLUME PER STROKE 318 cc

HANDLE Oversize padded / Dual density polymer

BASE Hardened steel

ADDED FEATURES Cushion rubber for digital gauge protection, Auto off, Ball / bladder heads, Hose dock

SIZE 68 x 25.4 x 18 cm / 26.7′ x 10′ x 4.6′

WEIGHT 1.8 kg / 3.97 lb

Rate the product for quality of construction:

10/10

Really solid. Looks good too.

Rate the product for performance:

7/10

Pumping, no problem. Readout, less so.

Rate the product for durability:

10/10

Built like a tank – literally, from thick steel.

Rate the product for comfort (if applicable)

7/10

The handle is OK on the hands.

Rate the product for value:

4/10

Not great compared with Lezyne’s digital offerings.

Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose

It inflated smoothly and quickly, but the display took time to settle and the head was stiff.

Tell us what you particularly liked about the product

Solid build quality.

Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product

The gauge jumping, and the short hose.

How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?

Expensive for what you get (or don’t get, in the case of the hose). Lezyne does a number of alternatives with more features for less money.

Did you enjoy using the product? Yes-ish.

Would you consider buying the product? Not really.

Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes, if they were OK with the tradeoffs.

Use this box to explain your overall score

Really, Topeak needs to fix the gauge. And the hose should be longer. And it’s only a two-year warranty.

Age: 46  Height: 183cm  Weight: 72kg

I usually ride: Merida Ride 5000 Disc  My best bike is: Velocite Selene

I’ve been riding for: Over 20 years  I ride: A few times a week  I would class myself as: Expert

I regularly do the following types of riding: cyclo cross, club rides, general fitness riding, mtb, Dutch bike pootling.