There are several tools you need in your repair kit whether you’re out riding with your friends or in a race.
More frequently you’ll see cyclists with CO2 inflators instead of mini bicycle pumps. And, if you read on, you’ll understand why more and more people choose the inflators.
They are becoming essential so that when you get a flat, you’ll be able to fix it and roll again within minutes.
If you have a good inflator, you can fill a tire in seconds. And, these inflators are so small that you can store them anywhere on your bike.
Most inflators should be easy-to-use but each company makes its CO2 inflators slightly differently.
Read on so that you can be well-prepared the next time you’re in the saddle. In this piece, we’ll provide a product review, buyer’s guide and FAQ section for your convenience.
Best CO2 Bike Tire Inflators in 2020
1. Pro Bike Tool CO2 Inflator
Compared to other companies Pro Bike Tool is a relatively new company that is committed to providing cyclists quality products.
The CO2 inflators are made from aluminum, which is extremely durable and light-weight and easy to carry. Most bikers can put these inflators in their jersey pockets for easy access when they do get a flat.
Of course, these inflators work fast and bikers are back on the road within minutes of noticing a flat.
Unlike other inflators and cartridges, this one is CN machine-checked and heat absorbent. You can inflate the tires without worrying about freezing your hand.
This inflator features a 1-turn valve system, twin-valve head threads, and one- hand operation. This makes it easy for “beginner” bikers who might be nervous about getting their first flat.
Another feature worth mentioning is the lever function, which gives you more control over how much CO2 is released into the tire.
Keep in mind this is a threaded CO2 inflator so you’ll need a compatible cartridge to go along with it. This also means threaded valves are less prone to leaks. This ensures you can rely on the inflator and cartridge when you get a flat.
If you’re worried about having enough cartridges on your ride, this company takes care of that. The inflator is compatible with Presta and Schrader valves. This means you don’t need to switch valve heads. Like I mentioned earlier, you have total control over how much air goes into your tires.
Cyclists who have bought this inflator like it because it is reliable and doesn’t leak CO2. And, it looks nice and isn’t heavy carry on the bike.
I recommend this product as long as you practice how to use the cartridge and inflator at home. Most who have problems didn’t know what they were doing.
2. Lezyne Control Drive
This CO2 inflator is a CNC operating tool that is made from aluminum with brass internals. The CNC feature means that you can control how fast the tire inflates and how much CO2 is released.
The control knob is the best feature since it is easy to use. And, makes the product unique.
The inflator has a Twin Slip Chuck head and is compatible with Presta and Schrader valves. It must be used with threaded CO2 cartridges or else it won’t work properly. If it’s with a compatible cartridge, this inflator has a secure connection without any leaks.
While most cyclists are warned about the freezing temperatures that cartridges produce, they won’t have to with this company.
Lezyne thought ahead of the game and designed their cartridges with a neoprene sleeve. This protects your hand from the cold that is produced while you’re inflating your tire.
Lezyne made sure that this product works well for cyclists so they designed the inflator to be light-weight. Most cyclists put the inflator and cartridge in their bento box, saddle bag, or jersey pocket and didn’t even notice it.
Cyclists who have bought the inflator like it because it is light weight and easy-to-use. The best feature is the neoprene sleeve. Cyclists don’t have to carry extra materials to protect their hands from the freezing temperatures. It is more convenient and cyclists can use the extra space for something else; or, just have less to carry.
I highly recommend this inflator and cartridge. The inflator is durable and can be relied on for years to come. The neoprene sleeve is a great touch and really shows that the company cares. The inflator and cartridge are light and easy to carry, which is great for long, hilly rides.
3. Zefal Fez Control CO2 Inflator
The Zefal Fez Control CO2 inflator attempts to combine the advantages of both an inflator and a mini hand pump whenever you get flat tires.
If you run out of cartridges on the road, this inflator can be used as a mini pump, which is high-quality. But, as with other hand pumps, it takes a long time just to pump up to 80 psi. This can be inconvenient if you’re commuting to work or in the middle of a race.
The pump part of this inflator does have a good grip, which makes it easier to get it to inflate your tires smoothly.
If you want to use the inflator with a cartridge, that’s easy. The hose’s barrel (found at the end of the hose) is compatible with either Schrader or Presta. Just twist off the barrel and turn it the other way if you need to switch between the two.
