You have just crested the top of a hill and are beginning the long descent. The wind is rushing through your hair. Your thighs burn with lactic acid. Suddenly, your front tire pops and you skitter to a stop on the shoulder. Don’t be caught unprepared – make sure you have a quality CO2 bike tire inflator kit handy!
In this roundup, we’ll take a look at the following CO2 inflators:
- Pro Bike Tool CO2 Inflator
- Lezyne Control Drive CO2 Bicycle Inflator – Best Overall CO2 Inflator
- Muc Off Inflator Kit
- Portland Design Works CO2 Inflator – Best Design
- Innovations Air Inflator
- BriskMore CO2 inflator
Don’t Let A Flat Stop Your Ride
Getting a flat in the best circumstances can be frustrating, whether you are riding around your block or in the middle of a brutal 100 mile haul. A flat tire can ruin your ride and your day if you are not careful.
If you want to ensure that you never have to push your bike back home ever again then make sure to invest in a handy CO2 inflator. If you are like me, then you have probably spent plenty of time using a mini-pump, glaring at the slowly inflating tire, wondering how much longer it is going to take before your arms fall off. If you are a veteran cyclist looking for a better way to fix those tires on the go or if you are a new cyclist, you will be glad you purchased a CO2 inflator when the time comes.
What Is A CO2 Inflator And Why Do I Need One?
A CO2 inflator is a lightweight, portable tool that helps inflate your flattened or low tires when you need it. Instead of hauling around an old-fashioned pump, which is quite impractical on a long ride, consider investing in a quality CO2 inflator!
A CO2 inflator uses small canisters of compressed CO2 and fits over the valve stem. Once the coupling is fitted to the valve stem, you engage the inflator, and presto, your tire is back to full level. It sure beats having to snap an old-fashioned (mini) pump into place and pump your tire up.
Chances are you have probably worn yourself out plenty on your ride. Why waste more precious energy huffing and puffing to pump your tire up? This is a perfect situation when you want to work smarter, not harder!
Just throw a couple of these easy-to-use and most importantly, lightweight inflators in your saddle bag or jersey pocket. You’ll hardly notice that they are even there!
Related article – The Best Road Bike Inner Tubes
How Does A CO2 Bike Tire Inflator Work?
If you have never used or seen one, CO2 inflators are incredibly simple tools. They are composed of four essential parts.
- The inflator head – this fits over the valve on your bike and facilitates the flow of CO2 into your tire.
- The control knob – this allows you to control the flow of CO2 into your tire. You can adjust the flow according to your needs.
- The CO2 canister – chances are you have seen these small, round canisters before. They look like a miniaturized scuba tank. The canister threads into the inflator head.
- The canister sleeve – Made out of foam or plastic, the sleeve protects your hands from burning your hands on the tank due to the release of CO2.
These are the basic components found in most CO2 inflators. There are some differences, however, and we will discuss those more in the following section.
Different Types Of CO2 Bike Tire Inflators
A standard CO2 inflator kit has two pieces – the inflator (aka nozzle) and the cartridge. There are a few differences between CO2 inflators you will want to know about. The differences exist in inflator head design and in the types of tanks used.
In your browsing, you are likely to encounter different types of inflators heads, specifically, how the CO2 is dispensed into the tire. You will find the following three types:
- A press to release CO2 option
- A turn to release CO2 using a control knob.
- Unscrew the tank to release the CO2
Consensus amongst cyclists is that all three of these methods work just fine.
In terms of tanks, they come in different sizes – 12g, 16g or 25g. The 12g fills to roughly 90 PSI and the larger ones go to 120+ PSI. If in doubt which size you need, check the manufacturer website for the specs of your tubes and what PSI is required to inflate them.
Another term you might see floating around is “threaded” and “non threaded”. The only difference is how it’s connected to the inflator. One is basically a screw top (threaded) and one isn’t (non threaded). For ease of use, go with threaded. Otherwise, just make sure your tank and inflator are the same (i.e. threaded to threaded or non threaded to non threaded).
Like most things, from bike seats to helmets, it all depends on your preference and comfort.
Related article – Tubeless Vs Inner Tube For Commuting – Which Is Better?
Things To Look For In A CO2 Inflator
When going out for a ride, the last thing you want is a lot of heavy, cumbersome gear strapped onto your bike or on your person.
