Midweek Post for April 12, 2023: Ride Essentials (mini pumps and CO2 Cartridge Inflation)

Image of Two Mini-Pumps and a CO2 Cartridge with an Inflator

Every item you carry with you on a bike ride is an insurance item so you can react to various situations. Nowhere is that more true than with portable inflation devices.

Getting a flat can ruin a ride in a big way. If you aren’t prepared for this scenario, you’ll either be walking home, calling Uber or a friend, or flagging someone down for help.

Don’t let yourself get caught in that predicament. Make sure that, in addition to an extra tube(s) (I carry two extra), you also have a mini pump along with a couple of CO2 cartridges and an inflator.

CO2 Cartridges and Inflators

CO2 Cartridge and Inflator

Once you’ve found the source of your flat and either replaced your tube or patched/ repaired it, next comes the fun part: inflation. Since most cyclists don’t carry a floor pump with them on a ride, your best bet is portable inflators, specifically a CO2 cartridge and inflator like the ones pictured above.

CO2 cartridges are filled with carbon dioxide gas at pressure. The cartridges come in three sizes: 12 grams, 16 grams, and 25 grams. Additionally, cartridges are either threaded (like the one above) or non-threaded. My suggestion is to choose the 16-gram cartridge with threads. However, whatever cartridge you choose, you’ll absolutely need a compatible inflator.

Threaded Versus Non-Threaded Inflator

If you choose a non-threaded inflator, that means you will have to push the inflator onto the cartridge head. I’ve never used this type of inflator or cartridge before, so I can’t comment on how well it works. But I would guess accuracy in mounting the inflator and creating a proper seal are key concerns.

A threaded cartridge and inflator, on the other hand, allow you to carefully screw the cartridge into the inflator head. Some cyclists like to pre-screw the inflator onto the cartridge so they don’t have frantically search for both pieces in their saddle bag.

In either case, when you puncture the cartridge, it will get very cold!!! Make sure you are either wearing your cycling gloves while handling the cartridge or slip on a sleeve (as shown above) to save your fingers from being frozen.

Merits of Using CO2 Versus a Mini-Pump

CO2 has a very distinct positive attribute versus using a portable mini-pump to inflate your tube. In a matter of seconds, the tire will be inflated to an acceptable riding level.

With a mini-pump, it will take at least 10 to 15 minutes to inflate your tire. That depends, of course, on the size of the pump itself. As the tire gets full, it will also become more difficult to push air into it, so getting the tire up to full riding pressure isn’t possible. That means you might be prone to another flat or will have to check your inflation level for the rest of the ride.

Portable Mini-Pumps

Image of Two Types of Portable Mini-Pumps

Mini pumps come in different sizes. There are pumps you can attach to your bike known as “frame pumps” or pumps like the ones shown above. The smaller ones, of course, are easy to drop into your jersey pocket. But as a general rule, the longer the shaft of the pump, the less time it will take to inflate the tube and tire.

Frame pumps or pocket-sized pumps sometimes come with dual heads so you can attach them to either a Schraeder valve (mountain bike tire) or a Presta valve (road tire). If you ride both types of bikes, then, of course, it’s smart to have a pump with both heads. But if you just ride road bikes, look for a pump specifically for Presta valves.

The question you probably have, though, is if you have a CO2 cartridge and inflator, then why carry a pump at all? Two reasons: first of all, sometimes you get a bad cartridge (that’s why I carry two of them with me); secondly, a pump helps you to “round” your tube with a little bit of air, which makes it easier to mount inside your tire.

This assures that you will get a good fit and seal once you remount your tire to the wheel. So, carrying some kind of pump with you on a ride is essential.

CO2, Mini Pump, and Flat Replacement Practice

If you’ve never used a CO2 cartridge and inflator before, you’re not overly comfortable with using a mini pump, or you’re unsure about your flat-changing ability, I would recommend practicing at home. This is a good way to check spare tubes as well.

Cartridges run around $3.00 to $4.00 a piece, so get as many as you can. Choose 16-gram cartridges as these are meant for road tires. It takes a little practice to master how to use a cartridge and inflator or even to change a flat, so practice at home until it becomes second nature.

Last Thoughts

CO2 cartridges and inflators and mini pumps are essential ride equipment all road cyclists should carry. They will allow you to continue with your ride in a matter minutes versus the alternative of walking home or finding a ride. So, make sure you have these items with you and practice how to use them beforehand.

Author: Doug McNamee

Freelance Content Writer, Travel Writer, Editor, and poet.

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