On the other end of the pump, is where you can put the CO2 cartridges. It’s easy to use. Just screw in the cartridge, attach the valves, and then wait for the tire to inflate. It’s quick and you won’t have any leaks because it’s all done through the hose.
The only drawback is that once the cartridge becomes cold, it is hard to unscrew it from the inflator, but it is manageable if you have a pair of gloves handy.
Cyclists who have bought the inflator like it because it is reliable and durable. The hose from the pump allows them flexibility and makes it easier to change and inflate a duded tire. And, most cyclists don’t need to put any pressure on the valve to ensure no leaks.
I highly recommend this CO2 inflator to anyone who wants a reliable and durable product. It has the flexibility of a hand pump so that you won’t have to fight the spoke of your tires. And the quickness of an inflator. There are fewer leaks with this inflator because it has a good connection so you won’t waste a CO2 cartridge.
4. Portland Design Works CO2 Inflator
The Portland Design Works CO2 Inflator is made from alloy, which makes it nearly indestructible and ever-lasting.
It’s compatible with any threaded cartridges or Presta and Schrader valves.
While other inflators also have some type of mechanism to control how much CO2 is released, this one is different. The inflator has an oversized control knob to make it easy to control the CO2 pressure and air flow.
If you’re conscious about what type of products you buy, pay attention to this detail. The sleeve to protect your hand and fingers is made from leather. And, the leather is vegetable tanned and stained with natural oils and waxes.
The sleeve is only included if you buy a 16-gram CO2 cartridge with the inflator, otherwise, you’ll need to seek another way of getting it.
Cyclists who have bought the inflator like it because the valve is very easy to use and control the airflow. Once the cartridge is secured into the inflator, all cyclists need to do is cautiously turn the control knob to “open”. And, if any leaks are heard, it’s easy to just close the knob. This only occurs if the inflator isn’t fitted into the valve properly. Once the tire is filled, all the cyclist does is turn the knob off and take the inflator off the valve. Additionally, the inflator is very light weight and tiny and can fit anywhere cyclists need to put it.
I highly recommend this inflator because it is small with big technologies such as a control knob for air pressure. You are really getting a lot for your money.
5. Airace CO2 and Tire Lever Set
The Airace is a CO2 pump and tire lever integrated into one tool that is meant for convenience and simplification in your tool kit.
The product has a shiny aluminum body and an economic design to save you space. It’s compact and designed so that you won’t need to carry two tools.
The inflator has a tire lever end that has a rim protector to make it last longer.
To inflate your tire, all you need to do is twist the CO2 cartridge once the inflator is securely covering the valve.
The inflator is Presta and Schrader compatible so you won’t need to buy new ones if you already have those brands. And, you also have the option to buy an insulated cartridge sleeve to protect your fingers from freezing.
Cyclists like it because the levers are firm in their hands and made it easier to remove and install tires. And, the inflator is simple to use even though there isn’t a way to control how fast and how much CO2 is released.
I’d recommend this tool if you need a basic inflator and are more concerned about saving space on your bike.
6. Briskmore CO2 Inflator
The Briskmore CO2 inflator is durable, small and light weight in design. And, even comes with a rubber sleeve to protect your fingers while inflating your tires.
The inflator is constructed with aluminum alloy and allow steel, which makes it a strong and durable choice for serious cyclists. Additionally, it is CNC machined and heat-treated.
No worries if you break part of the inflator, it comes with three extra spare washers.
The inflator fits Presta and Schrader valves and are sealed through threaded cartridges. This ensures no leaks during inflation.
The inflator is not only reliable it is very intuitive and the pressure and amount of CO2 released is controllable. Once the inflator is secured, the tire is inflated within seconds and you’ll be back on the road in minutes.
The company stands by its product and quality. If you have a problem with the inflator, the company can give a full refund or replacement.
Cyclists like the inflator because it’s so simply designed and doesn’t require a lot of space in their tool kits. They find it very easy to use but the drawback is no control over the amount of CO2 released.
I recommend this inflator if you’re looking for a simple yet durable one. There’s nothing too special about it which makes it easy to use when you need to change your tire quickly.
7. Vibrelli Performance CO2 Inflator
The name “performance” implies you’ll pay for a high-quality and well-designed CO2 inflator. It’s ideal for both social and racing riders alike. It is light-weight and you can control the speed and psi of the inflator with its easy-to-use technology.
For starters, what makes this a good pick is its versatility. This inflator can fit any threaded CO2 inflator. It doesn’t matter the size it can accommodate up to 25 grams. But please keep in mind the cartridges are sold separately from the inflator.
