REVIEW: SKS AirChecker
(Just a quick note. I’ve been getting emails and comments about why you would want to carry a gauge and thought I should momentarily address that. Wouldn’t it be something better for just home use? Set it and forget it? Well, on tour it is not uncommon to get a flat and a gauge would ensure you get the tire back to correct pressure and ease the nagging wonder if you are “running low” or not. Also, if you ride mixed terrain from paved to less than paved tire pressure is a dynamic value. Sometimes I let out some air on muddy gravely bits for more traction and suspension and then pump the tire back up when I hit smooth tarmac. A tool like this would also be good for those that partake in the recent fat bike trend, where it’s an art to matching low PSI to terrain. Is a gauge absolutely positively mandatory for having fun on a bike? No. But it does let you play with air pressure as variable to see how it alters your riding experience.)
If you are like me, when you get tired and the bike isn’t quite flying up the mountain at the speed it should be, my head goes through an expensive checklist of the potential reasons why. The thought process usually involves a lot of justification for purchasing a titanium seat post, titanium stem, titanium water bottle cage, titanium frame, etc., After daydreaming and spending a small fortune on new bike parts, I begin to obsesses about tire pressure. This is usually when I start bugging Laura. “My bike feels slow. How does my rear tire look?” I’ll bounce up and down for emphasis. Inevitably, she’ll tell me that it looks fine and that it is all in my head.
At this point, the damage has been done. Like Inception, the idea has taken root. Every wobble is magnified, every micro-dip in the road a sure sign I am somehow leaking air at an alarming irreplaceable rate. What started out innocently enough as idle wonder has metastasized into existential doubt.
However, unlike most existential doubt, dear friends, this has a solution. Enter the SKS AirChecker.
The SKS AirChecker is small and light and comes with its own little carrying sack. In a world of gadgets that do many things exceptionally poorly, it does one thing exceptionally well – it checks air.
The SKS AirChecker has a dual head that will check both Presta and Schrader valves sans fiddling. The head rotates 90 degrees for sort of ease of use. It has an orange backlit screen that makes it easy to see in the dark but truthfully has negligible visibility advantages in bright sunlight. There is an also orange deflate button that allows you to let some air out while the checker is attached.
The entire operation is a single button affair. To use it, you hit the center button to turn it on (you’ll hear an audio confirmation that it is on); press it on the valve; you will then hear a SECOND audio confirmation that it took a reading; remove it (or rotate the head) to see your tire pressure. To alternate readings between PSI and BAR, just press the center button. Easy. The second beep that confirms it took a reading is a nice and welcome touch.
My only concerns with the SKS AirChecker is the swiveling head. It introduces a point of possible breakage, so the ham-fisted should be careful. Another possible issue is the power button may get accidentally pressed while it is tumbling about in a bag and could lead to some battery drain. It is recessed but is fairly sensitive, so I keep mine in the provided case.
I have a bias towards digital gauges since I feel that they are more accurate. I don’t have any scientific data to prove this, but lots of anecdotal experience of analog gauges getting jammed or showing wildly inconsistent readings. So far, I’ve been pretty pleased with the SKS AirChecker. It is small, simple to use and the readings are pretty consistent. For a mere $25 all our existential tire pressure doubt will be a thing of the past so you can now concentrate on getting some lighter tires, wheels, a ti seatpost, etc.,
-Light and small, won’t add much weight to a light road kit.
-Single button operation is easy to use.
-Audio confirmation that it has taken a reading takes guess work out of wondering if it is working.
-At $20-$25 (depending on where you buy it) it might be a barrier for some, but its a small price to get rid of some existential doubt.
-Single button is easily depressed and could drain batteries.
-Long term durability of swivel head is yet to be seen.