Checking tyre pressure has to be one of the most common maintenance jobs on any motorcycle so perhaps it’s not surprising that many makers have had a crack at designing their own gauge over the years, especially as the ones on garage airlines are notoriously inaccurate. There are certainly many types out there; old fashioned mechanical ones looking like misshapen pencils, some with flexible hoses, others with swivel-able heads. In recent years digital gauges have become popular and in this review we look at a neat electronic digital device made by Oxford; their ‘Digi-Gauge’.
The marketing slogan used by Oxford for the Digi is ‘The most technologically advanced digital pressure gauge…’. and therein lies what could just be a problem with what is otherwise a well made gadget; it’s taking rocket science to a place where old fashioned simplicity works just fine; a solution in search of a problem.
The gauge fits nicely into the hand and has a swiveling head fitted with two different valve adaptors; Schrader and Presta. A back-lit digital display indicates values, while selection of different units (PSI, Bar, KPA) plus a couple of other features are accessed through a couple of soft-touch buttons. It runs on a CR2032 watch battery and thoughtfully, as you probably won’t have one to hand, that is included in the packet. So far so good.
Pressing down one of the buttons makes the unit cycle through different modes, one of which is like a normal pressure gauge, where the unit reads a pressure until the head is removed from the valve (‘adj’). In this mode a small brass side button allows you to bleed off pressure until it’s correct. The other measuring mode (‘cal’) retains the maximum pressure when the unit is disconnected and you can’t bleed that down. A clear button re-sets the display. A small LED is intended to illuminate the valve area in use.
So what’s it like to use? Well it looks good, but despite having an ergonomic shape, the stubby nature of the device can make it hard to get at some valves. It would have been helpful to place the adaptor head on the end of a 2 inch neck to assist access. The wide section shape also makes it hard to see the display, the back illumination of which is, incidentally, not good. You can of course use the CAL feature, allowing you to read the maximum pressure recorded, even after removing the unit from the valve, but you can’t then use the same mode to bleed down the pressure. This means a certain amount of fiddling with buttons if you’ve over-filled.
Another mildly irritating feature is the LED spot light, which is too feeble to be of much use. This should have either been upgraded or removed, possibly enabling a drop in the fairly steep retail price of around £23.
Even modest changes of pressure can affect safety. Check before every ride.
However without doubt the daftest thing about the gadget is the auto-shut down feature that turns the darn thing off after 45 seconds. Having technology make decisions for me is a pet hate and adds inconvenience where there need not be any. 45 seconds is way too short a delay in any case, leading potentially to several shut downs in the course of checking just one bike. To add insult to injury the device beeps at you for several seconds before it goes bye-bye,– as if telling you it’s going to do something you don’t want is actually helpful. Arggghhhh!! Did we laugh? No we didn’t.
To be fair, we’ve never found a perfect gauge, but we have some suggestions that might help makers design one;
• Thin neck or hose to allow access on all types of wheel
• Large, easy to read display, ideally on both sides of the device
• Device should swivel freely about the head, enabling connection from any angle
• Manual on and off with shut down delay set at a minimum of 5 minutes.
•Simple to use – perhaps just one mode
• Bleed down function
•Large buttons useable by doddery old fingers
• Rugged and waterproof
• Reasonable price
Let’s be clear though, this is an accurate gauge that is small, easy to carry and looks like it will last. You can do a lot worse than go buy this. On the other hand, if you just want a simple device, or have gnarled old codger’s hands with fingers like sausages, then the ole fashioned pencil gauge is more straightforward and a whole bundle cheaper