Secondly, the inflator protects your hands and fingers while you’re inflating your tire. Like the previous CO2 inflator, this one is made with a frost guard. This ensures that your hands will be safe from a cold-burn. And, this means you won’t have to carry a rag or small towel during your bike rides.
Thirdly, the inflator was made with 6061-grade aluminum, which is the same material used to construct airplanes. The inflator was made to last a long time and can be relied on even after you’ve bought your one-hundredth cartridge.
And finally, if you choose, you can also purchase the company’s “Glueless Puncture Kit”, which includes a tire patch to complete your repair tool kit.
Cyclists who have bought the inflator like it because it lasts longer and they can control how fast and much CO2 is released. And, they don’t have to worry about buying new cartridges since this one is compatible with all. The Frost Guard and Glueless Puncture Kit are nice touches and definitely push cyclists to be loyal to the brand.
I am hesitant to recommend this inflator because of the mixed reviews from cyclists. The product seems nice but there are some serious design flaws such as the valve freezing and the patches not working. It might be a good product in theory, but I would look into other options.
8. Fabric CO2 Inflator
The CO2 inflator relatively new in the line of products Fabric offers to cyclists. The company is better known for other bike products such as grip tape.
When you buy this inflator you also get two cartridges with a freeze protection sleeve, tire levers, and straps so you can easily carry it on your bike.
You can expect that the tire levers and straps are high quality and will last a long time. So, they are a good deal with the inflator.
However, the inflator is where the repair kit starts to fall short. Compared to other brands, this one isn’t very intuitive.
It works like VEL and Topeak in that you have to push on the valve, but then you need your other hand to rotate the knob to control the airflow. This is inconvenient if your tube doesn’t have a lockring and it might become detached while inflating your tire.
This inflator only works with threaded cartridges and can be reliable if you screw the cartridge completely into the inflator.
Cyclists who have bought the inflator have mixed reviews. Many of them don’t have a problem with it while others complain that it isn’t the easiest to use. A lot don’t like that two hands are needed to use the inflator when one makes changing a flat tire less stressful.
This is another product I don’t give my recommendation. It is a new product with a lot of good design ideas but is flawed in execution. There are several issues to work out before I’d take this inflator on a long ride.
9. Genuine Innovations AirChuck Elite
The Genuine Innovations AirChuck Elite CO2 inflator is the lightest one you can find on the market. And, to make it even better it has Genuine’s “push-to-inflate” technology.
To entice buyers, you can also get one 16 and one 20-gram threaded CO2 cartridges so you’ll be sure to have fewer difficulties when you get a flat tire.
Speaking of compatibility, if you need to buy new cartridges for this inflator, it works best with both Presta and Schrader valves.
Compared to a knob to control how fast the tire inflates, this inflator uses pressure. Here’s how it works. After you have placed the inflator in your valve stem and are ready to release CO2, push down into the stem firmly. To release more air, just push down harder.
This “push-to-inflate” technology is very easy to use and only requires one hand to get the job done.
The only drawback is the material it was made out of. Instead of aluminum, this one was made with metal alloy, which makes it super light. But, compromises its durability. Having said that, the inflator does come with a lifetime warranty if anything happens to it.
You’ll have to choose whether lightness or durability is more important to your purchase.
Cyclists who have bought the inflator like it because it is very light and easy to use. The push to inflate technology is great and doesn’t require much effort. Just be sure to have something to cover your hands and fingers while doing this. The complaint most have had is the material. It’s flimsy and most people say that the inflator doesn’t last long because of it. Most people get 1-2 uses out of it before they decide to buy a different inflator.
I don’t recommend this inflator because it’s not durable or reliable. You are better off getting an inflator that is made from aluminum. It will last longer and paying more will definitely be worth it.
Best CO2 Inflators — Buyer’s Guide
Let’s begin and explain what a CO2 inflator is.
Inflators are only useful if they are accompanied by a CO2 canister, which is filled with compressed gas. The inflator attaches to the CO2 canister and then releases the gas into the flat tire. It can inflate up to 120 psi depending on the brand you have.
CO2 Inflator Vs Mini Bike Pump
You might ask, why use a CO2 canister and inflator if the same result can be achieved with a mini pump?
Well, there are advantages and disadvantages to both that I’ll be happy to discuss in the following section.
Advantages of CO2 Canisters and Inflators:
- Light-weight and easy to carry on your bike.
