Earlier this year we started hearing about fat bike specific pumps. On the surface that sounds ridiculous, until you consider the mechanics. Bicycle tires offer a crazy range of volumes and pressures from 200 psi track tires to 5 psi fat bike tires. Yes, there are pumps that will do both, but if you’re the kind of person who wants the right tool for the job there are better options.
The Birzman Maha Apogee MTB is a mountain bike specific pump. What does that mean? It means the pump is purposely designed to push a lot of air as quickly as possible. Placing the focus on high volume instead of high pressure, the Maha Apogee MTB and pumps like it becoming more and more useful as tires continue to trend larger.
After getting our hands on the Maha at Eurobike and proceeding to inflate fat bike tires on the show floor, and even a flat tire on Cory’s car, we’ve had the pump long enough to give it a thorough review….
At the heart of the pump is the new Birzman Snap-It Apogee head. The original Snap-It was good, but it struggled with some valves. The new Apogee head reverses the location of the o-ring and clamping jaws resulting in a much better hold on the valve. The tubeless valve on our NOX composites review wheelset was one of the problem valves we came across and the Apogee handled it like a champ. Advantage Apogee.
Apogee heads are available in both straight and the 90 degree version seen here and are retrofittable to older pumps. In addition to a more secure connection to presta valves, the Apogee also is schrader compatible by simply twisting the head onto the valve. Previously you had to first remove the gold barrel, then thread it onto the schrader valve. Of course the Apogee head still connects to presta valves with a simple push and a twist. Combined with a built in pressure release button (CAD, Controlled Air Discharge), the Apogee pump head is one of the best we’ve used.
If you want to push a lot of air, you need a big piston. The Maha MTB’s 39mm barrel hides a massive internal piston purpose built for high volume. Testing the pump out on a Vee Tire Co. Snowshoe XL 4.7″ tire set up tubeless on an 80mm rim, the Maha took exactly 20 strokes to reach 10 psi. That might sound like a lot, but for a huge tire that’s really good. A quick comparison between the Birzman pump and the new Topeak Joe Blow Fat at Eurobike proved the Maha to be more efficient pointing to the fact that there is more to the efficiency story than just barrel size. Birzman has always touted the precision in their pump manufacturing and their Evolved Barrel Structure.
If the bigger barrels pushes more air with fewer strokes why don’t all pumps use them? While the larger size makes it easier to fill up high volume tires it also makes it harder to reach higher pressures at the same time. Get past 40 psi on the Maha MTB and it starts getting noticeably harder to pump. The pump is still capable of reaching the higher pressures it just takes a lot more effort. The MTB moniker should be enough indication that this pump is not a good choice for roadies.
No, the picture above isn’t taken at an angle. The Maha MTB barrel is tilted towards the user by 5 degrees to make pumping a more ergonomic affair. Equipped with a varnished wooden pump handle, the sides are tapered to fit well in your hands.
Really, my only gripe with the pump comes down to the gauge. This pump is specifically designed for mountain bikes – it’s even in the name. So why would you need a gauge that goes up to 120? As it turns out the pump includes an Air Lock feature that allows it to be used as a pump for your suspension fork which actually works pretty well. To get a completely empty Bluto air cartridge up to 100 psi, the Maha MTB took just two strokes – using a shock pump it took over 90. Still, this pump would be much better served with a gauge that topped out at 60 psi to provide better resolution at lower pressures which would be perfect for fat bikes and mountain bikes running lower pressures. The suspension fork feature is nice, but given that the pump tops out at 120 psi, heavier riders will still need to use a shock pump to get to the proper pressures – and realistically, how often are you inflating your fork from zero?
In testing with two separate digital pressure gauges (SKS and Michelin), the pump’s pressure gauge consistently measures about 4 psi higher than the actual tire pressure which is actually pretty common with a lot of pumps.
With that said, the pump functions extremely well, is easy to use, and looks great. In the end the Birzman Maha Apogee MTB is a great design that is held back only by the choice of pressure gauge. That isn’t to say it’s a bad pump – just that there is room for improvement in the gauge department. As we already found out, the Maha MTB is a high volume monster that is perfect for fat bikes (or even car tires in a pinch!). If you’re looking for a seriously high volume pump, check out the $100 Maha Apogee MTB. Just don’t forget your digital pressure gauge.