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Pump or CO2? What’s for you?

PUMP OR CO2? WHAT'S FOR YOU

Here at PRO BIKE TOOL HQ, we’re often asked by customers whether they should buy a CO2 inflator or a bike pump. While either of these tools are going to be great buddies to have in your pocket or backpack on a bike ride, each one has its own benefits.

Here’s our quick guide to which may be best for you:

Speed of inflation

The key focus of a CO2 inflator is that it will have your tyres up to pressure in a matter of seconds; you simply use the regulation lever on our inflator heads to control the airflow, and you can be up to pressure in a matter of seconds.

With a bike pump however, you’re doing the hard work rather than the CO2 from an inflator doing it for you. Although our pumps pack a fair punch in terms of speed of inflation, it’s going to take quite a large number of strokes to reach a riding pressure. That said, using our larger and more powerful Mini Floor Pump (product page) will lessen that time somewhat.

Ease of inflation

Along with being a faster method of inflating an inner tube, a CO2 inflator requires less energy! You’re driving the airflow into the tube with your own effort rather than through the propulsion of compressed gas. While it’s not exactly as onerous as your gnarliest cross fit class or set of bicep curls, it can be a little tiring if you want to save your energies for the pedals.

Size & portability

Both methods of inflation have advantages when it comes to portability. Our Mini Bike Pump and Mini Bike Pump with Gauge are both lightweight and slim enough to easily fit in a jersey pocket, or can be stashed in a backpack and will take up no space. Or, even more conveniently, you can use the bracket supplied with the pump to strap it to your frame, next to a bottle cage. Being a little larger, our Mini Floor Pump is best strapped to the frame or carried in a backpack.

Alternatively, our CO2 inflator heads are tiny little gadgets that can be put in a jersey pocket or saddle bag, and take up no space at all. However, you also need to carry the gas canisters of course! These will also easily fit into a pocket or bag, but you may find them a little cluttering and messy. If you’re the type of rider that likes to keep everything tidy and in one place, our Inflator with Storage Cartridge is the one for you – the gas canister and head can be kept in one place!

Number of uses per ride

One of the key things to consider when you’re deciding between a pump or a CO2 inflator is the number of times you may need to use it per ride. Of course, we hope to not need to use either of them at all, but you never know!

With a CO2 inflator, you’re limited by the number of gas cartridges you can carry – if you’ve only got one cartridge with you but have two punctures, you may be left calling home or for a cab – which isn’t ideal if you’re stuck in the middle of a faraway trail! We recommend you always carry two gas cartridges here at PRO BIKE TOOL HQ.

With a mini pump however, you’re only limited by the number of inner tubes you’re carrying, or the number of times you patch up a punctured tube. As such, for a really long ride, if you’re touring, or if you’re on a more leisurely ride where time is not of paramount importance, a bike pump is possibly a better option.

Lasting inflation or quick fix?

One important thing to remember with a CO2 inflator is that it’s only a get-home remedy for a puncture. As CO2 dissipates through an inner tube over time, you need to re-inflate your tyre with air from a pump when you’re back home – otherwise you’ll find that the next day, your tyres have gone flat as the CO2 has all leaked through your tube! As such, if you’re out touring or bikepacking, a bike pump is the optimal choice, as you can be sure that the tube will stay inflated once you’ve done the pumping. Similarly, if you’re relying on a bike pump for a long-term fix, our Mini Bike Pump with Gauge is ideal as you can achieve your perfect inflation without the guesswork.

So, what’s the answer?

Here’s a suggestion of when either tool is most suitable:

  • CO2 inflator: For a race, group ride, gran fondo, or timed event.
  • Bike pump: For commuting, bikepacking, touring, or leisure riding.

However, for the ultimate solution, how about you do the same as us at PRO BIKE TOOL HQ:  

Always carry a Mini Pump. Use the bracket supplied with the pump and strap it to your frame, under the bottle cage, and forget about it. It’s small and discrete and you’ll not notice it’s there.

Also, keep a CO2 inflator head and one cartridge in your saddle bag, along with your tubes, patches, and tyre levers. Similarly, you can then forget it’s there until the moment comes!

This way, if you puncture and are in a rush, you can grab your CO2 inflator and be back on the road in under five minutes. If you then puncture again and have used your only cartridge, or you have more time, grab your bike pump off your frame, and get pumping!

This is the failsafe solution which will ensure you’re never caught out.

Happy riding!

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