- It can inflate up to 120 psi in seconds.
Disadvantages of CO2 Canisters and Inflators:
- You only get one use per canister. If you get two flats and only have one canister you might be making a call for home.
- The inflator releases the air quickly, which can make it difficult to acquire the right psi and to add a little air before fitting the tire.
- Not environmentally friendly.
Advantages of a Mini Pump:
- Reusable and you can get as many flats as you want on a ride.
Disadvantages of a Mini Pump
- Not easy to integrate on your bike and adds weight.
- It takes a lot of effort to inflate the tires.
By now, you might be curious about CO2 inflators and want to know more about them. In the next section, I’ll explain the specifics on this tool.
Types of CO2 Inflators
There are three different types of inflators that release the gas from the cartridges.
So, what makes each one different?
It’s the type of CO2 inflator heads.
There are three options to choose from:
- Press to inflate
- Turn to inflate
- Unscrew the cartridge to inflate
Each type works just as well as the next so you’ll need to think about what will be easiest for you to use. If you’re “stuck” on this step, I recommend talking to someone at a bike store or a fellow triathlete.
Whichever one you end up buying, be sure to practice how to use it at home.
Material Used to Make the Inflator
You can choose from two options: plastic and aluminum.
The plastic inflator is the cheaper of the two options, but this also means this one is less durable.
So, it might be in your best interest to shell out a few more dollars and buy an aluminum CO2 inflator. They are stronger and weigh less than aluminum.
Type of CO2 Cartridges
Like the previous section, you have two options: threaded or non-threaded CO2 cartridges.
Both work the same and give you the same results and are found in nearly all bike stores.
However, keep in mind hat non-threaded cartridges tend to be easier to use. It works like a “plug and chug” chemistry formula. All you need to do is push them into the inflator and they can be used immediately.
The non-threaded are more expensive and less common but might be worth it.
Go to a bike store and talk about the differences between the two. I’m sure you’ll find the option best for you.
Size and Type of CO2 Inflator Head
This probably the most personal part of choosing an inflator is the size and type. It depends on what you’re comfortable with and how it will be stored on your bike.
Look for an inflator that is at an “equilibrium” between store-ability and stability.
The last thing you want is to be stuck with an inflator that is either too bulky or too small.
How to choose CO2 inflator and canister?
Here’s what to look for when you’re at the bike shop or buying online
If the canister is wrapped in metal it will quickly become freezing cold as it inflates your tire. Just think about your high school chemistry class and it will make sense.
If you are changing your tire without gloves this could be very discomforting!
The best advice is to use a towel, sock, or long gloves when using it.
Some kits will cover the canister as part of their design just be sure you know which version you’re buying.
CO2 Inflator’s Weight and Bulk
You’ll be taking this tool on every ride you go on. It will take up space in whatever you carry your tools in. And, you’ll be taking it up and down every hill you bike on.
So, it’s practical for you to get the lightest and smallest inflator and canister possible. Of course, this depends on your budget and what space you’re working with on your bike.
How Easy Is It?
Remember, you always seem to get flat tires at the most inconvenient times and sometimes in bad weather.
It makes sense you’ll want an inflator that is easy to use and works quickly.
For this reason, it’s suggested to look at the valve or push fit. If those aren’t in your budget, ask about the next best option for you.
Some companies sell CO2 canisters that have an on/off valves, which gives you more control over how much psi you put into your tires.
Of course, these are more expensive, but you then don’t use a whole canister whenever you get a flat.
This also means you can add a small amount of air before you fit the tire.
Threaded v Non-threaded
Be sure that if you have a canister with a threaded tip, you buy an inflator that is compatible.
CO2 Inflation Chart
Frequently Asked CO2 Tire Inflator Questions
1. Do I Use an Entire Cartridge?
Yes, every time you get a flat, you’ll use a whole cartridge when you fix it. Of course, there are always exceptions, but generally speaking “yes”
2. Can I Over-Inflate My Tires?
No, if you use the correct CO2 cartridge everything will work well. Please talk to your bike store so you can get the correct volume of air which is specific to your tire size.
3. How Long Does the CO2 Last?
Unfortunately, the CO2 from a cartridge doesn’t last forever. At most, it will be good for 3-4 days. The CO2 dissolves in butyl rubber, which is what your inner tubes are made from.
When you use CO2 to fix a flat, be sure to deflate your tires at home and pump up the tire with your trusty floor pump.