With cyclocross season in full swing, the weather in Europe has been cycling back-and-forth, all over the place. One race weekend has been be warm and sunny, then the next was frosty and gray. That’s makes tire selection and tire pressure choices even more important as we try to squeeze out the last bit of grip from a wide range of tubulars and tubeless tires that we have on test. We already raced on everything from dry hardpack and grass, to slow and slick muds, to wet and frost covered grasses. To get tire testing right, we need accurate and repeatable tire pressure measurement, and for the last couple of seasons we have begun to rely on the Airchecker, a small handheld digital pressure gauge from SKS. Jump past the fold to get the details and our thoughts…

SKS-Airchecker_digital-pocket-tire-pressure-gauge_road_124psi_8-5bar SKS-Airchecker_digital-pocket-tire-pressure-gauge_8-5bar-reading

The Airchecker is a small, easy-to-use digital gauge that we are able to pop in our pockets while pre-riding a cross course or out experimenting with new tires. It certainly gets the most use in cyclocross season, where we dial in pressures to 1/2 of a psi or 5/100ths of a bar, but it also has served well in its upper ranges when we were looking at road tubulars or new road tubeless tires (like Vittoria’s ultra fast Corsa Speed.) We seldom get tires above 101psi/7bar, spending most of our time down in the 22-29psi/1.5-2bar range, but the Airchecker is rated up to 144psi/10bar.

Pretty much every gauge we have used has some significant performance compromise, whether the gauge is too heavy or bulky, hard to read, hard to line up with the valve, requires constant button pushing to get a measurement, or is just overly expensive. But so far the SKS Airchecker seems to be the one I’ve been most happy with. Its compromise is that you have to remove the head from the valve each time to make a new measurement. So even though that small orange button on the side of the head releases a little pressure with each press, we have to pull the head off the tire’s valve to check to see how much pressure was really bled off. OK, thanks to an early comment from Edubs, I’ve gotten ahold of the current version (vs. the older one I’ve had on test for quite a while) and can confirm that the pressure updates as the air is bled out. While the previous version required reseating the valve to get an updated pressure, the currently available Airchecker is live-updating, taking away the only real compromise this gauge had. 

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After using the gauge for the first couple of weeks, we had gotten the hang of it, and for more than a year have been comfortable reliably measuring the pressure, bleeding off air, and rechecking the pressure without losing unnecessary air. We’ve also gotten a feel for it with practice, so that now to drop 1psi, we give the orange button 3 quick taps, and are done. It seems that with the new live-updating pressure reading, our practiced skill of bleeding air has become obsolete, other than not losing air on the one time we now have to seat the gauge on the valve. With this feature update, we are even more comfortable recommending this gauge.  

The all plastic Airchecker uses a single watch battery, has a backlit screen, and automatically shuts itself down. We’ve used it regularly for more than a year and have yet to need to change the battery. Its simple operation takes just one button to wake it up, then toggle between psi and bar units. Pressure display is automatic when you press it onto a valve, and it holds the measurement on the screen for several seconds even after it’s pulled from the valve, or until it is pressed onto the valve again. The gauge has a head that swivels 90º each way with a schrader valve on one side and a presta valve on the other. It would probably be nice if the head rotated a bit further in both directions, but we’ve gotten used to this as well. And its positioning works perfectly well when standing over a wheel with the valve at the 12 o’clock position, the most common/rational spot for it anyway. There is no outward difference that we could see between the old and new gauges, so we’ll just have to assume that any new stock will include the new live-updating pressure feature.

At just 44g, the $25/30€ Airchecker goes on at least the first test ride we do with every new tire or wheel combination, and spends the fall traveling to every cross race we do. Then when it’s the tire pressure off season, it gets rubber banded to a mainstay floor pump for less frequent use and to realize how much one pump’s gauge varies from the next. Of the half dozen or so gauges that we have tried so far, this is the one we recommend to friends looking for accurate, repeatable tire pressure monitoring for cyclocross.


  1. I can bleed off air with the orange button while it is on the valve and the new pressure automatically updates on mine.
    Eds: Thanks for the note. SKS had not informed us about the update, but we got a new Airchecker and can confirm the improved functionality.

  2. I concur with the review. Have been using one for 3 years on my all mountain rig.
    Easy to use. No hassle. Has also been highly reliable.

  3. I’ve been using this gauge for years. it is by far the easiest to operate, loses the least air when attaching, it’s super compact…

  4. Do “we” always have to write in the third person?
    Eds: Only when we is more than one tester, and this one has made its way through our group of Prague-based testers 🙂

  5. Hi there,

    I once got one as a pesent. I’s nice! I’m afraid to use it on my tubeless tires though, because sealant might clog he internals.

    You didn’t experience problems with that?

    Eds: No problem with sealant so far. The majority of our cross racing is on tubulars, as we’ve experienced several failures with tubeless for CX, so the gauge has seen much less use with sealant, though. But we only check tubeless pressures with the valve at 12 o’clock, just in case, for road, cx, and mtb tubeless.

  6. @Edubs – thanks for the heads up – if in fact that is true it’s worth buying.

    Maybe Cory can try again and let us know.

    I quit using a digital because it’s so slow to get it right. I adapted an extra dial Accugauge with bleeder to presta by attaching an old pump head to the hose, works great. Too big to carry in a jersey pocket to test new tires, this would be perfect.
    Eds: See updates above.

  7. @Bob and @Edubs I concur with Edubs. I was using mine on Sunday and adjusting the pressure a half a psi at a time by tapping the orange button once or twice. I did not have to remove it each time to get the reading to change.

    I do find mine to be a bit finicky. Maybe a poor battery connection because sometimes the screen will fade out or it will shut off while handling. Still well worth the $20 price you pay on Amazon.

  8. I’ve had one for a few years. Use it on my bikes, moto, and truck. It’s great. I haven’t tried many different pressure gauges, but this is the best I’ve ever used.

  9. IIRC, another review I saw on this noted that the newest version no longer requires removal to display a reduced pressure reading. Maybe Cory’s is V.1, since he’s had it awhile?

    I’ve got another brand, which I can’t recall. It works perfectly, but not only do you have to remove it to get a reduced reading, you have to re-boot it. Even so, I’m used to that and won’t replace it until it dies.

  10. I have right about two years on mine. Other than being a little finicky with some valves now and losing a little air while measuring, it’s been really good. It’s very small and light. I have ~4 miles to the local trails, so I’ll typically ride there with higher pressure and then air down to off-road pressures. It’s not uncommon to take this and a mini pump with when playing with cx pressures too.

    If you ride off road/low pressure, this is a product you should have. I found out my Bontrager pump was off nearly 10psi at low pressures while being spot on at high pressures. My other floor pump was off by ~5psi at anything under 35psi while being perfect above 50psi.

  11. This is how I found out my Park floor pump was reading ~5 PSI too low (well that, and bottoming out at Alprenrose on the first lap …)

  12. Have to say I am not happy with mine. Battery cover does not open easily and batteries are replaced frequently. Have checked accuracy against a low pressure analog gauge and after depleting air off orange button it in not accurate always.

  13. The screen doesn’t give you a reading in low – fatbike – temps if you have the gauge outside. If you keep it in your pocket, it’s mostly ok….

  14. They should have changed the design when they fixed the absence of live pressure reading, or at least called it out in the packaging or something. I recently bought one of these at my LBS and I unknowingly got the old one w/o live pressure reading. That’s a wasted $25…

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