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.
Click the pic to the left for a short video demo.
- 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!
CO2 inflators seem a little wasteful to me, although I guess you can recycle the empty cartridges, right? I also don’t like the idea that they’re one-shot deals. If I have a slow leak on a tire, at least a mini-pump will allow me to re-inflate as many times as I need to. But for shorter weekday rides, I think CO2 makes a lot of sense.
I won a Bontrager CO2 kit at a trail work day last year so maybe it’s time to give it a try. My kit came with a rubber sleeve to put around the cartridge, but it looks like you could make one out of an old tube (or just use your punctured tube as an oven mitt!). At least the whole package still isn’t nearly as bulky as schlepping a mini-pump in my jersey pocket.
Yes you can recycle the canisters.
As for the frosty part, all you really need to do is keep your gloves on.
+1 on CO2 being wasteful and somewhat expensive. I only ever use it in a race, or if I’m on a big group ride and don’t want to keep a bunch of people waiting for me. Otherwise, I’m mini pump all the way.
Time = Money
At $1.58 per cartridge, times 1 flat tire in 6 years, I’m ahead of the game cost-wise. More often I end up loaning it out on group rides, and it does help keep the group together.
In the long run, it’s no more wasteful than a beverage container, (bottle or can) and I’m all about the convenience. 😀
My bikes are tubeless, so I rarely need to add air on the trail. That said, I do carry a CO2 in my seat bag on all my rides, it’s quick and much smaller/lighter than a pump. And since I use it so rarely, cost isn’t an issue. I think I used mine once last year, had a small leak and my Stans had dried up.
I had a previous generation of this chuck actually, and it worked great the 2yrs I had it. One thing to watch out for tho – the o-ring/seal where the cartridge threads in can go missing, that’s what happened to mine. Maybe the new design captures it better. When it does go missing, all the CO2 leaks out and none goes in the tire.
I sit on the fence on this one…I have both pumps and inflator. I tend to use the inflator if there is a hard to fill UST tire that burped…Lately though no issues with UST so it has been sitting in my pack for a while.
FYI, it sounds like cold Co2 is bad for Stan’s tubeless sealant, so use caution.
no more mini-pumps for me. i have used the c02 inflater for three yrs. now it is so much quicker. i use the 16 gram cartridge and it fills a 26×2.25 to 40 lbs. on my road bike(700x23c) fills it to 120lbs. and it does’nt get cold enough to burn you. i average 2 to 3 flats a year, its not fun trying to inflate a road bike tire to 120lbs. with a hand pump in 90 degree heat. it isnt fun with a mtb tire either. and cartridges come in differant sizes to. 12, 16, 20, 24. just so much easier.
It does get cold enough to freeze to sweaty skin … yours or an unsuspecting riding buddy. 😀
Pumping up fat tires can be a pain in the summer heat. I think I will try this with the bigger canister. Thx
I too run tubeless so seldom have to use my Mountain pump (combo pump/ co2 inflator), but on a cold dark night, don’t much care how much a cartridge costs. Air it up, and get moving again.
I just picked up a 12 pack. Does anyone know the approximate shelf life? I know when I was a kid I had a pellet gun and they never seemed to go bad no matter how long they sat around…
After the nuclear apocalypse, when the zombies come, these cartridges … and cockroaches will be the sole survivors.
Two days before a race I brag on here about how I don’t ever need to use my CO2 ’cause I’m tubeless. So you can guess what happened at the race…yep, sliced the tire, and Stans couldn’t seal it. Luckily I had 3 CO2 cartridges and a pump with me – and I used them all! 1st cartridge on the tire hoping the Stans would seal, 2nd on my spare tube which turned out to have a hole in it, 3rd on a spare a fellow racer lent me, and then topped it off with the pump.
I blame madd. 😆