15th September 2010 Words: Dan Duguid
Fixing punctures by the roadside can be a gas if you’re using a decent inflator — do yourself and your mates a favour by pumping up your tyre at the push of a button. Here’s our pick…
They say two things are certain in life: death and taxes. For cyclists we’d add a third — punctures. The trick to reducing the hassle of flats is being prepared, so you can be riding again as quickly as possible, reducing the amount of time your mates stand around glaring at you. CO2 inflators are a cyclist’s best friend in this regard.
Compressed gas provides the potential to rapidly inflate a tyre, literally in seconds, saving not just time but heaps of pumping effort. Furthermore, gas canisters are small and lightweight, so carrying several is easy, either in a pocket or seat pack, so you needn’t worry about getting more than one flat on a ride. OK, we accept there’s a cost attached to indulging in this luxury but with a bulk purchase of replacement cartridges the price is greatly reduced — plus, we’d consider it’s a safe bet almost everyone would happily part with those few quid, given the alternative, at the roadside.
The inflator head is the all-important component in transferring the compressed gas from the canister to your inner tube, and we’ve reviewed seven top choices, all using the same threaded cartridge.
What to look for
Wrap that canister
The metal canister will get to freezing point as it quickly discharges its gas — if you have bare fingers they’ll get stuck to it causing severe discomfort! Either wear long finger gloves or better still put some sort of sock over it — it’ll serve the double purpose of stopping the metal bottle rattling in your seat pack. Notice that some of these kits cover the canister as part of the design.
Like your bike you’ll be taking your chosen CO2 pump with you on every ride. Not only will it take up vital space in your seat pack but you’ll also have to drag the weight up and down every hill you ride. It therefore makes sense to get one that’s as light and small as your wallet will allow.
Ease of use
It sounds daft but you need to be able to use the pump quickly and easily so it needs to be quick and easy to use. When you’re cold and tired — the most likely time you’ll get a flat — you don’t want to spend time faffing with a complicated mechanism. A valve or push fit are therefore the best options.
Our 7 of the best
At just 23g the Lezyne is almost the lightest in this test and is made from a neatly CNC machined 7075 aluminium and works only with threaded cartridges. In use it’s simple. Just screw the cartridge in tight and then screw the head onto the valve. Pushing the head in then releases the air. We did experience a bit of air leaking from the head when not in use and although this was not ideal it was minimal and the inflator amply inflated the tyre.
The smallest pump on test, the Air Chuck is also the lightest at 16g. Made by the originators of the CO2 pump, it simply requires screwing in the cartridge and then placing on the valve before pushing the head to inflate. The valve fitting is secure and the Air Chuck pumps without leakage quickly and very effectively. A small rubber shroud covers the cartridge to protect your hand when in use, and really, there’s nothing at all to fault.
10/10 Test Winner
Get past its comical name — it is pronounced ‘cobra’ — it is the largest pump here but most ergonomic on test. A neat pressure indicator lets you know when the pump is armed and an easy push-up trigger gives a controlled release of gas. It’s arguably unnecessary, but this inflator has a safety ring preventing accidentally puncturing a cartridge, that needs to be removed before use. A bit too bulky for all but the largest saddlebags, so this pump comes with its own frame mount and cartridge cover.
One of the three more minimalist inflators here, the CPro2 works in the same way by screwing in the cartridge and pressing the head to inflate. With a low 25g weight, the bright red tool should be easy to spot on a verge but comes without a cartridge cover. It requires a solid push past the initial movement to get the air flowing, stopping any accidental release of air once charged, and seals effectively around the valve core.
The Airgun, at 42g, is not overly heavy, and SKS has included a pressure control valve for a more controlled inflation. Only a slight twist of the control valve lets out a surprising amount of air so in reality it’s either on or off.
A frame mounting for the pump prevents piercing the cartridge and a separate mount allows for a spare cartridge to be mounted to the frame, which is a useful precaution for all-day events.
Part of Madison’s in-house brand, M:Part is excellent value and this one comes with two spare cartridges to get you started. The steel body will be more than robust although not light at 50g. The control valve is a little light in use and maybe is a bit too light, but control is also fairly good after the first use. A foam cartridge insulator protects the hands from being frozen and for the money there is little to moan about.
9/10 Best on a Budget
If Lezyne’s Trigger Drive is too minimalist for you the belt ‘n’ braces Alloy Drive CO2 should satisfy. With a twin valve-compatible head and separate cartridge body it can handle both presta and schrader valves and the nicely turned CNC nozzle is threaded for both types and offers a secure fit. It uses the same spring-loaded release valve as the Trigger Drive. The 16g threaded cartridge lives in an alloy body which insulates the hands from the cold. Weight is still very reasonable at 40g.
The standout inflator in this test came from the originator of the CO2 inflator, Genuine Innovations, with its Air Chuck Elite. It’s small and simple to use and pushing the head to inflate gives a good, controlled flow of gas. The CO2Bra is the biggest pump in the test; its bracket means losing a bottle cage and it takes a bit more fiddling to set up, but it impresses nonetheless.
Its body protects your hands from the cold of a decompressed canister and the flow of gas is easily controlled giving an impressive performance.
Gas canisters can be expensive and the lowest priced pump, the M:Part, deserves a worthy mention as it is a solid performer and comes with two cartridges.
This article was first published in the October 2010 issue of Cycling Active magazine