CO2 vs Mini Bike Pump | Which is better?


The few times that I had a pinch flat when out on the trail I simply replaced/repaired the tube, attached a non-fat bike pump and settled in for a mini workout. However, I always wondered would I get back on the trail more quickly if I had access to CO2.



CO2 INFLATORS

CO2 inflators have been used in the road bike and mountain bike world for what seems like eons. CO2 inflators come in various shapes and sizes but essentially work in the same manner – screw a CO2 cartridge into the inflator, attach the inflator to the valve stem and dump in the CO2 to inflate the tire. CO2 cartridges generally come in four sizes (12g, 16g, 20g, 25g) with the larger sizes providing more punch.



Pump vs CO2 Pro Bike Tool Fat Bike Tire Inflation Newfoundland Fat Bike Fatbike Fatbike Republic

BIKE PUMPS

There are probably 1000’s of mini bike pumps on the market with each manufacturer trying to differentiate themselves from the next guy. Common characteristics of mini bike pumps include: small diameter, short stroke, presta and shrader compatibility, with an attachment point at the end of a short flexible rubber hose or permanently fixed in the head of the pump.



Pump vs CO2 Pro Bike Tool Fat Bike Tire Inflation Newfoundland Fat Bike Fatbike Fatbike Republic


Many pumps have a high pressure and low volume capacity – which translates into lots of strokes to fill a fat tire. There are some larger volume “portable” bike pumps, but they are significantly larger than the mini versions.

TEST SUBJECTS

For this CO2 vs bike pump comparison I'm using a CO2 Inflator and Mini Bike Pump from the folks at Pro Bike Tool. As for CO2 cartridges . . . I grabbed a couple of common 16g bullets at my local bike shop. 


Not wanting to totally freeze my extremities doing the comparison, I decided to take refuge in an unheated garage in February. Vee Snow Avalanche 4.8 PSC tires were the rubber of choice with a target tire pressure of 5.0 psi.



Pump vs CO2 Pro Bike Tool Fat Bike Tire Inflation Newfoundland Fat Bike Fatbike Fatbike Republic

TESTING

My overall goal for this test was to simply compare a mini bike pump and CO2 inflator for speed of inflation and ability to hit the target pressure.  Pretty simple. 





The CO2 inflator – with 16g cartridge – dumped the full amount of CO2 into the tire in mere seconds with the canister getting extremely cold in the process. Unfortunately it only inflated the tire to 1.5 psi  . . . which I would only consider running in super soft conditions where maximum flotation is necessary. In order to hit the target pressure you would need several 16g cartridges – and that can get pricey.  And lets not forget having carry out and recycle the empty cartridges.


Pump vs CO2 Pro Bike Tool Fat Bike Tire Inflation Newfoundland Fat Bike Fatbike Fatbike Republic


The mini pump took 500 strokes to get to 4.5 psi – not exactly my target pressure but close enough. The 5+ minutes of pumping was not strenuous exercise, but did give my arms a little bit of a workout. A little larger diameter or longer stroke would have certainly sped up the inflation.


Pump vs CO2 Pro Bike Tool Fat Bike Tire Inflation Newfoundland Fat Bike Fatbike Fatbike Republic

FINAL THOUGHTS

Is there a clear winner in this comparison . . . not really.  The the CO2 will inflate very fast, not getting anywhere near the target psi with a 16g canister. While the mini pump will take a long while to get to the target pressure, but will have air to spare.


If you want to get back on the trail ASAP, are pressed for space in your backpack and are fine with shelling out $$$ for every flat . . . then you should look at CO2.

If you have a little extra room on the bike, don’t mind a little additional exercise, and are not watching the clock . . . then a mini bike pump might be for you.

Personally, I prefer the mini pump even though it may take a little longer to get back on the trail.


RIDE FAT !



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