I’ve always found small tire pumps to be annoying at best, and even though they will eventually fill a fat MTB tire with air, I’d rather get on with my ride. CO2 inflators provide pretty much instant gratification.
There are a number of CO2 inflators on the market, some of which even include a built-in manual pump. Regardless of the design, they all function the same way. After attaching to a steel CO2 canister and pushing the inflator head onto the valve stem, a trigger or some other mechanismreleasesthe pressurized CO2, inflating the tire in 2-3 seconds!
Enter the Genuine Innovations Air Chuck SL. This model dispenses with the extras and provides justbasic inflation functionality. It weighs 21 grams and is available at many local bike shops, as well as big retailers like REI. It generally runs about $20, and comes with one CO2 cartridge to get you started.
Since I frequently participate in group rides, my little inflator gets a lot of use. It always inflates tires correctly, and we have used it on 26×2.5 tires as well as 29×2.2. With a stock 16 gram threaded cartridge, it barely has enough oomph for a really high volume tire, but it is enough to get you out of the woods. Another nice feature is that the trigger mechanism allows a quick burst to pre-inflate the tube, and then the rest once the tire is mounted. Some inflators are all-at-once.
- 21 gram weight means you’ll hardly know it’s there.
- Excellent quality of machining and assembly.
- Works with any threaded CO2 cartridge.
- Easy to use and fills tires in seconds.
- Compatible with Schrader or Presta valves. (I have used mine on both)
- So small you can lose it in your pack or on the ground. Seriously, it’s tiny.
- One of the frills this lacks is a cover over the cartridge. Thus the cartridge gets frosty cold when it’s discharged. Keep your gloves on while using it!
- Tire refills are limited to the number of cartridges you bring on a trip.
- Barely enough pressure for a really big tire. If you run huge tires, look into the ‘Big Air’ CO2 cartridge. The Air Chuck is compatible.
For all regular rides I bring this inflator, one cartridge and a tube in my Camelbak. For longer rides I attach a seat bag with a second tube and CO2 canister. For really epic rides, I also bring my Topeak Mini Morph pump. (Watch for a review on that later)
CO2cartridgesrun about $4 at the LBS, which is ridiculous in my opinion. I get my 16 gram threaded cartridges from Amazon in a 12-pack for $19 with shipping. This works out to $1.58 per cartridge. Amazon sells bigger boxes of them, so you could drive the per unit cost even lower with a group or club order.
Manual tire pumps will always have a place on the trail, but if you race, are a weight weenie, or just enjoy speed and simplicity, then check out the Genuine Innovations Air Chuck SL. You won’t be disappointed!