SKS Air-X-Plorer Digi is a quality track pump with a multi-valve head and long hose. It has a large digital display in a sturdy metal base which is both bright and clear to read and shows pressure in either psi or bar. A full range of replacement parts is available should the need arise but the Air-X-Plorer is so well built I suspect that won’t be for anytime soon, staking a solid claim as one of the best mountain bike pumps.
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SKS Air-X-Plorer Digi 10.0 Floor Pump - Technical Details
The Air-X-Plorer Digi 10 is a tall track pump track pump, standing 71cm tall compressed and 122.5cm at full extension. It has a stroke of 476cm³ designed to make easy work of higher pressures on all types of bicycle tyres up to a max pressure of 10 bar or 145psi. It can also accommodate all styles of valves via its multi-valve head.
The pump has a metal body mounted into a heavy metal floor plate which houses the digital readout which can also be turned off if you don’t want to use it. The handle is made of a soft-touch rubber-like material and is ergonomically designed to fit the shape of your hands and be comfortable in use.
The valve head features a locking lever and a long 120 cm hose making it easier to use if the bike is a stand,
SKS Air-X-Plorer Digi 10.0 Floor Pump - Performance
The Air-X-Plorer has a very reassuring solid heavy feel and at no time in use did it ever feel wobbly or flexible on its wide metal base. Combined with the metal body it does an excellent job of just letting you get on with the pumping.
The handle is ovoid in shape, not round, and it is easy to feel which is the better way round for your hands when pumping. It’s similar to some mountain and commuting bike grips which are ovalised to be more comfortable and ergonomic. There are softer grip sections within the handle design for grip for your index finger and thumb although I’m not sure why they are needed unless it's to reduce blisters if you are pumping up a 100-strong bike hire fleet. I never noticed the benefit, nor had any handache from using the pump in normal one or two-bike use.
I've used it for tubeless tyre inflation, specifically gravel tyres from Panaracer 700c x 38mm to Teravail 27.5 x 2.25in and it has inflated both sets with ease at the first asking. The large volume of air delivered with each stroke helps tremendously here. There is a bit of spring rebound 'twang' on the top of each stroke when pumping hard and fast but this has no effect on its strong performance in setting tubeless tyres up it's more a noise thing.
The SKS Air-X-Plorer is also extremely useful for topping up your daily fleet of bikes. Knowing what pressure I want means that I can get the same feel every time I ride the same bike and the Air-X-Plorer delivers that with ease due to its large clear digital readout. You can choose bar or PSI and then just start pumping until you get to the correct pressure.
The head unit locks onto whichever valve you have, Schrader valves or Presta, or even a Dunlop if you are pumping up your grandad’s bike tyres. The locking lever works in reverse of the majority of head units I have used being open when the lever is out and closed against the body when clamped on. I like this decision from SKS it feels less stressful on the valve and more natural.
As a performance reference, I have recorded the following number of stokes to reach a desired pressure of 30psi on the two gravel tyre sizes I most commonly use. Both were tested from flat with the valve core removed and then reinstalled. A 27.5 x 2.25in Teravail required 30 Strokes to get to 31psi, (29 strokes was 29.4psi) and 700c x 45mm Schwalbe = 18 Strokes to get to 30.8psi. The pressure was double-checked using SKS’s own digital AirChecker gauge which recorded consistently below the track pump figure, presumably with some loss with the removal of the valve head, but it is at least consistent at around 2.5psi under the track pump readout. I can either believe the pump or the gauge. It's hard to get a 100% figure so as long as I stick to one then I'm good.
This experiment highlights the delay in the pump display after each push until the readout finally settles as it falls to a stable pressure. It might look like you have 45psi initially but will drop nearer 30. This is manageable as long as you are going slowly towards your pressure but if you go over it there is another issue - there is no air bleed or air release button on the head unit. You have to disconnect the head unit, let some air out very unscientifically by pressing the valve and reconnect and pump again.
It’s an odd omission on a pump of this money and takes a lot of the accuracy out of the pump's performance. If you happen to get exactly the right pressure on the last downward stroke or part stroke, congrats otherwise it's a pain. It would be much better to sail past your required pressure and then bleed the air off to the desired amount and disconnect. If you do have the SKS Airchecker then this does have a bleed button which solves the problem.
SKS Air-X-Plorer Digi 10.0 - Value and verdict
The SKS retails for £70 which is a fair price for the quality of construction on offer and the knowledge that SKS are long-term pump manufacturers and are able to supply all the parts that might wear or get broken through use. The performance is good in terms number of strokes required to achieve the desired pressure and setting up tubeless has been straightforward.
Rivals are everywhere in this market, some of the best are; Topeak’s JoeBlow Sport III at just £48 today. Crank Brothers offer the Saphire Track pump at £60 which we reviewed back in 2019 but the handle is not the most comfortable, although it does have a stash for the needle and ball inflator and Lezyne, makes the excellent Sport Gravel Drive which Suvi really liked for £70 which can pump upto 100psi and is extremely well built and serviceable like the SKS.
All these rivals offer an analogue gauge and pump to similar or lower levels of pressure and none has a bleed valve either, so I shouldn’t be too hard on SKS for that omission.
The SKS Air-X-Plorer Digi 10.0 will last you a long time as a garage pump for your private bike fleet. The simple reverse action head is easy to use and the performance of this pump is good considering the £70 asking price. The slow-to-read digital gauge aside it is really clear and very helpful for riders wanting to stick to the same pressure each time they ride. Being SKS, it's fully serviceable and should last longer than your bike.