So, the first thing you are looking for in a good CO2 inflator is that it is lightweight. Lucky for you, almost all manufacturers of CO2 inflators make their products light and portable. Space in your saddle bag or pockets is limited, especially if you are going out on a long ride.
Second, make sure you have some protection over that canister. You do not want a fast fix to cost you the skin on your hands or fingers!
Lastly, ease of use. This last facet is something only you can decide for yourself! Whichever CO2 inflator you buy, make sure it works best for you.
If you’re looking for a nice saddle bag to carry your CO2 inflator, check out our saddle bag round up.
Review Of The Best CO2 Bike Tire Inflators
This beauty from Pro Bike Tool is a lightweight, compact, and affordable CO2 tire inflator. It works for all types of bikes, from road bikes to mountain bikes. It uses a lever for gas release, comes with a tank sleeve to protect your hands, and has a threaded coupling for safe and secure inflation. The lever design makes it incredibly easy to use.
One note of caution is that the foam cover is a little thin, so you’ll need to be extra careful or make sure you are wearing gloves in order to maximize protection of your hands.
This inflator along with a couple tubes easily fits in a saddlebag or a jersey pocket. Overall, it is sleek, beautifully-designed, and will inflate your tire in no time flat (pun intended)!
This is another high-value, low-cost CO2 inflator that can help you get back in the saddle in a flash. The slip over valve and over-sized control valve make it easy to use. This runs the gambit from slow trickle to full-blow flow of gas.
Made out of CNC-machined aluminum with brass internals, this has been built to last. This quality design makes it a dependable inflator for use in any type of weather condition. It comes with a high-quality neoprene sleeve on the canister to protect your hands against the cold released from the gas.
Not dissimilar to the Pro Bike Tool, the Lezyne Control Drive CO2 bicycle inflator is a quality purchase for not a lot of money. An incredible value that is easy to control and will have you back on the road or trail in no time.
From the fine folks at Muc Off comes this inflator kit. Comes in the signature Muc Off pink that pops and is sure to draw compliments from your fellow riders. Slightly more expensive than the previous models reviewed, the Muc Off inflator kit promises to deliver when you need it most.
This kit comes complete with two 16 gram cartridges so you will be prepared for multiple flats. There are two variants of this kit, one for road bikes and one for MTBs, so be careful when you’re clicking buy.
The iconic pink design will speak volumes to your fellow cyclists!
This beautifully designed, yet simple, pump comes from Portland Design Works. This is certainly a spartan-looking pump. No frills, just effective. It embodies three important factors in making for a good CO2 inflator: lightweight, compact and just works as intended!
Comes complete with an easy-to-use, intuitive twist knob for easy control when inflating. This works with Presta and Schrader valves. It will also take any threaded CO2 cartridges. Like all the other brands reviewed, there is a slight chance of leakage once the cylinder is screwed in. Not consistent enough for it to be a huge concern.
Unlike other brands, the sleeve on the Shiny Object is made out of vegetable tanned leather that is dyed with natural oils and waxes. The leather sleeve is not only very slick, but incredibly practical for protecting your hands.
Simply put, this inflator looks incredibly unique. The beauty is in its simplicity.
From the Genuine Innovations Store comes this incredibly light and efficient inflator.
Constructed completely out of metal alloys, this one of the lightest CO2 inflators available on the market today. The Metal alloy construction not only ensures it is incredibly lightweight, but also durable which can be used in any conditions.
The inflator features a push-to-inflate button makes it easy to use and ensures quick filling. The kit comes with two variants of tanks, a 16 gram and 20 gram. The 16 gram is for standard tires and the 20 gram is meant for wider road or MTB tires.
Here is the bang-for-buck option. Ideal for budget conscious cyclists out there who need a CO2 inflator now but do not want to break the bank, relatively speaking!
Made out heat-treated aluminum alloys that makes it compact, lightweight, and durable. Oversized knob with great grip that makes it easy to control.
All CO2 inflators have their pros and cons. Honestly, I like them all for different reasons.
When it is all said and done, though, my preference is the Lezyne Control Drive, but only by a nose. I love the oversized control knob that makes it easy to control the release.
Thanks for reading and I hope this list has been helpful in your buying.
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